Plan for drought while its raining

Plan for drought while its raining

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Roger Stone, University of Southern Queensland climate change professor, inspects a coffee plant.

Roger Stone, University of Southern Queensland climate change professor, inspects a coffee plant.

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Most regions are enjoying reasonable rain this year - meaning there has never been a better time to look at drought policy according to USQ.

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SOAKING rains have alleviated what was the most significant drought on record for many Australian farmers.

It means there is no better time to talk about drought management according to a climate scientist with the University of Southern Queensland (USQ).

Rather than formulating drought policy on the run during periods when people are under strain from the impact of dry conditions, scientist Roger Stone reminds decision makers that formulating a long term strategy to combating drought must be a priority.

Professor Stone, a world renowned climate scientist, said agriculture on the world's driest continent would always need a contingency plan to protect against protracted dry conditions.

"Despite periodic rain, drought in Australia is always lurking," Prof Stone said.

"It keeps coming back with a vengeance and every time it is devastating to many rural communities as well as a massive drain on national economy with billions lost," he said.

With this in mind he urged authorities to act now in spite of a better season at present.

"Australia simply can't afford to delay efforts to ease the damage wrought by drought."

USQ is already working hard on the matter.

It is home to the Queensland Drought Mitigation Centre (QDMC) which is a collaboration of national and international climate modelling expertise, created in conjunction with Queensland's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Department of Environment and Science.

Prof Stone said it was an invaluable resource for Queensland agriculture.

"This is one of the world's leading research centres for drought including climate factors, policy and associated economic systems - one of only two universities globally recognised by the UN's Integrated Drought Management program to work in this area," Prof Stone said.

He said the on the ground benefits of the work done by the QDMC included improved seasonal forecasting and tools for farmers to assist with decision making.

There is also long-term research work.

"This research includes climate, agricultural, insurance, and water resource models to provide stronger predictive capability for regional agricultural, water planning and environmental management," Prof Stone said.

"It helps communities become much better able to withstand the complexities of droughts and build resilience to deal with the shock that comes through the system."

He also said there was a focus on how to best capitalise on the good seasons.

"When the drought starts to break we want to help farmers capitalise on the opportunities that come with the return of rain."

Prof Stone said drought will continue to be one of the biggest challenges Australia faces into the future.

"Climate change projections show droughts are going to get worse with past patterns reappearing but more severe," he said.

However, he said while it was a challenge for Australian agriculture it was not insurmountable.

"We can get ready for it and plan accordingly, ensuring future growth and success."

The story Plan for drought while its raining first appeared on Farm Online.

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