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Supporting best practice in soil carbon

31 Oct

Mark Dreyfus

ECOS magazine, October 31 2011

To strengthen the science around the measurement of soil carbon – and help better inform farmers of the emissions abatement options available to them – the Australian Government is significantly expanding Carbon Farming Futures as part of the Clean Energy Future plan.

A scientist and farmer inspect a canola crop. The Australian Government is expanding the Carbon Farming Futures package to strengthen the science around the measurement of soil carbon, and help better inform farmers of their simple emissions abatement options. Credit: CSIRO/Willem van Aken

Agriculture remains an important component of the Australian economy, not to mention the lifeblood of regional Australia. Yet, few sectors will be affected as much as agriculture by changes in global climate.

Unless we do something, Australian agriculture as we know it will be harmed by adverse changes in temperature and rainfall. But, we also face the menace of extreme weather events like droughts, bushfires, floods and cyclones – all set to increase in their frequency under modelled global warming scenarios.

Landholders have an interest in addressing Australian carbon emissions, and it is perhaps understandable that Australian farmers have already begun to act on climate change.

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The good and bad of farming

28 Oct

by Yolandi Groenewald

Mail & Guardian, South Africa, October 28 2011

Agriculture is extremely vulnerable to climate change, but it also produces about 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There is consensus that climate change will have a significant impact on agriculture in developing countries. Even a 2°C rise in the mean global temperature by the year 2100, which is regarded as an optimistic ­scenario, will radically change the face of farming.

Drastic consequences The agricultural sector will be one of those hardest hit by climate change.

In South Africa agriculture ­contributes up to 12% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 30% of national employment. South Africa’s white paper on climate change warns that crop failures could therefore have a significant economic impact. At the upcoming COP17 conference in Durban, one of the debates will be whether agriculture deserves ­special treatment.

So far agriculture has been on the fringes of ­negotiations, despite it being a role player in any future legally binding agreement. But because it stands so central to climate change, voices are getting stronger that agriculture should get its own work programme at the talks. One of the debates will be whether the agricultural sector should be exempt from any ­greenhouse gas caps because of food security.

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Australian Year of the Farmer – 2012

21 Oct

Farmers, it’s your year! Geoff Bell, the managing director of the Australian Year of the Farmer (AYOF), reckons “it’s time we gave all Australian farmers a pat on the back”.

The AYOF people have a lot organised, and it’s mostly in regional areas. Their events list is getting bigger: their roadshowis visiting many regional areas, there are ‘smart farming for the future’ seminars, you can submit your own event for the calendar, and there is an agricultural expo next December in Sydney.

They want to hear your stories – you can submit them online.

If you have any ideas about how you’d like to get involved, we’d love to hear them, too. The AYOF’s objectives are on their website to give you an idea on what they want to achieve.

Climate uncertainty puts spotlight on risk management

17 Oct

by Clarisa Collis

GRDC, October 17 2011

To help fortify their western Darling Downs property against climate variability, the Coggan family has put together a comprehensive strategy combining improved seeding and harvesting efficiencies and crop diversification.

For the Coggans – Phillip, Cindy, John and Lyn – spreading production risks across one of the largest wheat properties in Australia has involved a carefully staged approach over 10 years. In that time they have witnessed a distinct shift in weather patterns.

Phillip Coggan says that when they introduced controlled-traffic farming in 2001 they also took steps to increase sowing efficiencies.

Investment in a 36-metre Multi Farming Systems banana planter and another two airseeders, with a total capacity of 30,000 litres, now helps them sow 10,900 hectares in about three weeks.

Testament to the efficiency gains the Coggans have achieved is the Guinness World Record for sowing the largest field of wheat over 24 hours in 2008. The 905ha paddock they planted superseded the unofficial previous record of 571ha set by a Ukraine company.

