28 September 2011

A research scientist at The University of Queensland has warned that climate change could have a significantly greater impact on farming profits than on the yield of individual crops.

Dr Daniel Rodriguez, a researcher from UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), is internationally recognised for his work on the design of more productive and resilient farming systems.

According to Dr Rodriguez, studies that calculate climate-change impact on the farming sector have tended to look at predicted crop yields as an indicator of future performance.

He said, however, that farm managers and policy makers routinely made planning decisions based on information derived from a combination of other inputs such as farm business profits, risks, and cost-benefit analyses between alternative options or scenarios.

“By analysing the impacts and options for farmers to adapt to climate change, we’ve found that expected climate change could have higher impacts on farm profits than on the yield of individual crops,” Dr Rodriguez said.

“This could be explained because changes to when and how it rains can affect the capacity of farmers to plant crops, and therefore the number of crops harvested per year, and the annual cash flow.

“However, it is still possible to identify opportunities to increase profits or reduce risks.

“For example, adaptation options to increase profits for irrigated farm businesses would involve changes in the allocation of water and land across alternative enterprises.

“For the rainfed farm businesses, changes in soil water thresholds for sowing crops could be used to achieve higher profits at similar levels of economic risk.”

Dr Rodriguez said that in more marginal regions, such as the western Downs, options to maintain profits or risks in a climate-changed environment seemed to be more limited.

This meant that adaptation responses to climate change might need to consider more drastic transformational changes.

Dr Rodriguez is presenting a paper based on his findings at the World Congress on Conservation Agriculture & Farming Systems Design Conference in Brisbane on 25–29 September 2011 (www.wcca2011.org).

The Congress expects to attract more than 700 scientists, students, farm managers, policy makers, conservationists and others interested in sustainability, conservation and farming systems.

QAAFI background

Launched on 21 October 2010, the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) is a scientific research institute of The University of Queensland (UQ), which was formed through an alliance between UQ and the Queensland Government's Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI). QAAFI draws together 100 research teams specialising in plant, animal and food sciences from 12 UQ and DEEDI sites across Queensland. For more information visit www.qaafi.uq.edu.au

Media contacts
Dr Daniel Rodriguez
Email: d.rodriguez@uq.edu.au
Tel: +61 7 4688 1437, Mob: 0434 075094
Ron Hohenhaus
QAAFI Communications
Tel: +61 7 3346 0553