Farm businesses and climate change – the ‘what if’ scenarios

Vic Drought Hub - Farmland 1
Southern Farming Systems, the Vic Hub’s South-West Node, sat down with 32 farmers across South-West Victoria to assess their farm business production and financial profile, historically and currently. This data was then put through climate, pasture and cropping models to build business risk profiles to see the “what if” scenarios of climate change. 


Female in crop assessing data FB-LI-1200x628)8

Project lead Cam Nicholson said, “Climatic variability – including the extremes of flood and drought – is an accepted part of farming, and historically most businesses have been able to survive challenging weather conditions. To build resilience in these changing climatic conditions requires a combination of understanding the production and financial implications to a farming business, followed by the consideration and implementation of strategic and tactical decisions to address these risks.” 

Climate projections are generally recorded on an average annual basis e.g. average maximum temperature will be 1oC higher, annual rainfall will be 5% lower and so on. While that doesn’t sound like much in an overall snapshot, it doesn’t show the volatility and risk to farm businesses. To achieve a meaningful appreciation of the potential effects of climate change, the impact on production and profit needs to be modelled over time, seasonally and for that location. 

Cam said anyone can access climate projections for their location using the Drought Resilience Self-Assessment Tool (DR.SAT). If they drill down into the seasonal and monthly projections, they will find more meaningful data that leads to the “what if” scenarios.  

“Seeing the shift in the growing season climate variables makes us question: what is our pasture growth rate going to be like? How is that going to effect flowering and grain fill? 

“Learnings from the project reflect that seasonal rainfall and temperature changes will influence the pattern of pasture growth and crop yields in South-Western Victoria if the same pasture species and crop varieties continue to be used in the future. The modelling also shows how simple adaptation can partly mitigate the predicted impacts from climate change.”  

Overall, the climate is predicted to get warmer and drier, however that will not be evenly distributed over the year. There maybe advantages to some some regions and disadvantages to others. The important thing is understanding the production and financial implications, and working through the scenarios strategically and understanding decision trigger points. 


This project is supported by Southern Farming Systems and the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption & Innovation Hub, through funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund. Stay tuned for more results.

You can find more information about our Climate Resilience Tools here