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Forages for a new climate

17 Oct

by Rob Fisher

Groundcover Supplement, October 17 2011

It is hard to know if starting a climate change project in 2010-11 in northern Victoria was a good or bad omen. The challenges of the long and extremely wet summer, together with locusts and mice, limited the results from the first year of a summer forages trial. However, they also highlighted what can be achieved if such summer conditions are to become the rule rather than the exception.

Run by the Victorian Irrigated Cropping Council (VICC) and the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in association with BCG (formerly the Birchip Cropping Group) and Riverine Plains Inc. as part of Grain & Graze 2, the trial is looking at forages for a new climate.

Originally, it was planned to assess 30 forages at the three sites – Kooloonong (dryland Mallee), Kerang (dryland but with the capacity for irrigation) and Tungamah (dryland).

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14 Oct

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

FarmReady  aims to improve the capacity of primary producers to increase their self reliance and preparedness to adapt to climate change through participation in targeted training activities.

Two grants will be available through the FarmReady program.

  • $1,500 primary producers reimbursement grant
  • $80,000 industry, farming and natural resource management group grant

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Climate Change Research Program

14 Oct

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

The Climate Change Research Program (CCRP) supports innovative research and on-farm demonstration to help primary industries respond to climate change. The program focuses on providing producers with practical options for adapting their management practices, reducing their emissions and increasing productivity.

Since July 2008, when the program began, $46.2 million has been committed to 50 large-scale collaborative research projects under five sub-programs: soil carbon, biochar, greenhouse gas emissions (methane and nitrous oxide), climate change adaptation, and demonstration activities. The overall investment in the CCRP is approximately $130 million (including partner contributions).

Research projects are being delivered in partnership with a range of stakeholders, including research providers, industry groups, universities and state governments. Significant work has already been undertaken in all states and the Northern Territory.

Key results to date include:

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Carbon Farming Initiative

14 Oct

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) is an Australian Government scheme to help farmers, forest growers and landholders earn income from reducing emissions like nitrous oxide and methane through changes to agricultural and land management practices. The initiative will achieve this by:

Source: TedxDubbo

• establishing a carbon crediting scheme
• developing methodologies for offset projects
• providing information and tools to help farmers and landholders benefit from carbon markets
• investing in a Biochar Capacity Building Program

The implementation of the scheme will be undertaken jointly by DAFF and the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

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New Genes for New Environments opens in Merredin

11 Oct

by Marion Lopez

ScineceNetwork WA, October 11 2011

WA’s grains industry is set to benefit from two newly opened research facilities at Merredin, designed to help develop new crop technologies resilient to climate change.

While the ‘New Genes for New Environments’ facility will enable the grains industry to evaluate growth and yield characteristics of genetically modified traits, the Managed Environment Facility (MEF)’s focus will be in non-GM crop research.

As part of the $9 million State Government’s commitment to the New Genes for New Environments project, Minister for Agriculture and Food Terry Redman says the facilities will continue to place WA at the forefront of agricultural and environmental research.

For our farmers to be at their most productive it’s important for them to be growing crops that are suited to our environment." —Minister Redman. Image: iStock

“It is important for the Australian grains industry to have access to the latest innovation, including GM technology, to remain internationally competitive,” says Minister Redman.

“Both [facilities] will target improvements in crop production needed to sustain the grains industry under climatic stresses such as drought, heat and frost.
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How The Australian Newspaper Warps The World of Climate Science

15 Sep

by Graham Readfearn, September 15 2011

There is a publication in Australia where for every one story you read which agrees society should take firm steps to combat climate change, there are four stories suggesting we shouldn’t.

When climate change is viewed through the pages of this publication, most of the world’s “experts” think it’s either not happening, not worth worrying about or not caused by humans.

Advocates for strong action on climate change are variously described as “prophets of doom”, “greenhouse hysterics” or “hair-shirted greenhouse penitents”.

As extreme as these positions might appear, this publication is not a newsletter from a fringe group or a bulletin from the Tea Party.

This is the divisive state of climate change science in the pages of the nation’s sole national newspaper The Australian, according to a 115-page examination of the publication’s role in shaping how Australia thinks.