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ARTICLES >> Environment Weather Watch

Weather Watch April 2013

Posted by Bestprac on Apr 01 2013

Weather Watch (April 2013)
by Susan Carn (Hawker/Blinman Bestprac Group)

My life experience has taught me that there is always someone worse off than myself. This belief was reinforced recently when Ben and I were in south-west Western Australia with the Climate Champion Program.

The area we visited around Corrigin, Karlgarin and Lake Grace has been a thriving cropping area in the past. However, farming in this area has become increasingly difficult due to a definite change in climate. The wheat belt is now receiving more summer rain but less rain in autumn, winter and spring.

In the late 1980’s predictions were made for changes expected up to 2030. Alarmingly, the climate in south west WA is now at a point worse than predicted for 2013. However, most of the remainder of WA is trending towards higher rainfall annually, but less in winter in some parts. Here is the BOM trend map which looks at annual records since 1970:

Trend in Annual Total Rainfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To view the seasonal trends in your area go to click here

Simon Wallwork, a farmer, agronomist and Climate Champion Program participant from Corrigin explained to us that climate change is right here, right now, and so he is using “Adaptive behavior” in his farm management.

He has been trialing different cropping methods to see what works best. Simon found that sub-soil moisture is very important to success or failure, and that some of the trial results have made him question the viability of cropping on some soil types in a drying climate.

The soils in that part of WA surprised us, as many different soil types can be found in one paddock. One of the worst is non-wetting sand which has to be seen to be believed. Getting his soil tested  has played an important part in Simon’s cropping enterprise.

You can read more about Simon Wallwalk here.

Simon believes that the high input cropping system of the 1990’s is failing, and farmers in his area will need to adapt to the changing climate. This could mean going back into sheep or cattle, as we visited some farmers who had already done that by setting up feedlots.

Our take home message was that the farming zones in south east WA were changing. The pastoral zone is encroaching westward into the wheat belt. The Wheat belt is going westward towards the coast. However, farmers on the coast, where it has been historically too wet to crop, are now cropping.

Back home, we have been living with a changing climate since the 1990’s. The Quorn district has always been marginal cropping country, so we have kept our inputs low and our main enterprise has always been merino sheep. So will we put some crop in this year? At the moment it seems unlikely after an extremely dry summer (no sub soil moisture) and a seasonal outlook that is not promising much more than average.

So now that I’ve seen farmers in the west having to make some rapid changes to the way they farm, and on very difficult soils, I think I appreciate life here a lot more!
 

Last changed: Apr 02 2013

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