FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED

This project will deliver direct value to farmers by providing forecasts of extreme climate events, thereby equipping them with the information and tools to be forewarned and prepared.

Why the focus on extreme events?

Australian farmers and agribusiness operate in one of the most variable climates in the world, with extreme events and climate variability the largest drivers of fluctuations in annual agricultural income and production. The Centre for International Economics (2014) estimated that the benefit to agriculture from seasonal forecasting ranges from $958 to $1,930 million per year, and that was without knowledge of extreme events included in their analysis.

How will the program improve the use of extreme climate event forecasts?

This project will deliver direct value to farmers by improving the forecast of extreme climate events (such as extreme high or low rainfall, heat, cold and frost) thereby equipping farmers with the information and tools to be forewarned and proactively prepared. It will provide farmers with the first ever forecasts of extreme climate events weeks to seasons ahead, with the aim of decreasing their impact on farm and on profit.

What’s the plan for the program work?

There are four ‘sub-programs’ called Work Packages. They are:

Work Package 1 – user needs and forecast system development

This work package is research based and will achieve the following:

  • By working with key agricultural industries, understand what farmers and other members of the supply chain need (and when) in relation to forecasts of extreme weather and climate events on multi-week to seasonal timescales;
  • Increase our understanding of the drivers and level of predictability of weather and climate extremes. This scientific knowledge will underpin the development of new climate extreme prediction services; and
  • Identify and reduce systematic biases that will improve the ability to predict extremes and seasonal forecasts more generally.

Work Package 2 – extreme event forecast products development and delivery

This work package is both research and development orientated and will achieve the following key outcomes by working with both the scientific and agricultural community:

  • Develop new extreme weather/climate forecast products for use in agricultural decision-making;
  • Test and refine the new products generated;
  • Develop and deliver at least five new products as a service to farmers that have sufficient utility and accuracy to be of value; and
  • Increase uptake of seasonal prediction products and services for agriculture.

Work Package 3 – farmer and advisor application development

This work package is predominately development based and will link closely with work packages 2 and 4. It will:

  • Establish reference groups for key agricultural industries (southern red-meat, northern red-meat, dairy, wine, grains and sugar industries (pork, rice and cotton may also form their own reference groups) to:
  • Identify key climate extreme events of consequence in the past;
  • Evaluate associated responses to these events; and then
  • Develop industry-specific risk management plans for these industries.
  • This work package will also collect and evaluate feedback on the products and tools produced in work package 2.

Work Package 4 – extension and training

This work package is predominately extension and communication based. It will:

  • Build on previous research to further implement Community of Practice activities to promulgate the findings of the FWFA project;
  • Facilitate training for new climate products;
  • Communicate new climate products developed through the project using existing extension avenues especially “The Break” and other outlets; and
  • Increase awareness in agricultural industries of the extreme events products, risk management tools and evaluated response scenarios so as to increase uptake of extreme event products.

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program.