Primary industries need to adapt to climate change: CSIRO

By Rob O'Brien

Australian agriculture needs to adapt now to climate change according to a book launched by the CSIRO.

Co-editor of the book, entitled Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Preparing Australian Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for the Future and chief research scientist with CSIRO, Dr Mark Howden said:

“Our science highlights a clear urgency to act to prepare Australian agriculture for future impacts and opportunities under climate change.

“Australia is highly sensitive to climate change and we know enough to start preparing adaptation strategies now. Well-informed and forewarned by science, we have the opportunity to implement practices to minimise the risks and enable primary industries to survive and prosper.”

The book’s findings are based on the expertise of senior researchers from CSIRO, state government departments, universities and other research institutions. It explains how climate change is likely to affect Australia’s primary industries and provides summary information on promising options for dealing with these challenges.

Dr Howden said that with effective adaptation and planning, it was possible that agriculture would not be substantially worse off under climate change scenarios for Australia.

“This builds on substantial industry collaboration and I see this as a step in the journey together to deal with the challenges before us.”

Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change includes potential options for significant industries to survive and prosper in the face of climate variability and change.

Industries include: grains, cotton, rice, sugarcane, wine grapes, horticulture, forestry, broadacre grazing, intensive livestock industries, marine fisheries, aquaculture and water resources.

Examples of adaptation options include: new breeds of crops better suited to higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the air, higher temperatures and reduced water resources; changing fishing practices to match changing species distributions and populations; and choosing more suitable sites and species for forestry plantations.

According to the Director of Primary Industries and Climate Change with the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Dr Michael Robinson, Australian farmers have always adapted to changing markets, new technologies and climate variability.

"Climate changes are likely to be far-reaching and will add to the substantial pressures that already exist for agriculture,” Dr Robinson said.

“Adaptive responses must be supported by good science and this science must be available and accessible. Furthermore, we will need to grow our research activities to match our growing understanding of the implications of climate change. A national effort is necessary, requiring good collaboration and coordination.

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