Farmers influence design of seasonal forecast products

Wednesday, 23 January, 2008

Farmers from across Australia have told the Bureau of Meteorology what they want from seasonal forecasts.

In a survey about their needs for seasonal forecasting on the internet, almost 500 farmers and their advisors grabbed the opportunity to give feedback to the bureau’s National Climate Centre on the design of a suite of products. This was part of a study by the national Managing Climate Variability program.

“The suggestions from farmers have crystallised our thinking,” said Dr Andrew Watkins, a senior climatologist with the bureau’s National Climate Centre.

“We now have a clearer vision of the link between what farmers want and what science can provide.

“The large number of participants in the survey is testament to the importance farmers place upon improving seasonal forecasts.”

The proposed products include rainfall and growing degree day (GDD) outlooks, an El Niño/La Niña alert system, and improved climate education products such as bureau briefings in video and audio formats. These products would be included on the bureau’s Water and the Land (WATL) section of their website: www.bom.gov.au/watl.

Most people who responded to the survey were in the business of growing grains, grazing or mixed farming.

Four out of five Australian farmers are regularly using seasonal forecast information from the internet to help them manage their business. They want forecasts to be more reliable and more specific to their region. And they want to learn more about climate and how to manage climate risk on the internet.

“The big support for new education products is interesting,” said Dr Watkins.

“It tells us that farmers really want to keep informed about why things may happen, not just what may happen.”

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