Australian farmers adapt to changing climate

farmmAustralian farmers have spent years battling droughts, with dry years becoming more common in the face of climate change.

So how do farmers survive a changing Mother Nature?

A report from agricultural forecaster ABARES found changes in climate over the past 20 years had had a significant negative effect on Australian cropping farms.

But Neal Hughes, director of water and climate research, said farmers were successfully adapting to the tougher conditions.

“There has been a significant decline in average winter rainfall and there has been increases in temperatures,” he said.

“But while the climate has been deteriorating, farm productivity has been improving.”

Mr Ruwoldt said he began experimenting with soil conservation techniques in 1982, after a tough drought that killed all his crops.

“It has been a bit of a rollercoaster, learn as you go, because really there was no one there to tell us how to do it,” he said.

For Mr Ruwoldt, taking care of soil is his number one priority.

“In the past there has been a lot of droughts and a lot of soil erosion, and you can visually see that wherever you go,” he said.

“We have to look after our most valuable resource, and that is the soils.”

Mr Ruwoldt said it was hard to put a figure on how far ahead he was, but the most important thing was bringing a crop in every year.

“You have to farm more for a drought than for a good year almost, because when it rains anybody can grow a crop,” he said.

“But when it doesn’t rain not everybody seems to grow a crop.”

Keeping a healthy soil is a principle similarly shared by broadacre farmer Robin Schaefer, who is based in the South Australian Riverland town of Loxton.

He said the introduction of no-till farming had proved important in maintaining soil moisture, particularly during the Millennium drought.

“I guess through that time it really made us sharpen our pencil and look at how we managed our business, and how we could make better use of every bit of moisture that we got,” he said.

“With no-till came the ability to dry sow, and get the crop in earlier.”

Mr Schaefer said changing with the conditions was the key to industry survival.

“You look around at farming in general and you see people that have not changed … they are just not farming anymore,” he said.

“Those who have changed are still farming, and those who are not are struggling more and more now.”

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