Value of seasonal climate forecasts in Australian agriculture

Agriculture’s basic dependence on climatically sensitive biological systems often exerts the most influence on the sector from one year to the next. Seasonal climate forecasts (SCFs) provide opportunities for farmers to better match farm decisions to pending climatic conditions.

Using SCFs, farmers can select crop types, varieties, stocking rates and nutrient inputs that are better suited to expected seasonal climatic conditions. SCFs offer economic value by providing farmers with greater certainty about the real state of nature at the time decisions are made.

Insufficient evidence about the value of SCFs has been considered to be a major factor limiting their adoption in Australia. To help address this, a series of case studies (southern beef, prime lamb, northern beef, southern cropping, northern cropping, western cropping, rice and sugar) were developed aimed to develop a better understanding of where, when and how SCFs offer value in agricultural production systems.

The nine case studies provide examples of the potential value of a forecast based on a particular production system, at a specific time of year and at a specific location with its own historical climate variability.

This research was supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program.

Seasonal climate forecasts were found to improve the profitability of prime lamb production systems in southern Australia by between $0 and $54/ha by improving stocking rate decisions at key times.

Topics include:

  • Case study at a glance
  • How can seasonal climate forecasts provide economic value to farming enterprises?
  • Beef production in northern Australia
  • Can seasonal climate forecasts improve beef production systems?
  • Key findings
  • When can seasonal climate forecasts have economic value?

Visit Prime lamb production in southern Australia for the details.

Seasonal climate forecasts were found to improve the profitability of beef production systems in southern Australia by between $0 and $28/ha by improving stocking rate decisions at key times.

Topics include:

  • Case study at a glance
  • How can seasonal climate forecasts provide economic value to farming enterprises?
  • Beef production in northern Australia
  • Can seasonal climate forecasts improve beef production systems?
  • Key findings
  • When can seasonal climate forecasts have economic value?

Visit Beef production in southern Australia for the details.

Seasonal climate forecasts were found to improve the profitability of beef production systems in northern Australia by between $0 and $14/steer by improving stocking rate decisions at key times.

Topics include:

  • Case study at a glance
  • How can seasonal climate forecasts provide economic value to farming enterprises?
  • Beef production in northern Australia
  • Can seasonal climate forecasts improve beef production systems?
  • Key findings
  • When can seasonal climate forecasts have economic value?

Visit Beef production in northern Australia for the details.

Seasonal climate forecasts were found to improve the returns for grain growers in southern Australia by between $0 and $20/ha by improving winter cropping decisions.

Topics include:

  • Case study at a glance
  • How can seasonal climate forecasts provide economic value to farming enterprises?
  • Beef production in northern Australia
  • Can seasonal climate forecasts improve beef production systems?
  • Key findings
  • When can seasonal climate forecasts have economic value?

Visit Grain growing in southern Australia for the details.

Seasonal climate forecasts were found to improve the returns for grain growers by between $0 and $204/ha by improving summer cropping decisions.

Topics include:

  • Case study at a glance
  • How can seasonal climate forecasts provide economic value to farming enterprises?
  • Beef production in northern Australia
  • Can seasonal climate forecasts improve beef production systems?
  • Key findings
  • When can seasonal climate forecasts have economic value?

Visit Grain growing in northern New South Wales for the details.

Seasonal climate forecasts can provide marginally better yield estimates for grain growers in Western Australia and result in a better match between planned and realised forward selling strategies. However, the income effects of these improved strategies varied because of wheat price volatility.

Topics include:

  • Case study at a glance
  • How can seasonal climate forecasts provide economic value to farming enterprises?
  • Beef production in northern Australia
  • Can seasonal climate forecasts improve beef production systems?
  • Key findings
  • When can seasonal climate forecasts have economic value?

Visit Grain growing in Western Australia for the details.

Seasonal climate forecasts were found to improve the profitability of dryland cotton systems by between $0 and $517/ha by improving decisions about planting.

Topics include:

  • Case study at a glance
  • How can seasonal climate forecasts provide economic value to farming enterprises?
  • Beef production in northern Australia
  • Can seasonal climate forecasts improve beef production systems?
  • Key findings
  • When can seasonal climate forecasts have economic value?

Visit Dryland cotton growing for the details.

Evapotranspiration forecasts were found to improve the profitability of rice production systems in Australia by between $0 and $120/ha by improving decisions around the timing of rice field drainage.

Topics include:

  • Case study at a glance
  • How can seasonal climate forecasts provide economic value to farming enterprises?
  • Beef production in northern Australia
  • Can seasonal climate forecasts improve beef production systems?
  • Key findings
  • When can seasonal climate forecasts have economic value?

Visit Rice production in Australia for the details.

Seasonal climate forecasts were found to improve the profitability of sugarcane production systems by between $0 and $2,358/ha by improving harvesting time decisions.

Topics include:

  • Case study at a glance
  • How can seasonal climate forecasts provide economic value to farming enterprises?
  • Beef production in northern Australia
  • Can seasonal climate forecasts improve beef production systems?
  • Key findings
  • When can seasonal climate forecasts have economic value?

Visit Sugar growing in Queensland for the details.