Government grant gives green light for seasonal forecasting R&D project 06 May 2015

The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) has been granted funding to manage a farmer-focussed seasonal forecasting research project as part of the Australian Government’s “R&D for Profit’ program.

The Government announced it will provide $1.8 million to fund the three-year R&D project, titled ‘Improved Use of Seasonal Forecasting to Increase Farmer Profitability’.

The aim of the project is to bridge the gap between seasonal climate forecasts and on-farm business decisions to improve the productivity and profitability of Australian farmers by:

- Identifying the critical information requirements relating to seasonal climate risks for primary industries by sector, type of decision, and region. 

- Enabling farmers to use the unrealised potential in existing seasonal climate forecasts by developing tools, information and training to skill farmers in understanding and using seasonal forecasts in farm business decision making. 

- Improving the seasonal forecasting capabilities of Australia’s primary forecasting model (POAMA/ACCESS) by analysing and reducing the main errors that negatively impact the quality of seasonal predictions for use by farmers. 

The four key practical outcomes of the project will be:

- Defining the critical seasonal climate risk information needed by Australian farmers.

- Getting as many farmers as possible to understand how useful seasonal climate forecasting can be and how they can incorporate these forecasts into business decision making. 

- The development of seasonal climate information tailored to individual needs.

- The improvement of seasonal climate forecasting skills in agricultural areas.

RIRDC’s Managing Director, Craig Burns said that the outcomes of the project will provide real and practical tools to assist Australia’s farmers to better utilise seasonal climate forecasts.

“Climate is arguably the biggest driver of agricultural production in Australia, particularly as Australia has the most variable climate of any inhabited country,” Mr Burns said.

“While there have been significant improvements in one to ten day weather forecasts, this project addresses seasonal climate forecasts and how farmers should use them. We know that this broader timeframe is most important to farmers.

“It’s been shown that an effective way of addressing drought is to equip farmers to understand climate variability and how to use forecasts in business decision making and that’s the main goal of this project.”

The project partners are:
- Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation
- Grains Research and Development Corporation
- Cotton Research and Development Corporation
- Meat and Livestock Australia
- Sugar Research Australia
- Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd
- Bureau of Meteorology
- University of Southern Queensland
- Monash University
- Birchip Cropping Group Inc
- Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources, Victoria
- New South Wales Department of Primary Industries
- South Australian Research and Development Institute
- Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia

RIRDC is the managing agency for the project. The project will also be funded through partner contributions which when combined with the $1.8 million Government grant takes the total value of the project to $3.5 million.