Climate Challenges for the Grains Industry in the High Rainfall Zone of South Western Victoria (7786)
As the climate changes over the next fifty years it is predicted that the cropping expansion into the high rainfall zone of south-western Victoria will continue to rise. This is an area that has already seen a five-fold increase in grain production over the last twenty years. Whilst this area has traditionally supported grazing industries it now presents an opportunity for grain growing, as the more reliable rainfall reduces drought risk under increasingly uncertain seasonal conditions brought about by climate variability and climate change. (MacEwan et al 2006)
By the year 2070 the mean annual temperature is predicted to rise by 2.5oC putting Hamilton on a par with present day Warracknabeal in the northern Wimmera. Growing season rainfall is predicted to fall by 27% in the same time period meaning Hamilton’s rainfall will still be higher than the present day Wimmera.
The predicted higher temperatures and the associated increase in extreme heat days is expected to result in health and mortality implications for the general population. In addition there will be impacts to the community as there will be changes in labour requirements as growers move from grazing to a higher proportion of grain production under a mixed farming system. Grain yields are predicted to fall by 37 percent although total tonnage produced is expected to increase as the area sown to crop increases. The drop in grain yield does take into account the improvements in agronomy and cultivar development that is predicted to occur at the same time.
As part of this study a number of adaptation strategies have been identified that may assist grain producers cope with the changing climate. They can be categorized into four broad areas of improving management skills, crop choice, farming system adaptation and business scale changes. This list is by no means complete and will change over time as more innovative and creative options become available and as research explores and assesses the feasibility of options outside the box.
Identification of management issues resulting from variations in crop management, changing industries and conflict of land-uses as well the option of moving between regions have also been examined. Barriers to adaptation have also been identified including social, economic and institutional barriers.