Funding success reaffirms importance of seasonal forecasting timescales
Climate has been reaffirmed as one of the most important drivers of agricultural production in Australia, following the announcement of $1.8 million funding for a farmer-focused seasonal forecasting project.
In early May, the Australian Government confirmed support of the three-year project, which brings together Managing Climate Variability (MCV) partners and others, lead by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC).
‘The bid’s success recognises the fact that seasonal forecasting is arguably the most important climate forecast time frame for farmers’, says Simon Winter, MCV’s science manager.
The project will bridge the gap between seasonal climate forecasts and on-farm business decisions to help farmers improve productivity and profitability.
‘We know that this project will deliver benefits to farmers in the form of improved forecasts, and in understanding how best to use them’, says Simon.
Round one of the Department of Agriculture’s $100 million Rural Research and Development for Profit program called for projects that would focus on achieving ‘tangible benefits’ for primary industries.
The seasonal forecasting project incorporates key practical outcomes to reduce climate risks to farmers, including skilling up farmers to minimise their losses in the poorest seasons and make the best of the good seasons.
RIRDC’s managing director, Craig Burns, emphasises that equipping farmers with a better understanding of climate variability and how to use forecasts in business decision-making is an effective and proven way of addressing drought.
The funding comes at a critical time in relation to seasonal forecasting: ‘It’s allowing us to progress work that will build on recent advances in seasonal forecasting, and help upskill farmers to manage their businesses in a variable climate’, Simon says.
Project partners will focus on the following aspects to improve on-farm decision-making:
• identify what information different farming sectors need about seasonal climate risks, what type of decisions farmers are making, and where these decisions are happening
• work directly with farmers to create tools, case studies and training to improve farmers’ understanding and use of existing seasonal forecasts
• improve the capability of Australia’s foremost seasonal prediction system (previously the Predictive Ocean Atmosphere Model for Australia), by analysing and reducing its main errors.