Forewarned is forearmed: better farm forecasting

A collaborative project aimed at equipping farmers to proactively manage the impacts of extreme climate events

June 2017 saw the launch of a nationally collaborative project Forewarned is forearmed: equipping farmers and agricultural value chains to proactively manage the impacts of extreme climate events aiming to help farmers better prepare for extreme climate events and increase productivity and profits through proactive management practices.

Professor Richard Eckard is a convenor of the Climate Transformations research cluster at MSSI and is leading the University of Melbourne node of the project. Professor Eckard said that the importance of this project cannot be underestimated: “Australian farmers and agribusiness operate in one of the most variable climates of any country in the world and this variability along with extreme events associated with climate change are the largest drivers of fluctuations in annual agricultural income and production.”

The $6.2 million project was awarded to a large national consortium led by Meat & Livestock Australia under Round 3 of the Federal Government’s Rural Research and Development (R&D) for Profit programme.

The project will deliver direct value to farmers through improving the forecast of extreme events and, equipping farmers with industry specific risk management plans, together with the tools to be forewarned and proactively prepared.

The University of Melbourne, University of Southern Queensland, state governments (DEDJTR, SARDI, DAF-QLD) and the Birchip Cropping Group (BCG), will work directly with farmers and farm consultants, to develop risk management strategies for each industry equipping farmers to proactively manage extreme events, as well as extending project outputs to producers and advisors.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and Monash University will conduct research to deliver improved forecasts of the likelihood of climate extremes on multi-week and seasonal timescales – beyond the traditional 7-day weather forecast.

A clear affirmation of the significance of extreme climate events is reflected in the project partnerships and co-funding by the majority of Australia’s agricultural industries including the grains (GRDC), Dairy (DA), red-meat (MLA), rice (RIRDC), Sugar (SRA), Cotton (CRDC), viticulture (WA) and pork (APL) industries, as well as Suncorp.

It is expected that the project will provide significant options for a wide range of farm level and agricultural industry operational and investment decisions, as well as decreasing the impacts of extreme climate events on farm and industry profit.