Everfarm Climate adapted perennial-based farming systems for dryland agriculture in Southern Australia
Australian dryland agriculture will be affected by climate change in a number of ways. First, higher temperatures and changes to rainfall are likely to create greater variability of crop yields and livestock productivity. Second, government policies introduced to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions are likely to influence production costs and commodity prices. Third, global trade patterns are likely to alter as populations increase, and as climate change continues to affect producers and consumers worldwide. This will create both challenges and opportunities for Australian agriculture. Farmers will have to respond to the additional challenge of climate change even when it is compounded by existing long term stresses associated with declining terms of trade, climate variability and existing environmental issues. Investing in new land-use options to combat climate change, with their associated risks, is made more difficult by being set against a backdrop of declining profitability. The opportunity to create transformational change in farming enterprises was tested by combining the multiple components of the potential future perennial based dryland farming systems and assessing their expected contribution to climate change adaptation. This project has found that adopting perennial pastures for livestock grazing and tree crops for biomass production, when planted on appropriate soils, can improve profitability when compared to the existing land uses facing a changing climate. In some farming systems increased cropping is likely to result in improved future farm profits. This work demonstrated that mallees as a biomass tree crop can be cohesively integrated into existing farming systems with minimal interruption to normal operations of livestock and cropping enterprises. A woody biomass crop can be profitable and diversify revenue risk by enabling farmers to supply biomass and sequester carbon to relevant markets. This work demonstrates suitable designs of a mallee belt planting layout that minimizes costs and maximizes benefits when planted in appropriate agro climatic zones and where there are adequate soil conditions. Knowledge developed from this work will help build farmers capacity about climate change adaptation and assist in achieving positive social, environmental and economic outcomes.