We’ve joined the new Mount Alexander Regenerative Agriculture Group (MARAG) and went to an interesting session this week about what’s been changing in our climate, and what we can expect in coming years.

The presentation was by Graeme Anderson, who’s a climate specialist at AgVic, and he introduced us to a number of cool new apps, fact sheets and resources designed to help farmers understand what’s happening with the climate.

First, Graeme was very clear that the evidence that the climate is changing due to man-made activities is undeniable (so much so that it’s quite bizarre that anyone is still denying it – and yet, they are!).

The first app he told us about is called CliMate (https://climateapp.net.au/ ).

You can either access the app from your phone or on your computer (HINT: I found trying to create an account from my phone quite glitchy, but it worked fine on the computer, as long as I used the suggested password rather than one of my own.)

The app is an easy way to keep track of the season compared with the average, and you can also ask a whole lot of “How…” questions, e.g.

  • How hot/cold?
  • How likely (e.g. is it that we’ll receive rainfall higher than the average)?
  • How often (e.g. do we receive frosts)?

The Bureau of Meterology have recently published a series of climate guides for most of the climate regions across Australia (http://bom.gov.au/climate/climate-guides ). Go to the website and click on the map to get the link to download the guide for your region.

The guides give a snapshot of what’s been happening with the weather and climate in the last 30 years, as well as comparing some of the results with the previous 30 years to identify trends.

A chart showing season rainfall variability at Castlemaine
A chart showing season rainfall variability at Castlemaine

Graeme made an interesting distinction between climate variability (which we’ve always experienced, as he demonstrated with charts of rainfall since 1873, above) and climate change which he demonstrated with this chart (below) showing the trend in “extreme” records being broken.

A chart demonstrating climate changes in Australia
A chart demonstrating climate changes in Australia

The climate change predictions for the future was one of the most alarming parts of the presentation.

Australia's temperature is likely to increase due to climate change
Australia’s temperature is likely to increase due to climate change

Even now with the changes that have already occurred, we’re essentially already getting an extra month of summer, and depending on the amount of warming that the planet experiences, this trend could continue.

Nobody knows exactly what will happen, but it seems almost certain that out climate here in central Victoria will become warmer, drier and experience more extreme weather events.

This news can feel very overwhelming, because as individuals there’s only so much we can do to reverse climate change. Of course it’s up to all of us to take whatever action we can (and we support the actions of groups like eXtinction Rebellion and others, who are taking action to the street in the face of almost complete inaction from all levels of government).

However as farmers we also take our responsibility of providing food for our communities (as well as making our living off the land) very seriously, so we’re doing everything we can to prepare for and adapt to the new climate conditions.

And it’s not all bad news. It’s important to remember that there are already people farming successfully in hotter and drier climates than ours, so we can learn a lot by what they’re already doing.

Plus we can work on protecting our land from the elements by creating microclimates (e.g. windbreaks and shelter belts) as we explain in our Home Orchard Design short course, establish year-round perennial groundcovers so there’s no bare soil to blow away, create the most bio-complex agro-ecological system possible on our farm and work on creating our own renewable energy systems.

Hugh working on soil improvement
Hugh working on soil improvement

But mainly we need to continue the work we’re all passionate about, which is improving our soil, because the more carbon we can store in the soil the more rainfall we can capture and store, and the more resilience we (and our crops and animals) have against drought, flood, storms, frost and pests and diseases.

As always, everything comes back to the soil!