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So how much warmer is it than normal? Soil temperature is always a great indicator to watch closely during the spring as it is the key trigger for pasture growth and seed germination. At soil temperatures below 6 degrees Celsius there is extremely limited pasture growth and very few crops that will successfully germinate.

The graph below provides the mean monthly soil temperature for Lincoln (recorded at 9am and 100 mm depth) for the 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, alongside the 20-year average. From this you can see June, July and August 2020 have all been much milder than average. The question on everyone’s lips is, ‘will we get a southerly blast before spring as the weather we are currently experiencing is definitely unseasonable – or is this now the new norm under climate change?’

Water Strategies has recently been successful with an application to the Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change fund for its Climate Shock Resilience and Adaptation project. This is an important piece of work as there is a need to better understand the impacts of a more volatile climate upon farmers and growers, particularly in relation to increased frequency of drought. The project will identify key factors that drive farm resilience alongside explore alternative approaches to water allocation from a farm and environmental resilience perspective. To date much of the climate change analysis has focused upon the impacts of mean temperature rises and changes to rainfall patterns, but as the 2019-20 season has clearly demonstrated, its prolonged periods of drought that have the biggest impact particularly if they start to occur more frequently as predicted under climate change.

The project is a partnership between Water Strategies, Komanawa Solutions (a specialist groundwater research consultancy) the Lincoln University Agriculture Economic Research Unit, the Environment Canterbury science team and leading climate scientists from Victoria University, the MetService, NIWA and Bodeker Scientific. It will use a North Canterbury case study, applying moderate and extreme climate shock scenarios (generated by the climate specialists) to a range of actual farm systems. Detailed farm production and financial analysis using the FARMAX tool will be used to understand impacts and explore the range of mitigation and adaptation options. We will provide you with a summary of our findings in 2021.

And to finish… during spring 2020 Water Strategies will be running a series of irrigator training workshops as getting your shoulder season irrigation right is key from both a production and environmental perspective. Check out our website to find one near you as we guarantee these practical sessions will be a great investment of your time. Alternatively, if you would like support, advice, or a review of your irrigation management, or you are having issues with your irrigation equipment, give the team at Water Strategies a call.

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