Agriculture Industry Transformation Gippsland
In 2009, the Gippsland Local Government Network partnered with scientists from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries and the University of Melbourne to take a broad look at the opportunities for agricultural development across the Gippsland Region. The Agriculture Industry Transformation – Gippsland (AIT-G) Project, now run by Deakin University, has determined that a changing climate may in fact be cause for optimism for Gippsland.
In conjunction with Gippsland farmers, the AIT-G Project developed mathematical models for 20 agricultural and forestry commodities and looked at likely yields under climate change scenarios. The resulting maps (see some examples below) indicated that certain farming systems would face challenges to continue with a ‘business as usual approach’ in a warmer and drier climate. But, there were plenty of new commodities that would either be unaffected or would perform better in the future. So, the prospects for agricultural development across Gippsland are excellent.
The models look at the biophysical environment of the plant (soil, climate and topography) to determine which geographical areas are more suitable for the production of that particular commodity. Farmer management practices are not initially considered, in order to better compare different locations based solely on their biophysical properties. Green areas on the maps indicate a geographical location that is well suited to that particular commodity and where the models predict high yields could be achieved. As the colours become lighter green or yellow, likely yields start to decline. There are also other areas that might be suitable if certain limiting factors are dealt with, like soil pH or drainage.
Today vs 2050
Apples are not currently a major crop in Gippsland but it could be. The crop models for apple production show that many parts of Gippsland are highly suitable for apple production, particularly across West Gippsland. This assumes that some supplemental irrigation water is available. Under a climate change scenario, there will be some reductions in suitability out to 2050, but at the same time new areas that were previously too cold to support commercial apple production of common varieties will become suitable (for example, around Omeo).
Today vs 2050
Ryegrass-based pasture systems are important in many parts of Gippsland, as is reflected in the crop models for a recent climate period (1996-2005). Large areas of this region are highly suitable for ryegrass. However, as the climate becomes warmer and drier, it will become more challenging for farmers to maintain their ryegrass pasture systems in some parts of Gippsland. It may therefore be useful for farmers to start experimenting with other pasture systems as a means to adapt to a future with more severe droughts.
Today vs 2050
Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc) are becoming an increasingly popular agricultural crop in Gippsland, especially as growers in peri-urban Melbourne are pushed out by the city’s expansion. Today, many areas of Gippsland are highly suitable for brassica production, particularly in West and South Gippsland and around Orbost. The brassica crop model assumes that some irrigation water is available. As the climate becomes warmer and drier, suitability declines slightly in some areas (for instance in South Gippsland) but overall, the biophysical environment will remain highly suitable for brassicas out to 2050.
For more information on this project, contact Robert Faggian at Deakin University.
Associate Professor Robert Faggian
Centre for Regional and Rural Futures
Phone: 03 9251 7327
221 Burwood Highway
Burwood, Victoria 3125