For those who live on the land, it’s the simple questions that matter most: How likely is rain next month? How much water has been stored?
The Australian CliMate app, co-developed by the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), is giving farmers the data they need, be it on their home computer or in the paddock via their smart phone.
Associate Professor David Freebairn, who headed the app’s development, said it had proven a popular resource, being used more than 8,000 times each month and a total 20,000 registrations since it was first released in 2013.
“It uses question-based logic to explore historical rainfall, temperature and solar radiation, as well as some forecasting indicators,” Associate Professor Freebairn said.
“A farmer can directly ask about soil moisture in their area, and get an answer that puts the current season in perspective with past levels.
“For example, a typical heavy clay soil at Goondiwindi would be about half full now if the soil profile was nearly empty last November. The rainfalls at the beginning of February were well stored even though there has not been much since.”
The app has been adopted throughout major agricultural areas of Australia, in particular grains and livestock production and by agri-businesses.
USQ agricultural scientist Dr Ann Starasts said the platform was able to meet the needs of various industry stakeholders.
“Grain growers and horticulturalists are using the app to identify the range of possible climate risks for their season and compare these for different sowing dates, crops, locations and varieties,” she said.
“Livestock producers are using the app to identify the range of possible forage scenarios and then plan their livestock numbers and paddock management options.
“This easy-to-access data has been a major step up for the farming industry to aid communications.”
The team sees potential for the CliMate app to have much wider application across more rural industries, and in other sectors where knowledge of weather conditions and probabilities is important to operations.
The app was developed for the Managing Climate Variability Program which is sponsored by the Australian Government and the Grain, Cotton, Sugar, Pork, Meat, Wine and Agrifutures research and development corporations.
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This article was first published in The Fence magazine.