AGRICULTURE

WEATHER WOMAN: University of Waikato student Electra Kalaugher is modelling weather changes which could benefit farmers. WEATHER WOMAN: University of Waikato student Electra Kalaugher is modelling weather changes which could benefit farmers. CREDIT: University of Waikato

Waikato student models weather changes to benefit farmers

Tuesday 5 June 2012, 3:40PM
By University of Waikato
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WAIKATO

Farmers know a change in the weather when they see one.

But a University of Waikato doctorate student can now give them an indication of how their farm production might be affected by climate change.

Electra Kalaugher has used advanced computer modelling to assess how farms from the far north to the deep south will fare as the climate changes. She is looking at five real-life farms around New Zealand and working out some profitable steps that can be taken.

The aim of the research is to understand the impact climate change might have on real dairy farms in the future and which practical strategies allow farmers to effectively adapt to change while at the same time improving their efficiency and productivity. It also gives farmers an opportunity to think about how they might manage their farms in the future.

Funding has come from DairyNZ, Niwa, and the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Research Programme through the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Kalaugher used management strategies and other relevant data from the case study farms to mimic the outcomes in her programme and then, by applying future climate scenarios, has been able to predict how production and profit may be affected in a new climate.

She can also test how different pasture types, crops or stocking rate could alter production levels as climate change occurs.

“The value lies in the comparisons and my work shows there are some downsides but a lot of opportunity as well,” Kalaugher says. “The next step is to talk to farmers to get their perspective on this system and to see which adaptations to climate change are of most interest to them.”

Kalaugher’s work is on show at the University of Waikato’s Premier Feature stand at Fieldays this year. The university is into its sixth year as one of two strategic partners of Fieldays which begins on 13 June.