Climate change a serious game


Adapting to climate change is being taken seriously by the North Mallee Farm Improvement Group.

In collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Food, the group - which is located in the Salmon Gums area - has been conducting field trials this season.

Farmers also participated in a Climate Smart workshop on October 19 at the Salmon Gums golf club. The workshop ran in the form of a game with two farmers in each team. The game was played over seven seasons and each group was given a set of soil types.

James Fisher, of Desiree Futures, DAFWA's Imma Farre, CSIRO's Nirav Khimashia and Pascal Perez, of HEMA consulting, laid out assumptions and unfolded seasonal rainfall in pre-defined intervals so that farmers could make decisions that they would consider under real conditions.

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Gross income at the end of each played season was calculated and revealed. The teams were then encouraged to discuss the risks and opportunities they had considered while making decisions.

The workshop provided an opportunity for farmers to explore future management options and possible consequences of a range of different decisions in a no-risk, virtual manner.

Farmers liked the concept, because they could see the economic outcome of their own decisions and also compare with others.

Department officer Darshan Sharma noted that real situations were often more complex and, therefore, agronomic impacts of climatic adversities and actual value of adaptation strategies should be carefully considered.

Salmon Gums farmer and president of the North Mallee Farm Improvement Group Laurie Starcevich said the increasingly unpredictable nature of the seasons showed the importance of climate change mitigation, adding there was a need for supplementary enterprises that would use land but remain independent of rainfall.

"All our enterprises rely on rainfall - if it doesn't rain, we are in trouble," he said.

"I think we need to invest in other areas, for example, solar panels."

This season, Mr Starcevich put in 2900 hectares of wheat, 1200ha of barley, 800ha of canola, 400ha of peas and 300ha of lupins. So far, he has recorded 240mm of rain, 56mm of which fell in October.

"We had a really dry start to the season and it was pretty dry through winter," he said. "We were looking at harvesting only 10 per cent of our barley and our canola was looking to out-yield our barley.

"Since the end of September, we've had a lot of rain, which has turned the season around."

Mr Starcevich planned to start harvest this week, depending on the weather.

The research was funded by DAFWA, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the Australian Government's Climate Change Research Program.

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