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Whole-of-agriculture approach to new climate forecasting

Agricultural industries get better return on investment by combining resources on the common challenge of managing climate variability.
Photo: Arthur Mostead

The last decade has seen a major effort to better understand the climate. In Australia, this has entailed a substantial investment in supercomputing for Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) modelling, which is in high demand from all sectors of the economy seeking accurate climate information.

Although the grains industry may be asking different questions to sectors such as health or the military, its needs overlap considerably with other rural industries, making the case for increased collaboration on climate research.

This common ground is being addressed in a project where BoM climate scientists and other climate and agricultural experts are guided by six reference groups: grains, northern beef, southern beef, sugar, dairy and wine grapes. The project, ‘Forewarned is forearmed (FWFA)’, is intended to equip farmers and agricultural value chains to proactively manage the impacts of extreme climate events.

It runs from 2017 to 2022 and will provide five new forecast products for extreme events, weeks to months ahead. Funding partners include the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural Research and Development (R&D) for Profit Program ($6 million), with further cash and in-kind contributions ($8 million) from 14 project partners.

Participatory research

This project collaborates across rural industries to improve forecasting tools and skills. The six industry reference groups actively participate in the research to help design grower-friendly forecasting products. Additionally, a formal Community of Practice is regularly convened to allow scientists from different climate-impact disciplines to share experience and ideas.

An example of the participatory research occurred in March 2020, when the grains reference group met with climate researchers at the BoM in Melbourne. The grains industry reference group has members from each of the three production regions covering low to high-rainfall farming systems. The main objective was to review experimental forecast products under development and provide advice and input on the next stage of development.


Considerable use is made of weather forecasts (days one to seven) for extreme events. However, there is no information available to growers on the probability of extreme events in weeks or seasons ahead. To this end, the project will provide five new forecast products for extreme events weeks to months ahead.

The FWFA project builds on a long history of GRDC co-investing with other research and development corporations in climate research and application. This began with the ‘Managing climate variability’ program, established in 1992, which centred on forecasting accuracy, lead time and ease of use, providing tools and services for managing climate risk, and increasing adoption of climate risk management.

Agricultural industries get better return on investment by combining resources on the common challenge of managing climate variability. Also many grain growers run livestock and, in the northern region, many grain producers grow cotton.

More information: Peter Hayman, 0401 996 448,

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