Drought could eat up half of sheep and beef farming profits by 2100 – report – Stuff.co.nz


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STUFFKaraka Farms decided to go regenerative after years of successive drought and is reaping the rewards.Profits from sheep and beef farming are expected to more than halve by the end of the century because of drought, while North Island farmers can expect to spend 10 per cent more time in drought conditions by the middle of the century, new modelling suggests. Moderate reductions in dairy farm profits were also likely. But, climate action would reduce losses significantly, the research outlined in the report Growing Kai under Increasing Dry shows. Commissioned by three National Science Challenges (Deep South, Resilience to Nature’s Challenges, and Our Land and Water), the report brought together insights from farmers, growers, industry bodies, researchers and the government about how to adapt to intensifying drought conditions. The insights were garnered in a series of webinars and a one-day symposium in May. READ MORE: Farmers should act now to become market leaders in regenerative agriculture Grant for research into Māori rock art sites at Opihi, South Canterbury New study finds predators can be tricked into ignoring native bird scents Drought has already been costing farmers, the report says. In the 10 years between 2007 and 2017 the country lost $720 million in insured losses and economic losses because of drought, six times the figure for flood damage. Manaaki Whenua senior researcher Nick Cradock-Henry said the report called for regional councils, industry bodies and the government to undertake long term planning for future climate scenarios and to work with farmers and growers to develop a shared understanding of the risks for the primary sector. Regional and local councils would also need to focus on the resilience of rural communities and the mental wellbeing of farmers, Cradock-Henry said.Dominico Zapata/StuffSheep and beef farming profits are expected to drop by 54 per cent by 2100 due to drought, while North Island farmers could expect to spend 10 per cent more time drought by the middle of the century, a new report predicts. Niwa chief scientist for climate change, atmosphere and hazards, Andrew Tait ,said by the mid-to-late 2000s, the whole country, except for coastal South Island was predicted to have exacerbated drought conditions, with more extreme conditions expected in the North Island and east of the South Island. The report highlighted a number of actions that could be taken both on the farm and within research and government bodies. These included shifting from short-term responses to long-term planning, connecting research to practices on farm, connecting policy to research and farming practices, national initiatives to drive change and more diversity in farming activities. Fourth generation Marlborough sheep and beef farmer Fraser Avery said drought was not a new challenge. Lake Grassmere, north of Blenheim, was prone to long hot summers with little or no rainfall.Rahul Bhattarai/StuffFourth generation Marlborough sheep and beef farmer Fraser Avery says drought is not a new challenge. But Avery had changed his farming practices to suit the changing climate. He had reduced his capital stock, often breeding stock intended to be farmed for a year, from 80 per cent to 50 per cent. The approach gave him flexibility to run more stock in a good season and less during drought, he said. “If you can create as many options as possible, then you feel like you’ve got a card to play but when you’re struggling for options, you feel a lot more pressure and stress,” he said. The report looked at both incremental changes farmers could make, and wider systems adaptations at a research and policy level. Farmers could make incremental changes, such as a move to autumn calving and a focus on soil biology to improve water holding capacity. This could be done by minimal tillage, seed drills and planting crops that improved soil structure. Regenerative techniques that increased soil organic matter and adopting old deep-rooting cultivars was also suggested, along with planting more trees and drought tolerant plants. Tapping into mātauranga Māori to understand what has worked in the past would also be beneficial, the report says. Capturing and storing water storing water on the farm, frugal and targetted irrigation and diversifying farm activities to spread risk were also suggested as practical steps farmers could take to mitigate the effect of future droughts.
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