Australian horticulture's response to climate change and climate variability (AH06019)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
This project on horticulture's response to climate change and climate variability was conducted between 2006 and 2008, and engaged with growers, consultants and scientists in three major horticultural regions in Australia.
Together with an assessment of tools capable of assisting growers and their advisers to better manage climate variability, the objective of this project was to commence answering the question – “What are the Impacts of climate change on selected horticultural regions and production systems in those regions, and what Adaptation Strategies will be useful in addressing these impacts?”
For individual growers in these selected regions, outcomes of this work started to answer the question - "What does climate change mean for my farm and my business?"
Tools used in managing climate variability, were mainly designed and constructed for a specific purpose and for a specific agricultural or pastoral industry. An assessment of 27 projects funded by the Managing for Climate Variability Program (MCVP) of Land and Water Australia (LWA) demonstrated that none of these tools were designed specifically with any horticultural industry or application in mind. This report showed that a different predictive system delivering forecasts with a longer lead time and short season length which are required for horticulture, were more likely to be achieved using dynamical modelling techniques, than previous statistical methods used in tools designed for other agricultural industries.
Dynamical modelling techniques were employed in the Predictive Ocean Atmosphere Model for Australia (POAMA). This was a state-of-the-art seasonal to inter-annual seasonal forecast system based on a coupled ocean/atmosphere model and ocean/atmosphere/land observation assimilation systems. Although the outputs are were only experimental at the time, they provide an opportunity for developing improved temperature forecasts for Australian Horticulture. For this to occur, horticulture needed to engage with climate scientists developing these newer systems, and provide them with details of the specific climate dependant needs of horticulture in Australia.
With increasing temperatures and changes to rainfall patterns which were uncertain at the time, the simplest climate change adaptation strategies was employed and was currently being employed by growers. These became the use of more adaptable cultivars and a range of cultural practices which enabled growers to maintain their production in various locations i.e. adapt to the ‘new’ climate in the current location. This was driven in the first instance to maintain profitability through market timing, market access and market share.
If climate change impacts exceeded growers adaptation capacity at a specific location, more adaptation responses were required. A southward shift of production following the southward shift of agri-climatic zones was then more likely to occur if growers were to maintain profitability through appropriate market timing, market access and market share.
Previous assessments of climate change adaptations have been made for other industries. One of the general conclusions from these analyses was that the best defence against future climate change was to continue to develop the capacity and knowledge to manage our response to current climate variability more effectively.
It was recommended that industry note the priorities, and desired outcomes listed in the Horticulture Climate Change Action Plan, and increase R,D&E investment to address these climate change (and climate variability) priorities.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) and Land and Water Australia.
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