THE Bass Coast Landcare Network (BCLN) has commenced a $250,000, two-year study aimed at giving the local agricultural sector the tools it needs to adapt to a changing climate.
The Climate Change Land Capability and Capacity Project, one of 24 regional Victorian projects to secure a share of $4.3 million funding through the state government’s Climate Change Innovation Grants program, will see the BCLN develop 12 key landscape agricultural property case studies providing detailed guidance on landholders’ capacity and capability to innovate and diversify in response to a changing climate.
These case studies will be further supported by a series of field days and other events across southern Gippsland (Bass Coast and South Gippsland shires) designed to inform and guide the broader agricultural community through decisions around climate change.
The project will culminate in the development of a web-based decision-making portal allowing farmers and industry support organisations to make informed decisions about their response to climate change and sustainability.
BCLN Chair Ric Oldham officially launched the project at a special event at Gurney’s Cider, near Foster, at the beginning of October, telling an audience of representatives from the southern Gippsland farming community, local and state government, Landcare, and industry groups that the focus would be on “telling community agriculture stories and informing and supporting decision making into the future”.
“There is no doubt that our climate is changing,” said Mr Oldham, who owns and operates an Angus beef farm at Archies Creek.
“Whether you believe in the science or not, no matter what lens or view or level you take, farmers must adapt, they must innovate and they must change.”
The BCLN will complete the two-year project in partnership with RMIT and Federation universities, Bass Coast Shire Council and the South Gippsland Landcare Network.
Mr Oldham said the project represented a significant opportunity to work directly with local farmers responding to climate change challenges.
“We look forward to seeing the results at the completion of this project, but more importantly, we look forward to the future, where agriculture in its various forms is thriving in southern Gippsland and is constantly responding to the challenges we will all experience from a changing climate,” he said.
Guest speaker at the project launch Dr Luke Shelley of the Bureau of Meteorology’s Agriculture Program said it was vital that farmers be informed and prepared for the impacts of climate change, such as an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events.
“We don’t expect that you’re going to get something more constant; you’re going to have to deal with these extremes a lot more,” he said, referring to “highly variable” rainfall patterns emerging in the southern Gippsland region.
Dr Shelley said diversification would be the solution to many of the challenges of climate change, and supported BCLN’s efforts to provide the local agriculture sector with information on the most effective approaches for southern Gippsland landscapes.
“When we’re trying to talk about solutions, particularly for agriculture, it’s not just about a forecast, it’s about packaging up that whole range of information to give people a really good perspective on what’s been happening, what’s happening around them right now, and then what might happen into the future,” Dr Shelley said.
There are currently 35 properties in the southern Gippsland region in contention to be included in the Climate Change Land Capability and Capacity study.
The 35 will be narrowed down to 12, representing all of southern Gippsland’s landscape types and agricultural industries, in the coming weeks.