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Climate variability

The Issues

Natural and large extremes in climate variability are a fact of life for Australian producers. It can mean vast differences in rainfall from one season to the next, and differences in perceptions of 'normal rainfall' between generations.

Based on modelling and predictions from the International Panel on Climate Change, CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, there will be changes in temperature and rainfall that will impact both positively and negatively on forage and animal production in different regions of Australia.  Some of the more broad-ranging changes that may occur include:

  • Increased risks to productivity due to more frequent and extreme weather events (floods, droughts and temperature extremes)
  • Decline in pasture quality and growth in some regions
  • Reduced stream flow and quality of water supply across southern Australia
  • Some crop yields benefiting from warmer conditions and higher carbon dioxide levels but vulnerable to reduced rainfall
  • Greater exposure of stock and crops to heat-related stress and disease
  • Southern migration of some pests
  • Likely increase in the distribution and abundance of some exotic weeds

The Facts

  • The industry is responding to climate change and helping producers manage climate variability through investment in research & development
  • The development of a range of practical resources, tools and fact sheets that explain the issues have been developed to assist producers manage risks and new opportunities

Programs developed to assist producers to respond to a variable climate include:

  • The Climate Champion program, run as part of the Managing Climate Variability R&D Program, supports and promotes producer involvement in climate change management research and on-farm activities
  • The Managing Climate Variability R&D Program aims to help primary producers and natural resource managers manage the risks and exploit the opportunities resulting from Australia’s variable and changing climate by:
    • Improving the accuracy of forecasting on time frames of value for primary producers
    • Providing climate products, services and tools for managing climate risk
    • Increasing primary producers’ knowledge and confidence to adopt climate risk management strategies.

The program builds on more than two decades of climate research by its predecessor, the Climate Variability in Agriculture Program, established under the National Drought Policy in 1992 and extended under the Advancing Australian Agriculture initiative in 1998.

The Research

There is a range of research being undertaken to assist producers in dealing with climate variability including: