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Data shows Goondiwindi climate is changing

The latest data about climate changes in the Goondiwindi region and how grain growers can adapt will be part of the keynote address at the GRDC Grains Research Update in March. Photo GRDC.

While there has been heated debate in agricultural and political circles about whether climate change is real, data being presented at the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Grains Research Updates in Goondiwindi shows the average temperature for the region has increased since 1950, while annual rainfall totals have dropped.

Climate experts forecast this pattern of change will continue, so the question is what can grain growers do to adapt?

This hot topic will be addressed by an expert from the Australian National University (ANU) as part of a keynote speech at the GRDC Grains Research Update in Goondiwindi next month (March 5 and 6 2019).

Steven Crimp, a climate applications scientist with the Climate Change Institute (CCI) at the Australian National University, will open the annual Update with a presentation detailing the impact of climate change on New South Wales farming systems, including what has already occurred, what is forecast and how grain growers can adapt these changes.

His role in the CCI is to examine opportunities for improved climate risk management within primary industries, both in Australia and internationally, as well as seeking opportunities to work more closely with multi-national and global food producers, telecommunications, and other industries in this area.

“An increasing body of scientific evidence regarding the impact of human activity on Earth’s climate has shifted debate from ‘is climate change real?’ to ‘what can we do about it?’,” Dr Crimp said.

“Adapting current management activities can include considerations of both climate variability and change.

“Agronomists and farm advisers now have a vital role in helping to develop information-rich farming systems that will improve responses to current climate variability and that can enhance adaption to climate changes.”

Dr Crimp said in Australia the average air temperature had warmed by just over 1 degree Celsius since 1910, with 2018 1.14°C warmer than the long-term mean.There has also been a shift towards hotter temperatures and more extreme high temperature conditions across all seasons, with the most significant change being in spring.

“In the Goondiwindi region over the period from 1950 until 2018, warming has occurred in both minimum and maximum temperatures, with average temperatures now approximately 1.1°C warmer than in 1950,” Dr Crimp said.

“For the period 1950-1985, a maximum temperature of 29°C occurred on average for 14 per cent of the year. However from 1986-2018 this temperature occurred around 35 per cent of the year, more than twice the frequency of the earlier record.

“Similarly, the frequency of a minimum temperature of 21°C has risen from 48 to 102 times per year.

“Despite increases in both minimum and maximum temperatures the number of frost events (defined as below zero degrees) has more than tripled, with an average nine events now occurring most years.”

Dr Crimp said rainfall for the Goondiwindi region had also shown a declining trend, with the average length of dry spells increasing, as had the average time between rainfall events.

“At a regional level projected changes in climate for the eastern Downs region predict warmer temperatures and declines in average rainfall with increasing evaporation,” he said.

Looking ahead, Dr Crimp said current climate trends indicated this warming pattern was likely to continue, with record-breaking hot summers and changes in rainfall patterns presenting challenges for Australian grain growers with the potential for significant impacts on crop yields.

“When it comes to adapting to the projected climate changes, the initial actions grain growers could take are really extensions of what they are currently doing to manage climate variability,” he said.

“Strategies that will often be important in adjusting to these changes may include – amongst many other options – enhancing current zero tillage and minimum disturbance techniques, retaining crop residues, staggering planting times, varieties that are better adapted to heat shock and drought, and incorporating seasonal climate forecasts into farm enterprise plans.”

Dr Crimp will deliver his opening address on day one (March 5 2019) of the Goondiwindi Grains Research Update at the Goondiwindi Community Cultural Centre.

Other keynote speakers at the Goondiwindi Update include: Harm van Rees, of Crop Facts Pty Ltd, who will delve into opportunities for bridging the ‘yield gap’ as highlighted through the National Paddock Survey; and Greg Rebetzke from CSIRO, who will share the latest research data into cereal breeding for a changing climate.

Day one topics at the Goondiwindi Update include: the latest chickpea harvest and desiccation timing; the physiology and genetics of cold temperatures in chickpeas; chaff tramlining for weed seeds; residual herbicides and sowthistle; targeted tillage; the fit of new long season barley varieties in the north; the barley stem rust outbreak on the Darling Downs in 2018; and the latest on crown rot.

Day two topics include: the helicoverpa resistance management strategy; how small changes in management can impact profitability; how subsoil constraints impact crops; using EM38 to identify constraints and influence nutrient management; future farming technologies leading to automation; cover crop research to improve water use efficiency; tactical decisions on crop sequencing; and the impact of crop sequence on soil water and profit.

The 2019 GRDC Grains Research Updates in Queensland are being held at:

  • Goondiwindi – March 5 and 6 2019
  • Moonie – March 7 2019
  • Warra – March 8 2019.

For more information, contact northernupdates@icanrural.com.au or 02 9482 4930.

Source: GRDC

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