Transcript of Resilient cropping

​This eight minute video was produced to communicate the outcomes of the Climate Change Research Program from the developing climate change resilient cropping and mixed cropping/grazing businesses in Australia project. It provides information to help land managers understand possible ways they can better manage mixed farming systems in highly variable and changing climates.  This research has been funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to help prepare Australia’s primary industries for climate change and build the resilience of Australia’s agricultural sector.

Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry
Transcript – Resilient cropping Video (Final) – computers and brains working together

19 June 2012


  1. Voice Over:
    The human brain has an inherent ability to manage risk – and research scientists across Australia are working with farmers to maximise this ability and apply it to better managing mixed farming systems in highly variable and changing climates.

    The ‘Developing Climate Change Resilient Cropping and Mixed Cropping/Grazing Businesses in Australia’ project uses modelling to formally test how effective these adaptation options may be in terms of physical yields and farm profitability.

    Coordinating the Queensland part of the project is the CSIRO’s Steven Crimp

    Mr Steven Crimp, Project leader, CSIRO:
    The project itself is looking at evaluating a range of on-farm management options that we hope will provide some resilience to both future climate variability and climate change. The adaptation options that we are looking at, we have done that in consultation with farmers, and farmers have put forward their ideas about what options they think will provide them with resilience into the future.  The way that we evaluate the effectiveness of those options is by looking at the yields, the gross margins, and other economic indicators, and have a look at how those management options actually affect the yields and the other economic indicators.  And depending on the effect on those indicators, that will give us an idea of how effective those actual adaptation options are.

  2. Voice Over:
    Down in South Australia, Peter Hayman from SARDI is working with farmer groups in the lower rainfall zone of Eyre Peninsula and the Upper North region of the state.
    The project is using the state’s recent experience of prolonged drought as a starting point.

    Dr Peter Hayman, Principal Scientist, ClimateApplications, SARDI:
    This project started in 2009 and that was really at the end of a run of very,very difficult years for many farmers; very,very dry and some real heat events and so on. And so there was a lot of talk about climate change in that context and so on. And so partly what we were investigating is, how can these systems cope with these conditions, and how we use the recent drought to learn about what are some of the strength of the systems? And what are the some of the vulnerabilities of the systems, and really get farmers to talk and think through some of those processes.

  3. Voice Over:
    The researchers are using a number of cropping and grazing models, to test different management options such as fallowing, fertiliser use and changing cropping and stocking mixes at around 35 sites across the Australian wheat belt. 

    Dr Peter Hayman, Principal Scientist, ClimateApplications, SARDI:
    So one of the tools we are using is APSIM - which is the agricultural production simulator. It actually allows us to simulate crop growth, but also crop growth with different management and runs of seasons. So we can very quickly run 100 years of climate data and we are very fortunate in Australia that we have daily climate data, and certainly daily rainfall, that goes back a very long time. We can use that to, sort of, understand these systems better. With this DAFF Project we can also run future climate projections with APSIM and with other simpler models to just talk through what some of the changes might be.

  4. Voice Over:
    The researchers have undertaken some preliminary estimates of the value of some of these adaptation options.
    Mr Steven Crimp, Project leader, CSIRO:
    If some of these adaptation options were taken up across the whole of the Australian Wheat Belt by 2070, and these are just different varieties, so optimising varieties for climate conditions, and optimising planting windows. We estimate that the benefits to the Australian cereal industry would be around $100 million to $500 million per annum.
  5. Voice Over:
    South Australia’s Barry Mudge, who is an employed researcher on the project and a participating farmer, says the ability of the human brain to manage risk and make decisions has been developing for thousands of years.

    Mr Barry Mudge, researcher and participating farmer, Port Germein, SA:
    Farming in these environments is very much about getting the settings right, getting the boundaries right and I think that’s something that we’ve done very well over a lot of years. It hasn’t come by accident. It’s been a process that’s allowed us to establish a farming system that works in these very challenged environments. But that process is ongoing it’s a continuous state of evolution. The people who have farmed here successfully are continuing to change their program.

  6. Voice Over:
     Barry says the key settings that can tip the scales are the balance of the stock/crop ratio, the scale of the farm and its relationship to inputs, maintaining the correct level of equity, and the flexibility to respond to opportunity.

    Mr Barry Mudge, researcher and participating farmer, Port Germein, SA:
    We are fortunate in this environment to have two enterprises that basically complement each other. We’ve got the cropping on one side and the livestock on the other and the system that seems to work the best here is when we can use both of those equally robust enterprises in a complementary fashion, and as we move forward into more climatically challenged area we need to readdress that balance and see if we’ve got it right.

    We move between a position of risk management and good agronomy. Sometimes when things are quite tough it’s all about risk management. When things are actually running reasonably well, it’s very much about good agronomy, capitalising on opportunities, getting nutrition right, and I guess the skill of operating in these environments is to know what phase you’re actually in at any one time. And one of the things that is coming out this program is to increase our capacity to assess that. When things are grim and we are in a risk management focus, there’s not a lot we can do, but actually when we are the other way and we have opportunities presented to us, if we can fundamentally understand the drivers of our system, which is what this program is trying to do, then we can certainly be in a position to capitalise on those opportunities a lot more.

  7. Voice Over:
    The researchers have developed a web-based vulnerability assessment tool that allows farmers to assess their own adaptive capacity, along with vulnerability maps and indexes that show areas that are vulnerable.

    Mr Steven Crimp, Project leader, CSIRO:
    Many of the vulnerability analyses that have been done in the past have looked only at exposure, so that’s exposure to temperature and rainfall change. What we’re doing in this project is we’re looking at that component but we are also bringing in a notion of the adaptive capacity of rural communities. We’re actually measuring that formally through ABARE survey data so we are looking at the community’s human capital and we look at that in terms of education levels, health, age. We look at the environmental conditions in a particular community. We look at their economic situation. So, we take all of these factors into consideration when we are calculating adaptive capacity.

  8. Voice Over:
    Peter Hayman says one of the project’s strengths is the interaction between the national research into community vulnerability and the case studies focusing on the farm level.

    Dr Peter Hayman, Principal Scientist, ClimateApplications, SARDI:
    The projections for the coming decades generally suggest that farming within the existing systems is probably going to be fine, but we are trying to work with farmers to identify at what level of drying, at what level of warming, do systems start to fray and we have to make significant changes?   

  9. Voice Over:
    The multi-agency research project is being run by the CSIRO, with research from state agencies in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, farmer groups such as The Birchip Cropping Group and PlanFarm, and a host of contributing production groups around the country.  Funding has been made available through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship.

    The Developing Climate Change Resilient Cropping and Mixed Cropping/Grazing Businesses in Australia project is supported by funding and in-kind support from the following partners:

    Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries
    Birchip Cropping Group (VIC)
    Department of Primary Industries – NSW DPI
    South Australian Research and Development Institute – SARDI
    CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship
    Grains Research and Development Corporation – GRDC
    PlanFarm Agricultural Consultancy

    Thank you to the following participants of this video:

    Mr Steven Crimp – CSIRO
    Dr Peter Hayman – SARDI
    Mr Barry Mudge – ‘The Oaks’, Port Germein, South Australia


Last reviewed: 30 September 2020
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