More heat waves are causing problems for Australian farmers

Farming in Australia is rarely an easy task, though it can be an attractive and profitable one. IBISWorld values agribusiness as a $237 billion industry, with more than 160,000 businesses employing around 579,000 people.

With compound annual revenue growth at 1.2 per cent, the researchers also believe the thriving sector can step in and take over the faltering mining industry over time.

“Heat waves in Australia can have damaging effects on perennial ryegrass.”

However, such ambitions require ample risk mitigation. With the huge majority of Australia’s farms being family-owned and -operated (99 per cent, according to the National Farmers’ Federation), every owners’ finances need to be secured through effective business insurance.

Particularly those companies that do not have limited liability, owners could soon find themselves paying with their personal assets if the business runs into financial trouble. When we consider the difficulties that are common for farmers in Australia, it’s important to find ways to confront risks such as drought and extreme weather conditions..

To this end, farmers in Tasmania have been partaking in research to help them understand the damaging heat that can quite easily affect their bottom lines, or force them to make claims as a result of fires on their crop insurance.

As the current El Niño period was recently declared the worst in almost 20 years by the Bureau of Meteorology, any positive findings could prove valuable for farm owners all over Australia.

The intense sun can lead to claims on farm insurance.

Beating the heat

PhD candidate Adam Langworthy and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture have teamed up at a dairy research facility in Elliott, Tasmania, to find ways to confront extreme climate events. In particular, the research is being conducted on ryegrass, which makes up around 70 per cent of a dairy cow’s diet.

“Heat waves in Australia can have damaging effects on perennial ryegrass, including production losses and in some cases grass death,” Mr Langworthy explained in a media release from the University of Tasmania. “This is a big problem, as perennial ryegrass is what most dairy farmers throughout South-Eastern Australia use.”

With three rings, each comprising of six 1,000-watt heaters, the crop is being put under intense heat, and researchers will record the findings. The aim of this first stage is to closely monitor the outcome this has on the crop.

“The second experiment will look at how we can manage both grazing and irrigation over summer to maximise the survival and growth of not only perennial ryegrass, but other species that I have identified from the first phase of my project to be tolerant to hot conditions,” Mr Langworthy continued.

With the experiment scheduled to finish by February, there could be some interesting results for Australian farmers to use, helping them to secure their business for the next generation.