Farmers across eastern Australia are facing the prospect of a dry summer on the back of a long period of below average rainfall.
Short term assistance packages can help farmers through the worst of these periods however, a recent research report by the University of Canberra has highlighted the importance of natural resource management in improving resilience to drought conditions over the long term.
"This report gives us valuable insights into how NRM programs can bring farming and landscape benefits beyond the typical outcomes of weed control, better grazing practices or threatened species management," NRM Regions Australia, Executive Officer Kate Andrews said.
"While it’s long been known that NRM can have flow-on benefits, we don’t always have the analytics to demonstrate this.
"Learning more about what NRM actions bring the most benefits in combating the effects of drought will help in building more robust and targeted programs in the future."
The research found that many NRM investments improved resilience to drought. One of the most important actions identified was in regards to helping farmers to plan for and manage risk. Other beneficial activities identified were supporting graziers to manage groundcover, control of feral animals, improved water use efficiency, and building feed reserves.
The research outcomes underscore the importance of the link between natural resource management and agriculture, acknowledged in the Memorandum of Understanding the NFF has with NRM Regions Australia which was signed during 2017.
National Farmers' Federation (NFF) President, Fiona Simson, welcomed the report.
“Farming communities and NFF are concerned about the resilience of farmers and their enterprises in times of drought.
"We are pleased to see analysis that adds evidence-based insights into how we can build resilience to drought and which explores tax deductible insurance premiums.”
Climate models predict more frequent warmer and drier periods across Australia, and helping farmers better prepare for this eventuality is critical to sustaining our industry.
Natural resource management bodies based regionally across Australia are responding to this challenge via a range of targeted programs including grants and landholder workshops, and improved soil, water and grazing management.
The University of Canberra research report provides additional evidence to support the work already underway and provides scope for improvements to how such programs are rolled out, communicated, or adapted.
For more information and case studies highlighting the benefits of NRM programs to farmers in improving drought resilience, check out our section on Building Drought Resilience in our Knowledge Bank section.