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How Climate-Smart Farming is Reducing Extreme Weather Impacts

With Australian farmers facing increasingly unpredictable climate patterns, use of advanced technology has emerged as a crucial ally to help mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events on crops and livelihoods.
Smart farming and climate extremes
Published on
March 20, 2024

In recent years, Australian farmers have faced increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, including droughts, floods, heatwaves, and storms, which pose significant challenges to agricultural productivity and food security. However, amidst these challenges, technology has emerged as a crucial ally in helping farmers mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events on their crops and livelihoods. While farming is embracing a range of technologies to assist with labour and farm management, including robotics and automated systems, Australian farmers are also implementing climate-smart farming strategies to reduce the risk of operational and financial loss in the face of climate change.

Climate-smart farming represents a holistic and forward-thinking approach to agriculture. It encompasses a range of practices and strategies designed to achieve three overarching goals: increased agricultural productivity, enhanced adaptation to climate change, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Here, we provide insights into some of the innovations driving climate-smart farming.

Conservation Agriculture and Water Management:

Conservation agriculture is a farming system that promotes three core elements: minimum mechanical soil disturbance, maintenance of permanent soil organic cover, and varied crop sequencing. These elements, coupled with improved water management through precision irrigation and advanced water stages, are building drought resilience.

Precision Agriculture:

Precision agriculture leverages technologies such as GPS, sensors, drones, and data analytics to optimise crop management practices with pinpoint accuracy. Examples include Goanna Ag, Frambot and VitiVisor, emerging technologies that monitor soil moisture, water usage, and irrigation data. These tools enable farmers to monitor soil moisture levels, detect nutrient deficiencies, and assess crop health in real time. Farmers can adapt swiftly to changing weather conditions and minimise resource wastage by targeting irrigation, fertilisation, and pest control efforts.

Climate-Resilient Crop Varieties:

Biotechnology and genetic engineering have enabled the development of climate-resilient crop varieties capable of withstanding extreme weather events such as drought, heat, and salinity. Scientists can identify and incorporate traits that enhance crop stress tolerance through gene editing and marker-assisted breeding. These resilient varieties ensure stable yields and reduce farmers' vulnerability to weather-related losses.

Weather Forecasting and Risk Management:

Accurate weather forecasting is critical for farmers to anticipate and prepare for impending weather events. Modern weather forecasting models and user-friendly decision support systems provide farmers with timely information and actionable insights. By leveraging weather data, farmers can adjust planting schedules, implement protective measures, and optimise resource allocation to mitigate the impact of extreme weather on their crops.

Risk management strategies, including insurance and diversification, are integral to managing uncertainties posed by climate-related challenges. Framers can utilise weather forecasting data and precision agriculture to proactively identify emerging risks and improve decision-making to mitigate significant impacts.

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA):

Controlled environment agriculture (CEA) involves growing crops indoors or in protected structures such as greenhouses and vertical farms, where environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and light can be tightly regulated. CEA technologies, including hydroponics, aquaponics, and vertical farming systems, offer farmers greater control over growing conditions, reducing their dependence on external weather variables. These systems buffer against extreme weather events and enable year-round production of high-quality crops.

As the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events continue to rise, the agricultural sector faces unprecedented challenges. However, technology offers a ray of hope, empowering farmers with tools and solutions to adapt to a changing climate and mitigate the impacts of extreme weather on their livelihoods. By embracing technological innovations and new farming methods, farmers can build resilience and reduce agriculture's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Collaboration between scientists, policymakers, agricultural stakeholders, and insurers will be essential to harnessing the power of technology and creating a more resilient and climate-smart farming industry. Other industries, such as manufacturing, logistics, sports, and entertainment, may also be able to embrace technology to predict and/or proactively pivot operations to reduce the impact of extreme weather.

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