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Farmer's guide to understanding and preparing for local weather risks

Michelle Klein, Chief Customer and Marketing Officer at IAG giving a welcome speech for the launch Help Nation EmergencyRedi™ workshop in Willoughby, NSW. Photo supplied.
Michelle Klein, Chief Customer and Marketing Officer at IAG giving a welcome speech for the launch Help Nation EmergencyRedi™ workshop in Willoughby, NSW. Photo supplied.
Farmer's guide to understanding and preparing for local weather risks
Farmer's guide to understanding and preparing for local weather risks

Australia is a climate of extremes, so it's no surprise that our farmers have faced a range of weather risks over the years.

However, hardiness is the heart and soul of Australia's farmlands, so many have had to face the challenges of changing weather patterns and climate change, head-on.

No one knows better than our farmers that preparedness is key to help protect their livelihoods by understanding all weather risks.

Through their efforts, Australia continues to flourish when it comes to farming so the everyday Australian can enjoy a plate full of home-grown products.

This guide will showcase the breadth of effort and research needed for farmers to prepare for local weather risks.

Knowledge is power and by understanding our risk, we as a society can work towards building a better future in farming.

Understanding weather patterns and climate change

In previous years, farmers could follow more clear-cut weather patterns in the Australian climate. While not always predictable, there were distinct seasons and times of growth or decay.

Now, with the increasing effects of climate change, understanding weather patterns has become increasingly more difficult.

Foremost, Australia has been experiencing far warmer temperatures throughout the year. Regardless of the season, farmers have to contend with hotter days occurring more frequently.

This has resulted in more instances of drought, especially across the southern regions of Australia.

This trend towards warmer temperatures also increases the risk of bushfires, the heat combining with days of low humidity to create flammable sparks.

The recent increase in storm numbers also adds to this increased risk, with lightning regularly threatening to catch trees on fire.

Bushfires can be devastating to the Australian landscape and farmers in particular as they ruin fertile land and threaten lives.

Rainfall patterns have also become a recent concern to farmers. Those down south have been experiencing less rainfall, leaving the land drier and more prone to drought or bushfires.

In contrast, the north has noticed a significant increase in rainfall, resulting in a higher risk of flooding. This has damaged plenty of farmlands, making it difficult to rear livestock safely or produce grown goods.

The increase in extreme weather patterns can be linked back to climate change, but that still means farmers have to learn how to predict these new patterns.

They must also assess how their farms are at risk of these extreme events.

Assessing risks on the farm

There are certain steps to follow to appropriately and accurately assess risks to farms from weather patterns.

Research and planning are required to ensure a complete and actionable risk assessment.

Farmers typically assess risks through researching:

  • Climate conditions: Being aware of what particular weather conditions will affect your farm sets the foundation for your risk plans. This can be the percentage of expected rainfall, average temperatures, or regular weather risks you will face.
  • Environment: Being aware of your farm's topography, including potential risk sites for certain weather conditions, can prepare you for the worst. The location of your farm can also increase or reduce the risk of certain weather events, so be sure to note that ahead of time.
  • Personal health and safety: Risks extend beyond the land itself to those living and working there. For example, cold and wet weather can increase the risk of hypothermia, while hot days can pose risks of heat stroke.

By collecting the data from these research topics, farmers can make an accurate risk assessment for their farms.

This, in turn, can be used to create appropriate strategies to mitigate the impact of any potential weather risks.

Proactive weather preparedness strategies

There are various means of preparing for local weather risks, each carefully calibrated to reduce the impact of each potential threat.

Farmers often choose the right service based on their property risk assessments and what items to be protected.

Popular preparedness strategies for weather risks on farms include:

  • Taking inventory of farm equipment, property, and products in the event of an emergency. Insurance may need to be claimed after a destructive weather event.
  • Ensure farm insurance is up-to-date.
  • Inspect all equipment to ensure everything is in good working order. Pay particular attention to generators in case power goes out for several days.
  • Prepare emergency evacuation plans for all employees, making one for each potential weather risk.
  • Set up alert systems for weather risks, including those from state or federal agencies.
  • Stock up on needed supplies ahead of time.
  • Lock down all livestock and/or growing goods to protect them from the weather as best as possible. Prepare evacuation routes for animals as needed.

For more information on how you can stay prepared, check out Help Nation.

This initiative by NRMA Insurance provides advice and information on how to protect yourself and your assets in the event of a weather event.

Technology and innovation in weather adaptation

Technology and innovation have become vital parts of preparing for local weather events and adapting to their recent unpredictability.

They offer farmers the chance to be notified ahead of time for weather risks, allowing them to plan and implement their personal risk management strategies to reduce negative impacts.

Foremost, predicting upcoming weather events and being notified of changing weather patterns has become far simpler and more expedited by technology.

This typically comes in the form of radio, online, or social media updates from weather tracking or government agencies.

Farmers can receive updates live from these sources, staying on top of any changes and altering their strategies as needed.

Technology also helps in preparing a farm ahead of time for weather risks.

Inventory is more streamlined with the use of inventory tracking software, ensuring that farmers remain on top of their goods and equipment.

This prevents loss of stock and keeps inventories full for times when contacting the outside world may not be possible.

More powerful machines and innovative equipment also provide aid during weather crises. Necessary evacuation of livestock or protection of crops is made easier and more effective with recent technologies.

Farmers no longer have to rely solely on themselves and other manpower to adapt to changing weather conditions.

Now they have full support from technological advancements in the agricultural and horticultural communities.

Building a resilient farming future

Just as the climate is constantly changing, introducing new weather patterns and risks, so too do farmers have to remain dynamic in their preparation.

To build a resilient farming future, these key figures must be willing to learn new strategies and technologies, while also reaching out to others for aid.

Community collaboration keeps Australian farms running and our economy standing strong.

There are various long-term strategies farmers can use to build resilience against weather extremes. Many remain focused on key areas, so farmers typically choose what best suits their farm and their needs.

No-till farming

While tilling was previously an expected process for renewing soil in spring, the unpredictability of weather patterns from climate change means that a new strategy is needed.

Since soil is often washed or blown away in extreme weather events, the no-tilling method is used to preserve the remaining amounts.

Once the winter crop is harvested, the new seedlings are planted directly into the winter cover to utilise the ecosystem that has been grown there.

Targeted pesticides

The longer growing seasons from the increase of annual hotter temperatures also mean more mobile pests.

That is why many farmers prepare for this risk by choosing targeted pesticides that are more effective against the species plaguing their crops.

Adaptable planting and harvesting

With the seasons becoming increasingly unpredictable and difficult to separate due to climate change, farmers can no longer rely on set dates for integral farming events.

Planting and harvesting crops need to become more adaptable, with dates to begin each process chosen as needed, rather than predicted far ahead of time.

Adjusting shelters

Workers and livestock alike will require increasing amounts of shelter as Australia's climate continues to heat up. Building shelters ahead of summer's hotter days will ensure the health and safety of these parties.

Diversification of crops

Many farmers have had to change their previous focus in crop production due to their increased fallibility at the hands of changing climates.

For example, this means for some that purely cropping procedures are exchanged for mixed crop-livestock farming for profit and sustainability.

Currently, farmers recognise and are planning for future weather conditions such as droughts and floods.

There is hope to be had that their resilience in the face of climate change will maintain the success of the farming industry.


There are plenty of factors to consider when planning and adapting to local weather risks.

Farmers need to conduct substantial research into potential risks and their impacts in order to maintain the sustainability of their property.

It is hard work, but important to the future of Australians everywhere. Fortunately, technology and well-thought-out risk mitigation strategies bring hope to this future.