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Forearmed is forewarned (FAFW): equipping farmers and agricultural value chains to proactively manage the impacts of extreme climate events


Summary

Objective

This project aims to improve the forecasting of climate extremes such as heatwaves, frost, floods and drought and to link the forecasts with management options. This will equip farmers with the information and tools to be forewarned and proactively prepared to manage extreme weather events, thereby minimising the impact on agricultural systems.

Background

Australian farmers and agribusiness operate in one of the most variable climates of any country in the world, with extreme climate events impacting severely on profitability and shaping the design of Australian farming systems.

Considerable use is made of weather forecasts (days 1–7) and warnings (1–2 days out) for extreme events, such as heatwaves. This translates into, for example, institution of fire bans, timing of harvest, proactive irrigation and shading for crops, and moving cattle and sheep to shade. However, there is currently a significant gap in providing warning of these extreme events 7–28 days ahead and for upcoming seasons (next 1–12 months).

This cross-sectoral project is led by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program. Participants include the grains, cotton, meat, dairy, sugar, wine and other horticultural industries.

Research approach

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) will conduct research to deliver forecasts of the likelihood of climate extremes on multi-week and seasonal timescales – beyond the traditional seven-day weather forecast. It will provide farmers with the first-ever forecasts that offer weeks to seasons ahead notification of extreme climate events. The project will include research, product development and extension teams representing a range of partner industries and working directly with farmers and farm consultants to interface the forecasts with agricultural decisions, develop risk management strategies to proactively prepare for these events, as well as extending project outputs to producers and advisors. Outputs from the project include:

  • Forecasts on multi-week (beyond 7 days) to seasonal timescales (out to 6—12 months ahead) of extreme events, including rainfall (e.g. risk of heavy rainfall or drought) and temperature (e.g. risk of heatwaves, coldwaves, frost) extremes.
  • New products from the BOM including:
    • likelihood of heavy rain, a heatwave, cold spell, frost in the coming weeks (7—28 days)
    • likelihood that the upcoming seasons will be extreme (wet/dry/hot/cold)
    • likelihood that the upcoming seasons will contain more (or less) extremes than usual (heat waves, cold spells, heavy rain periods, drought), and
    • in addition to the web-based products above, forecast data in digital form will be available from a data server to allow applications groups to interface the forecasts to sector-specific decision-making tools.
  • Knowledge of how to best use the extremes forecasts by each sector and estimates of potential benefits from uptake of the forecasts (e.g. by interfacing forecasts to downstream applications and decision-making tools).
  • Training and education of 100 advisors and a target of 500 farmers and sectors of the agribusiness value chain across major agricultural industries in gaining ownership and then applying seasonal and extreme forecasts for their management needs.

Sector benefits

This project will deliver direct value to farmers by delivering forecasts of climate extremes beyond the seven-day weather forecast and out to seasonal timescales. Improved forecasting will be linked to agricultural decisions tailored for the wine sector, providing options and tools for producers to proactively plan and manage for extreme weather events.

Funding Partner

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.