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Transformative and systemic climate change adaptations in mixed crop livestock farming systems

Transformative and systemic climate change adaptations in mixed crop livestock farming systems

Agricultural Systems 164: 236-251

Mixed crop-livestock farming systems provide food for more than half of the world's population. These agricultural systems are predicted to be vulnerable to climate change and therefore require transformative adaptations. In collaboration with farmers in the wheatbelt of Western Australia (WA), a range of systemic and transformative adaptation options, e.g. land use change, were designed for the modelled climate change projected to occur in 2030 (0.4-1.4 degrees increase in mean temperature). The effectiveness of the adaptation options was evaluated using coupled crop and livestock biophysical models within an economic and environmental framework at both the enterprise and farm scales. The relative changes in economic return and environmental variables in 2030 are presented in comparison with a baseline period (1970-2010). The analysis was performed on representative farm systems across a rainfall transect. Under the impact of projected climate change, the economic returns of the current farms without adaptation declined by between 2 and 47%, with a few exceptions where profit increased by up to 4%. When the adaptations were applied for 2030, profit increased at the high rainfall site in the range between 78 and 81% through a 25% increase in the size of livestock enterprise and adjustment in sowing dates, but such profit increases were associated with 6-10% increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. At the medium rainfall site, a 100% increase in stocking rate resulted in 5% growth in profit but with a 61-71% increase in GHG emissions and the increased likelihood of soil degradation. At the relatively low rainfall site, a 75% increase in livestock when associated with changes in crop management resulted in greater profitability and a smaller risk of soil erosion. This research identified that a shift toward a greater livestock enterprises (stocking rate and pasture area) could be a profitable and low-risk approach and may have most relevance in years with extremely low rainfall. If transformative adaptations are adopted then there will be an increased requirement for an emissions control policy due to livestock GHG emissions, while there would be also need for soil conservation strategies to be implemented during dry periods. The adoption rate analysis with producers suggests there would be a greater adoption rate for less intensified adaptations even if they are transformative. Overall the current systems would be more resilient with the adaptations, but there may be challenges in terms of environmental sustainability and in particular with soil conservation.

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Accession: 066365991

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DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2018.04.011

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