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Farmers can manage climate: AFI

Michael Condon, Friday November 22, 2013 - 09:39 EDT
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Farmers are dealing with variations in climate from season to season - ABC

A World Meteorological Organisation report says 2013 is on track to be among the top ten warmest years since modern records began in 1850.

And the most extreme hot temperatures were experienced here in Australia.

The Weather bureau says this is likely to be Australia's hottest year, so far it is well above the previous hottest year.

Australian farmers already manage the climate very well, according to the Australia Farm Institute's Mick Keogh.

"Climate change is certainly an issue that farmers need to be aware of, risks are increasing but farmers already farm the season in Australia."

Professor Snow Barlow, from Melbourne University, says Australia's farmers will need to rethink traditional agricultural districts as a warming planet sees cropping, vineyards and other industries move south.

'The globe is getting warmer and inexorably our agricultural systems are going to have to adapt to higher temperatures and, in some cases, less rainfall.'

'Farmers need to be aware of how the climate is changing. They need to think about how they adapt as they go forward.'

Snow Barlow says the evidence suggests the climate will never return to temperatures experienced 30 years ago.

But Mick Keogh says he probably wouldn't go quite as far as that at the moment.

"Already with many mixed farming enterprises there is that built in flexibility, moving to more or less cropping or more or less livestock depending on the season.

"Moving a farm enterprise from breeding to fattening, for example.

"But there is no doubt there is a greater risk profile in a bigger cropping regime. You need a bigger wallet to manage a cropping programme and the risk increases."

Mick Keogh, Australian Farm Institute says some of the research into new more productive and drought tolerant grain varieties may assist and could change the equation.

"But the change in the climate, frost lines and heat lines will certainly need to be watched closely.

"I think that the potential dangers of climate change should actually be used to drive more research in new grain or livestock varieties for drier and hotter conditions.

"The focus should shift more to R and D than it has been in recent times."


- ABC

© ABC 2013

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