NSW farmers put adaptive strategies in place

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David Prell farms fine wool Merinos on 1000 hectares at "Ahgunyah", near Crookwell, and describes himself as definitely "not a zealot".

Nonetheless he has been "concerned for a long time" and he predicts farmers will have to make substantial changes in future.

The search is on for farmers with the best climate change adaptation strategies, who are willing to participate in case studies.

This follows 15 highly successful regional forums conducted around the State, at which it became clear that 45 per cent of participants already had a plan.

"It’s quite clear in all parts of NSW there are producers leading by example,"

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) climate risk management project leader, Gary Allan, said.

"Their practices will give them an advantage in adapting to expected impacts."

Surveys conducted at all the forums showed that only 10pc of participants did not already have a plan.

Forty five per cent were unsure whether their current practices were adequate.

"Mostly, the best strategists do not undertake radically new approaches, rather they adopt well established ones," Mr Allan said.

"Over time, they have built resilience into their farming systems, maintaining the resource base and enabling them to take maximum advantage of any favourable shift in climate.

"This is particularly evident in the extreme conditions which have persisted through the current drought.

"Through prudent decisions and the adoption of conservation farming principles, sustainable grazing and similar practices, many producers are showing they can succeed in the most difficult circumstances."

However, Mr Allan warns that in less than optimal conditions, it is likely to become essential rather than optional to adopt practices to sustain the resource base and build resilience.

"Analysis of climatic trends by DPI around much of the State shows clearly that in most areas, average temperatures have been rising steadily over recent decades, and there have been shifts in the historic rainfall patterns people have come to associate with their climate," he said.

"It is increasingly clear that while Australia’s natural climate variability continues to exert influence, some observed changes will to be attributable to climate change.

"For producers, the interaction between this characteristic variability and changes expected to occur at the extremes of climate, will present new challenges.

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"We are interested in hearing from people whose approaches can help us understand what is possible, to promote adaptation more broadly."

Mr Allan said there was no silver bullet but demonstrating a variety of innovative strategies applicable to a broad range of enterprises and conditions would build the knowledge base.

Anybody keen to be considered for inclusion in a case study, or wishing to nominate somebody they consider a worthy subject, should contact the DPI climate risk management team or their local DPI district agronomist.