Australian agriculture is counting the cost of climate change on farming. The 2017 edition of Landcare in Focus included an analysis of 26 years of wheat cropping data across southern Australia which found that declining rainfall and rising maximum temperatures have decreased wheat yields by 27%.
Advances in technologies and farm management have helped offset yield declines. Over the next decade, as other sectors, such as energy and transport, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, there will be an increasing interest in managing emissions from agriculture and further developing opportunities for carbon abatement through innovative farming systems.
It is important to ensure that ACT rural landholders are connected to information and opportunities which improve the climate resilience of their farming operations economically, socially and environmentally and enables them to contribute to the global carbon abatement effort.
While this objective is implicit in all other areas of the Sustainable Agriculture section of this Investment Plan, this section recognises the uncertainty ahead and also that information, knowledge and what is considered best practice will change as more information comes to hand.
In addition to the risks posed by climate change, farmers are also operating within a dynamic global market that is increasingly demanding product traceability and sustainable food and fibre production across the whole supply chain.
Approaches such as sustainability frameworks are providing direction to farmers across a number of sectors. In Australia, a sustainability framework for the beef industry is currently under development by Meat and Livestock Australia.
Farming systems groups, such as Monaro Farming Systems, are providing support for farmers to share knowledge, trial different practices such including a platform for implementation of sustainable frameworks, and provide a range of expertise to support group projects.
A resilient and informed ACT farming community:
- that understands and applies best practice climate change adaptation and mitigation tools, practices and technology to its farming enterprises
- that is enabled to take advantage of established and emerging business and market opportunities
- that is strong, connected and mutually supportive
- that has the opportunity, tools and support to apply sustainability frameworks to their farming operations
All rural areas of the ACT.
Future investment focus
Capacity building, trials and demonstrations on the opportunities and adaptations to support resilient farming enterprises in a changing climate such as:
- change to the timing of key livestock practices such as joining, lambing, weaning and sale of stock
- use of seasonal forecasting and soil moisture probes to plan stocking rates, feed management, purchase and sale of stock
- change how and who farm produce is marketed to
- change pasture mixes, fertiliser applications
- include climate resilient native grass species of varied provenance suited to changing ACT conditions
- increase shade for stock and improve stock water efficiency
- support ACT and region farmers to trial implementation of the Beef Sustainability Framework and form a farming systems group in the ACT and border regions
Building on existing investment
The ACT Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator (ACT RALF) has developed and promoted training aimed at supporting landholders to manage during El Nino climate conditions, prepare and manage for drought (Stockplan training) and improve groundcover management (Landscan, Better Grow Better Graze, Top Lamb Crop training). Potential partners could also include CSIRO and research and development corporations such as Meat and Livestock Australia.
Farming systems groups exist in the broader South East NSW region, for example Monaro Farming Systems and Tablelands Farming Systems, however no such group exists in the ACT and border region. ACT landholders were supported to attend a Monaro Farming Systems workshop and have had exposure to the opportunities and support these groups provide.