Farmers warned of increasing droughts

Nick Gibbs
·1-min read

Empty paddocks are a sign of how dramatically farming has changed for fifth-generation Queensland farmer Sid Plant.

Depending on weather and market conditions, herd numbers on his 1215-hectare Darling Downs property fluctuate between 0 and 900.

The latest State of the Climate report from the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology warns the frequency of extreme events such as droughts is growing in Australia.

"When I was growing up we had around 1200 breeding cattle, so our numbers were fairly stable," Mr Plant said.

He aims to increase stock numbers in the slim window between rain looking likely and the market responding with an increase in price.

"(We're) trying to anticipate as much as we can, but at least we don't spend sleepless nights knowing we've got cattle and nothing for them to eat," he said.

CSIRO Agriculture and Food research director Dr Michael Battaglia said the agriculture industry had already faced "significant challenges and disruptions" from record droughts, and rising temperatures.

"We are working on technologies and building system-wide capability to support Australian farmers in navigating climate risks, while at the same time helping mitigate agriculture's contribution to climate change," he said.

Mr Plant says adapting has been important as farmers respond to a warming climate, but there is a limit to how much can be done on the ground.

The member of Farmers for Climate Action spends considerable energy educating others and lobbying governments to factor climate change into their policies.

"We don't farm anything like we did 20 or 30 years ago and we keep trying to adapt as much as we can, but in actual fact it's happening at an increasing speed and intensity and we're starting to run out of bright ideas."