Forewarned is forearmed (FWFA)

Equipping farmers and agricultural value chains to proactively manage the impacts of extreme climate events.

This 5-year project (2017-2022) is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program in partnership with rural Research and Development Corporations, commercial companies, state departments and universities. The project is managed by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

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Project summary

Australian farmers and agribusiness operate in one of the most variable climates of any country in the world. Extreme climatic events (such as heatwaves, frost and heavy rainfall) and climate variability are amongst the largest drivers of annual agricultural production and income.

This national project will deliver direct value to farmers by providing forecasts of extremes and equipping them with the information and tools to be forewarned and prepared. The project outputs aim to decrease the impacts of extreme climate events on farm, and on business profit.

The Bureau, working with several research partners, will develop and deliver forecasts of the likelihood of climate extremes on multi-week and seasonal timescales — beyond the 7-day weather forecast. The products will be focused on heat, cold and rainfall extremes, for example, "What is the likelihood of having a decile 10 rainfall this spring?"; "What is the chance of having a heatwave in the week after next?"; "What is the chance that the upcoming month will be extremely hot?"; "What is the likelihood of having more heavy rainfall events than usual in the upcoming fortnight?". This will provide farmers with the first ever forecasts of climate extremes in the weeks to seasons ahead.

Project partners include agricultural climate and systems analysis researchers and extension experts with expertise in the dairy, beef, sheep, grains, sugar and wine industries. They will use Bureau outputs and work directly with farmers and farm consultants to interface the forecasts with agricultural decision-making systems. They will also develop risk management strategies to proactively prepare for these events, as well as extending project outputs to farmers and advisors.

The Bureau component

The forecasts will be based on the Bureau's seasonal forecast system, ACCESS-S. The Bureau component of the project includes:

  • evaluating farmer and advisor needs;
  • conducting underpinning scientific research, including understanding the large-scale drivers (e.g., El Niño) of extremes, and the strengths and weaknesses of ACCESS-S for forecasting extremes;
  • improving ACCESS-S to give better forecasts of extremes; and
  • developing experimental forecast products which will be trialled by users to assess value. A subset of products that have sufficient accuracy and utility will be delivered as official Bureau forecasts to the benefit of agriculture.

The full project structure is summarised below.

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Bureau Project Leaders

  • Debbie Hudson (Science to Services Program)
  • Harry Hendon (Science to Services Program)
  • Luke Shelley (Agriculture Program)
  • Andrew Watkins (Community Forecasts Program)

Collaborating Organisations

  • Bureau of Meteorology
  • University of Melbourne
  • Monash University
  • University of Southern Queensland
  • South Australian Research and Development Institute
  • Agriculture Victoria
  • DAF Queensland
  • Birchip Cropping Group

For more information,
please contact Debbie Hudson