The Australian grains industry is dealing with a shifting complex of invertebrate pests due to evolving management practices and climate change as indicated by an assessment of pest reports over the last 20–30 years. A comparison of pest outbreak reports from the early 1980s to 2006–07 from south-eastern Australia highlights a decrease in the importance of pea weevils and armyworms, while the lucerne flea, Balaustium mites, blue oat mites and Bryobia mites have increased in prominence. In Western Australia, where detailed outbreak records are available from the mid 1990s, the relative incidence of armyworms, aphids and vegetable weevils has recently decreased, while the incidence of pasture cockchafers, Balaustium mites, blue oat mites, redlegged earth mites, the lucerne flea and snails has increased. These changes are the result of several possible drivers. Patterns of pesticide use, farm management responses and changing cropping patterns are likely to have contributed to these shifts. Drier conditions, exacerbated by climate change, have potentially reduced the build-up of migratory species from inland Australia and increased the adoption rate of minimum and no-tillage systems in order to retain soil moisture. The latter has been accompanied by increased pesticide use, accelerating selection pressures for resistance. Other control options will become available once there is an understanding of interactions between pests and beneficial species within a landscape context and a wider choice of ‘softer’ chemicals. Future climate change will directly and indirectly influence pest distributions and outbreaks as well as the potential effectiveness of endemic natural enemies. Genetically modified crops provide new options for control but also present challenges as new pest species are likely to emerge.