Federal Government announces $37m for drought research

Sheep Central, August 14, 2023

THE Federal Government has announced funding for six research projects looking at topics to make agriculture more drought resilient.

Through the Future Drought Fund, the Albanese Government will invest in the long-term trials of new and emerging agriculture practices around cropping, grazing and mixed farming.

The six-year Long-term Trials of Drought Resilient Farming Practices Grants announced Friday aim to help farmers prepare for drought by equipping them with the data and confidence to invest in technologies and practices which have been proven across different landscapes and production conditions.

The projects will evaluate cropping and livestock systems, soils, virtual fencing, pastures, with trials to be run in most Australian states and territories.

The government said the program represents a new direction for the $5 billion Future Drought Fund in providing long-term funding to facilitate sustainable change in farming practices that will help strengthen the resilience of farmers to drought conditions and a changing climate.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australian farmers are always gearing up for the next drought.

“It’s a matter of when, not if, and I’m proud to say that Australian farmers are some of the best in the world at preparing for and managing drought, which puts them at the forefront of climate adaptation.”

Agriculture minister Murray Watt said the program is about advancing projects that it is hoped will make a real difference in a future droughts.

“These projects – like crop rotations, soil management, grazing techniques and infrastructure – will arm farmers with robust information to invest in technologies and practices that have been proven across different landscapes and conditions.”

The successful projects are:

  • $6.23 million – Charles Sturt University will lead a consortium to investigate the interdependence and whole-system effects of cropping and livestock components and managing environmental and social impacts in response to seasonal variation, with trials to be undertaken across multiple sites in New South Wales.
  • $3.94 million – Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils – will lead a consortium to evaluate drought reliance in farming systems and soils through an established network of long-term trials across multiple sites in Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.
  • $4.32 million – NQ Dry Tropic Limited will lead a consortium to look at the effectiveness of virtual fencing to enable rangeland graziers to implement fine scale, drought resilient grazing systems over large areas, with trials to be undertaken in Charters Towers (Queensland).
  • $7.2 million – University of Melbourne will lead a consortium to consider the effectiveness of farming-systems adaptations thought to improve drought resilience of broadacre grains, grazing and mixed farming systems, with trials to be undertaken across multiple sites in Victoria and Tasmania.
  • $8 million – Flinders University will lead a consortium on the climate resilience of cropping, livestock, and mixed farms, assessed through a network of long-term trials across the pastoral, low, medium, and high rainfall zones of South Australia with trials to be undertaken across multiple sites in South Australia.
  • $7.99 million – Deakin University will lead a consortium to investigate the diversity in pastures to build resilience, and support 365 days of feed production in southern temperate grazing enterprises with trials to be undertaken across multiple sites in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

NFF welcomes drought funding

The National Farmers Federation has welcomed the initiative from the government. However, NFF vice president David Jochinke noted the funding would primarily be directed into research and long-term trials and while much needed, it did little for the here and now.

“We are staring down the barrel at an El Nino bringing drier conditions this growing season,” Mr Jochinke said.

“Improving long term resilience is important, but climate research can’t come at the expense of preparing for the drought just around the corner.”

The NFF said the Future Drought Fund had to continue to include projects which would directly build resilience for when the next drought hits.

“Resilience is farmers’ middle name, but we can’t outrun the increasingly severe and frequent drought cycles,” Mr Jochinke said.

“It’s imperative the Government focuses on climate change resilience but not at the expense of drought preparedness.

“We need to find the balance between being ready for the next drought while ensuring there’s continual investment into innovation and technology so agriculture can adapt to our changing climate.

“This balance is what the farm sector needs to keep up with growing demand for food and fibre, and to reach our goal to be a $100 billion industry by 2030.”

Source: Federal Government/NFF


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