[ASC-media] Farmers and scientists tackle climate variability

Jenni Metcalfe jenni at econnect.com.au
Tue Mar 28 06:48:53 EST 2006

- Need for better seasonal forecasting tools for farmers and resource 

Managing Climate Variability Forum in Adelaide this week: Embargoed until 
Wednesday 29 March 9.30am

Australian farmers and other managers of land and water resources already 
experience one of the most variable climates on earth.

The frequency of drought and the prospects of climate change mean that more 
accurate and timely seasonal forecasting and risk management tools are more 
important than ever.

These issues are being discussed by scientists, farmers and resource 
managers at the Managing Climate Variability (MCV) forum in Adelaide this 
week, 29-30 March.

Farmers are already managing risk but recognise the need to do this even 
better, according to Ms Melissa Rebbeck, senior research officer with the 
South Australian Research & Development Institute (SARDI).

"Farmers see a need to build on their already flexible management styles to 
cater for swings in climate extremes to maximise profits in good years and 
minimise losses in the bad," she says.

"Lower rainfall areas make 80 percent of their profits from the best three 
year in 10. Using forecasting tools to take advantage of good years can add 
an extra $200,000 to farm incomes in those years, with potential to save 
similar amounts in bad years."

Farmers are finding tools that predict seasonal conditions are essential to 
managing risk, says Harm van Rees, a consultant with the Birchip Cropping 
Group operating in the Wimmera-Mallee region of Victoria and South 

"In the past, farmers found it hard to tell what the yield potential was of 
their crops based on the soil fertility and moisture levels in their 
paddocks," he says. "But today computer tools like Yield Prophet use 
historical rainfall data and paddock specific information to work these 
things out.

"Last July, it showed we'd really struggle to produce crops and our farmers 
reduced their fertiliser use and saved money that other farmers lost when 
their crops failed."

A key focus for ongoing research is whether global warming will increase 
Australia's climate variability according to Queensland Department of 
Primary Industries researcher, Dr Holger Meinke.

"What was considered extreme in our weather yesterday or even today could 
become common-place tomorrow," he says. "For farmers, this means two things: 
if they want to remain profitable, they need to be aware of the risk factors 
and they need to be able to assess their spot on the map and how this fits 
in with global change."

"We know that our climate is changing and the best way to prepare for it is 
by managing existing climate variability better. A changing climate has 
different implications depending on location, exposure to risk and the 
adaptive capacity of farmers and sectors.

"MCV has helped to develop many of the tools needed for better climate risk 
The Managing Climate Variability Program is developing more accurate and 
timely seasonal forecasting tools. The Program will be investing in a new 
round of research in 2007.

Media are invited to attend a media conference with Ms Rebbeck, Mr van Rees 
and Dr Meinke at 9.30am on Wednesday 29 March at the SARDI Aquatic Sciences 
Centre, 2 Hamra Ave, West Beach, Adelaide.

Media assistance: For a full copy of the program, media kit, please contact: 
Jenni Metcalfe: jenni at econnect.com.au, 0408 551 866

Jenni Metcalfe
Econnect Communication
PO Box 734
South Brisbane Q 4101

Ph. 07 3846 7111; 0408 551 866
jenni at econnect.com.au

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