Global view to a changing lo­cal cli­mate

Tasmanian Country - - OPINION - Wayne John­ston

FOR many years now we have been all too aware that there is a fi­nite sup­ply of farm­land, but it turns out we were not quite right.

NASA, along with other joint part­ners, has just com­pleted a sur­vey of the farm­land avail­able on a global scale. Much to ev­ery­body’s sur­prise it in­di­cated there is more agri­cul­tural land under pro­duc­tion in the world than pre­vi­ously thought – 15 to 20 per cent more in fact. The re­port shows global crop land now to­tals 4.6 bil­lion acres, with In­dia be­lieved to have the biggest acreage of any coun­try.

The sur­vey an­swers the ques­tion of how much land we use for agri­cul­ture and, just as im­por­tantly, where. This will help in de­ter­min­ing strate­gies around things like wa­ter and soil to en­sure fu­ture sus­tain­abil­ity. This new in­for­ma­tion will be a valu­able tool as we face the chal­lenges of pro­duc­ing food for an ever-in­creas­ing world pop­u­la­tion.

The other key el­e­ment of this find­ing will be to as­sist us to ad­dress the ef­fects of cli­mate change. Much of this land is in re­gions of the world where even mi­nor changes to cli­matic con­di­tions will have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on agri­cul­ture.

Here in Tas­ma­nia we are blessed with some of the best farm­land in the world. As I have said be­fore, at some point we will have to recog­nise the need to ac­cess re­serves to build on cur­rent pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity. While I un­der­stand that some find this con­fronting, the re­al­ity is with­out it food pro­duc­tion will not keep pace.

But such changes can­not be done on an ad-hoc ba­sis. Tas­ma­nia is now see­ing the ef­fects of changing cli­matic con­di­tions so we will need to take on board the CSIRO’s mod­el­ling as it re­lates to the state.

For ex­am­ple, there will be no point in ac­cess­ing land that is sub­ject to un­re­li­able rain­fall. Any changes will need to be based on cli­mate pre­dic­tions.

All in­di­ca­tions are that over the com­ing decade Tas­ma­nia will see sig­nif­i­cant changes in weather pat­terns, re­sult­ing in some parts of the state re­ceiv­ing more rain­fall than they cur­rently do and oth­ers suf­fer­ing rain­fall deficits.

To some ex­tent we are see­ing it this year, with the north­ern parts hav­ing a rea­son­ably good sea­son while the East Coast and many parts in the south are near drought con­di­tions. From a state per­spec­tive we are much bet­ter placed than we were in 2015, but our thoughts must go to our south­ern and East Coast col­leagues who are al­ready do­ing it tough this early in the sea­son.

Fore­casts are con­tra­dic­tory, with some sug­ges­tion that La Nina will oc­cur later in the sea­son, but it will be short lived and weak. This could trans­late into lit­tle rain­fall. No mat­ter what way you look at it, Tas­ma­nian farm­ers are go­ing to be called on to adapt to an ev­er­chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

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