THE CLIMATE KELPIE BLOG: Climate tool to help farmers plan for drought

Posted by BCG on 1st December 2021

What if there were tools farmers could use to help them plan for the inevitability of drought, to reduce drought’s impact on farm businesses and the communities they operate in?

The Australian Government’s $5 billion Future Drought Fund (FDF) is developing work that does just that. To help Australian farmers and communities prepare for future drought, the Australian Government has committed to a series of foundational programs providing $100m each year for programs that build drought preparedness and resilience.

Such work is already occurring: the Climate Services for Agriculture (CSA) prototype platform, developed by the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology (the Bureau), which was launched in July 2021. The digital platform is intended to assist Australian farmers and producers to better understand the risks and opportunities facing them over the next 30 – 70 years by providing accessible and relevant climate information.

How?

The latest release of the CSA digital prototype (available now) enables Australian farmers to access historical climate information and future projections (the next 10 to 50 years) in one location.

What does this mean?

Farmers and other interested people can put their location into the prototype to view the past and future climate or seasonal forecast for their area of interest.

The tool then shows historic climate (averages for period 1961 – 1990), current climate (averages for period 1991 – 2020) and the the future climate with the choice of what it might look like with medium or high emissions for 2030, 2050 and 2070. By being able to compare the projected conditions (using different emissions scenarios) with current and historical, farmers can use this information to plan for the future by asking themselves questions like:

  • What was the climate like in the past and how was my business impacted?
  • How is the climate projected to change in my location in the future?
  • Am I happy to continue as usual or do I need to change my farming practices to cope better/reduce impacts of future climate projections?

What’s on the digital platform?

The prototype draws on existing national datasets to present historical and projected climate information (in 10, 30 and 50 years) at a 5 km2 scale—including rainfall, temperature, heat and frost risk as well as commodity specific indices such as growing season rainfall. Seasonal forecasts (one to three months) are now also available.

Climate Services for Agriculture Program Lead (for the Bureau) Sigrid Tijs said: “Having seasonal forecasts, historical climate information and future projections in the one platform will help to improve management of climate variability and change and we are really focused on making it work for farmers. We want to help farmers make informed farming decisions for the coming season and the long term. That’s why we have been consulting with farmers in the pilot regions. It’s imperative the prototype is co designed.”

Designing with farmers

“The prototype is just the beginning.  We’re going to keep working with farmers in the pilot regions to understand how future climate could impact the commodities they produce and provide practical information to assist with business planning. The pilot regions are located in the North Queensland Dry Tropics, Condamine and Northern Tablelands, Victorian Mallee and south-east South Australia, Western Australian wheat belt as well as the Tropical North, Central West New South Wales, Riverina and Goulburn-Murray, Gippsland and Northern Tasmania (which have recently been added).”

The CSA team is working with the pilot regions to better understand what future climate patterns could mean for the commodities they produce—for example, how changes to the timing and quantity of growing season rain could impact wheat production in south-west Western Australia. We now have this type of information available for key commodities across the pilot regions, including for wheat, barley and beef, with more to come.

Indicative boundaries for the pilot regions are shown on the map below:

“As it’s a national tool we hope to include many crop types in the prototype and then adjust the heat and frost risk ranges in consultations with growers and add additional indices. It’s such an exciting tool which we believe, having been designed with farmers with their needs front and centre, will be valuable in mitigating the economic, environmental and social effects of climate variability and change on farming businesses.”

“We need feedback from farmers and others working in the agricultural sector to make sure the platform is practical and meets your needs—log on, look around and tell us what you think,” Sigrid said.

Webinars in each of the pilot regions have also been held, inviting all farmers to take part in designing the protype and providing feedback.

Feedback can be provided by clicking the feedback button in the top bar across the screen or by emailing: csaenquiries@csiro.au

Timeline

March 2021 Pilot regions established in Queensland Dry Tropics, Condamine and Northern Tablelands, Victorian Mallee and south-east South Australia and south-west Western Australia wheat belt. User engagement commenced to support the development of prototype platform.
July 2021 Prototype platform launched, including: Historical and future looking climate information at a 5km2 scale across the country. Historical and future projected rainfall, temperature, heat risk, frost risk and evapotranspiration provided nationally. Climate impact information for wheat and cattle production in pilot regions.
July – November 2021 Engagement with farmers in pilot regions to support development of the platform.
December 2021 Update to the platform to provide: Climate impact information for more commodities in pilot regions, including beef, wheat, almonds, barley, canola and lupins. Regional scale seasonal outlook for rainfall
January – May 2022 Engagement with farmers in pilot regions to support development of the platform.
June 2022 Update to the platform to provide: Climate impact information for more commodities in pilot regions, including sugarcane, tomatoes, sheep, apples, grapes, oranges, sorghum. Further enhancements to seasonal outlook products. Further enhancements to web design for improved access via mobile devices. Information modules on social resilience, finance, and markets

Please note:

  • The platform is in prototype phase and will be developed into an operational platform by June 2024, pending further funding.
  • The prototype is being used to deliver relevant data and insights at national scale and is focused, for now, on the four pilot regions for consultation, evaluation and feedback purposes.
  • The prototype is best viewed on a desktop computer using Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Safari.
  • System performance may be variable for some locations in Australia.

All producers are invited to log on to the platform (https://climateservicesforag.indraweb.io/dashboard and provide feedback to csaenquiries@csiro.au or via the feedback button.

Further information:

Further information on how to participate is provided in the Questions and Answers or by contacting csaenquiries@csiro.au

For more information visit: https://www.awe.gov.au/agriculture-land/farm-food-drought/drought/future-drought-fund.

You can also register for updates at haveyoursay.awe.gov.au/future-drought-fund.

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