Two new drought tools designed to give farmers ‘best available climate data’ to prepare for drought

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A dried up dam, near Ravensthorpe. Zach Relph
Camera IconA dried up dam, near Ravensthorpe. Zach Relph Credit: Zach Relph

Farmers now have access to two digital tools designed to give them the “best available climate data” for drought preparation, with the aim of helping assess their farming business’ risk and impact caused by climate change.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud this month revealed the Drought Resilience Self-Assessment tool and the Climate Services for Agriculture platform — two key investments under the Federal Government’s $5 billion Future Drought Fund.

He first announced the creation of the tools in January, saying they would complement seasonal forecasts and climate guides produced by the Bureau of Meteorology.

Both tools — funded by the Federal Government — have been designed to make climate information more accessible and useful for farmers and industry.

The free Drought Resilience Self-Assessment is a free tool designed to help farmers prepare for future drought.

Farmers can explore the current and past condition of their property through satellite imagery and complete simple surveys to assess how they are tracking, in terms of financial performance and personal wellbeing.

The Climate Services for Agriculture platform provides farmers with historical climate data, seasonal forecasts and future climate projections across the country.

Climate information for cattle, wheat, sheep, almonds, apples, barley, canola, and lupins is also available.

Mr Littleproud said the Climate Services for Agriculture Tool would allow farmers to “easily assess” how climate variables affecting their business could change in the future.

“For example, a wheat producer can see how the timing and intensity of seasonal rainfall in their region might change into the future, how that might impact the way they farm, and whether they need to consider changes,” he said.

“For dryland croppers and cattle graziers in four pilot regions, the tool also helps farmers understand how their land and its productive capacity might be impacted by the climate into the future.

“A tailored set of practical options and resources to manage these impacts are then generated for consideration.”

The Federal Government is investing $32m to develop Climate Services for Agriculture until June 2023 and the Drought Resilience Self-Assessment tool until June 2024, to allow the platforms’ capability to be expanded to provide national coverage.

While both are tools are still being expanded, farmers anywhere can now use the tools to view regularly updated satellite images of their farm, and remote-sensor data, assess their personal, social and financial resilience, view climate projections, and complete environmental assessments, pathways and specific climate impacts.

Consultation will kick off in pilot regions — WA’s are Narrogin and Northam — early next year with the aim of updating the tool in April and July, with flagged enhancements including adding environmental resilience assessments, pathways, and climate impacts for new commodities and scaling existing commodities.

Sheep and wool production, dairy and cattle grazing will be included in the updates before July.

The tools were created through the Future Drought Fund, which provides $100m a year for programs designed to build drought preparedness and resilience in farming communities.

The Future Drought Fund launched its first programs in July 2020, with projects being delivered in line with a set of principles outlined in the Drought Resilience Funding Plan 2020-2024.

To find out more about the tools, visit drsat.com.au and climateservicesforag.indraweb.io, or visit agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/future-drought-fund

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