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Evaluating the role of seasonal climate forecasting in tactical management of cropping systems in north-east Australia

Stone, R. Dr; Ph: (07) 4688 1293; Mobile: 0412 559 408; Fax: (07) 4688 1193;

Research Organisation: APSRU, Queensland Department of Industries, PO Box 102, Toowoomba Qld 4350.

Sponsor: LWRRDC, Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation


To evaluate (in terms of profit and sustainability) the implications of seasonal forecasting on key cropping system decisions such as crop choice and cropping sequence. This will be achieved by:

  • incorporating tested, objectively derived, seasonal climate forecast systems into cropping system models (e.g. the Agricultural Production System Simulation Model, APSIM);
  • evaluating tactical decisions such as crop choice and cropping systems options using simulation analysis;
  • incorporating estimates of price risk in evaluations by consideration of domestic demand patterns and forward international price; and
  • collaborating with growers 'on-farm' on appropriate use of simulation analysis results and through provision of grower extension workshops.


Evaluation of a tactical approach to farm management of cereal based cropping systems, made through simulation analysis and economic analysis, will be achieved by:

1. Integrating established seasonal forecast systems into cropping systems models (e.g. APSIM) which will be used for the simulation studies;

2. parameterising models for the soil and climate conditions which represent the farming collaborators' properties;

3. Conducting simulations using historic climate data;

4. Conducting simulations using data that have been partitioned into year-types according to seasonal forecast inputs. Daily climatic inputs will be improved through integration of Hutchinson's Climatic Data generation systems applied to SOI phase analysis;

5. Conducting economic analysis at the cropping system scale to evaluate potential tactical decisions such as crop choice and crop sequence;

6. Providing price-risk analysis (through Farmarco p/l) as input into decision making;

7. Collaborating with farmers to appraise tactical approaches on their farm;

8. Seasonal forecast techniques and modelling capabilities will be linked to other projects which aim to improve understanding of on-farm decision processes. In any case, intensive work with local farmers will be carried out from the inception of the project to provide enhanced capabilities above their normal decision rules;

9. The research progress and results will be communicated to the broader community through establishing close links with regional extension groups and to provide project workshops which will also involve collaborating farmers. The results of the workshops will be passed on to other growers through an integrated series of meetings.


Key collaborators have been selected and visits made to farms to assess normal management strategies and cropping programmes.

The climate forecast system based on SOI phases has been integrated into the cropping systems model APSIM. Climate forecast systems based on SST empirical orthogonal functions are also being integrated into APSIM.

Relationships between SOI phases and Hutchinson's daily rainfall generator system have been made.

Appropriate cropping sequence systems have been selected with simulation model modules run.

Soil climate conditions have been parameterised for each of the collaborators' properties. These are at Capella, Warra, North Star and Jimbour.

Growth of crops has been simulated using data partitioned according to SOI phases. Production of yield and other data using data derived from forecast models have been satisfactorily completed. Price risk inputs have been identified (basis, futures, currency) and integrated with the Whopper Cropper system using the @Risk software package. This is a major component of the project and, as such, is being re-tested in November 1998. For the first time, growers and scientists will have access to crop production, price risk and climate risk inputs in the single system.

Status: ongoing

Keywords: seasonal forecasts; crop yield forecasts; crop management; cereal cropping; risk management


Meinke, H. and Stone, R.C. (1997). On tactical crop management using seasonal climate forecasts and simulation modelling: a case study for wheat. Scientific Agriculture, Piracicaba, 54 (Numero Especial), pp. 121-129, June 1997.

Meinke, H., Carberry, P.S. Hammer, G.L. and Stone, R.C. (in press). The use of seasonal climate forecasts in cropping systems management. Proceedings of the 9th Australian Agronomy Conference, Wagga Wagga, July 1998.

Stone, R.C. and Meinke, H. (in press). Predicting Australian wheat yields in 1997 and 1998 using phases of the Southern Oscillation Index. Proceedings of the 23rd Climate Diagnostics Workshop, Miami, Florida, 23 October 1998 to 1 November 1998. US Climate Prediction Centre, Washington DC.

Stone, R.C., Smith, I. and McIntosh, P. (in press). Statistical methods for deriving seasonal climate forecasts from GCMs. Proceedings from the Symposium of Climate Applications, Queensland Centre for Climate Applications, Brisbane, November 1997.

Numerous articles in Groundcover and other rural journals.


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