Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals

Needs for applied climate education in agriculture

D. A. George A G , C. J. Birch B , J. F. Clewett C , A. Wright D , W. Allen E and D. U. Keogh F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries Queensland, PO Box 102, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

B The University of Queensland, Gatton Campus, Gatton, Qld 4345, Australia.

C Agroclim Australia, 64 Kuhls Road, Highfields, Qld 4352, Australia.

D The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

E AgForce Queensland, PO Box 13186, Brisbane, Qld 4350, Australia.

F International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health, Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.

G Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 47(1) 1-12
Submitted: 19 August 2005  Accepted: 12 May 2006   Published: 2 January 2007


This paper reports on a purposive survey study which aimed to identify needs for the development, delivery and evaluation of applied climate education for targeted groups, to improve knowledge and skills to better manage under variable climatic conditions. The survey sample consisted of 80 producers and other industry stakeholders in Australia (including representatives from consulting, agricultural extension and agricultural education sectors), with a 58% response rate to the survey. The survey included an assessment of (i) knowledge levels of the Southern Oscillation Index and sea surface temperatures, and (ii) skill and ability in interpreting weather and climate parameters. Results showed that despite many of the respondents having more than 20 years experience in their industry, the only formal climate education or training undertaken by most was a 1-day workshop. Over 80% of the applied climate skills listed in the survey were regarded by respondents as essential or important, but only 42% of educators, 30% of consultants and 28% of producers rated themselves as competent in applying such skills. Essential skills were deemed as those that would enable respondents or their clients to be better prepared for the next extended wet or dry meteorological event, and improved capability in identifying and capitalising on key decision points from climate information and a seasonal climate outlook. The complex issue of forecast accuracy is a confounding obstacle for many in the application of climate information and forecasts in management. Addressing this problem by describing forecast ‘limitations and skill’ can help to overcome this problem. The survey also highlighted specific climatic tactical and strategic information collated from grazing, cropping and agribusiness enterprises, and showed the value of such information from a users perspective.

Additional keywords: applied climate needs, climate applications and education, cropping, graziers, ranchers.


The ClimEd project was partly funded by FarmBis, a program of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Producers, meteorologists, climatologists and extension staff in Australia have contributed significantly to the development and evolution of this work. Bureau of Meteorology staff support has involved Steve Lellyet, Bruce Buckley, Steve Symonds, Livio Regano, Scott Power and Mike Bergin. Lucy George and Brett Robinson helped in editing previous drafts of this manuscript. Kerry Bell and Sarah Lennox helped in statistical analysis and presentation. The authors gratefully acknowledge the participants of this survey and the feedback from 2 anonymous referees.


Austen EA, Sale PWG, Clark SG, Graetz B (2002) A survey of farmers’ attitudes, management strategies and seasonal climate forecasts for coping with climate variability in the perennial pasture zone of south-east Australia. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 42, 173–183.
CrossRef |

Bennett CF (1976) ‘Analyzing impacts of extension programs.’ (United States Department of Agriculture: Washington DC)

Buckley D (2002) Forecast accuracy limits on-farm use. Farming Ahead 124, 34–46.

Carberry P, Hochman Z, McCown RL, Dalgliesh NP, Foale MA , et al. (2002) The FARMSCAPE approach to decision support: farmers’, advisers’, researchers’ monitoring, simulation, communication and performance evaluation. Agricultural Systems 74, 141–177.
CrossRef |

Carlson RE, Enz JW, Baker DG (1994) Quality and variability of long term climate data relative to agriculture. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 69, 61–74.
CrossRef |

Clark SG, Austen EA, Prance T, Ball PD (2003) Climate variability effects on simulated pasture and animal production in the perennial pasture zone of south-eastern Australia.1. Between year variability in pasture and animal production. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 43, 1211–1219.
CrossRef |

Clewett JF (2003) Seasonal climate forecasts and decision support systems for drought prone agriculture: a case study based on the development and application of the Rainman climate analysis software. In ‘Coping against El Niño for stabilizing rainfed agriculture: lessons from Asia and the Pacific. United Nations, CGPRT Centre Monograph No 43’. (Eds S Yokoyama, RN Concepcion) pp. 37–55. (United Nations: Bogor, Indonesia)

Clewett JF, Howden SM, McKeon GM, Rose CW (1991) Optimising farm dam irrigation in response to climatic risk. In ‘Climatic risk in crop production: models and management for the semiarid tropics and subtropics’. (Eds RC Muchow, JA Bellamy) pp. 307–328. (CAB International: Wallingford)

Clewett JF, Cliffe N, Drosdowsky L, George DA, O′Sullivan D, Paull C, Partridge IJ, Saal R (2000a) Building knowledge and skills to use seasonal climate forecasts in property management planning. In ‘Applications of seasonal climate forecasting in agricultural and natural ecosystems – the Australian experience’. (Eds GL Hammer, N Nicholls, C Mitchell) pp. 291–308. (Kluwer Academic: Dordrecht, The Netherlands)

Clewett JF, Thompson PJM, George DA, Owens DT, Clarkson NM (2000b) Seasonal streamflow forecasts to improve management of water resources: 4. Communicating results to improve knowledge and skills of clients in Australia. In ‘Proceedings of the 26th national and 3rd international hydrology and water resources symposium’. (Eds J Ruprecht, B Bates) pp. 647–652. (The Institution of Engineers, Australia: Perth)

Clewett JF, Clarkson NM, George DA, Ooi SH, Owens DT, Partridge IJ, Simpson GB (2003) ‘Rainman StreamFlow Version 4.3: a comprehensive climate and streamflow analysis package on CD to assess seasonal forecasts and manage climate risk.’ (Department of Primary Industries, Queensland: Brisbane).

Cohen L, Manion L (1994) ‘Research methods in education.’ 4th edn (Routledge: London)

Coventry WL (2000) Single-event versus frequency formats for presenting climate forecast probabilities: beyond reasoning abilities to judgment. BSc(Hons) thesis, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld.

Czaja R, Blair J (1996) ‘Designing surveys: a guide to decisions and procedures.’ (SAGE Publications Inc.: London)

Decker WL (1994) Developments in agricultural meteorology as a guide to its potential for the twenty-first century. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 69, 9–25.
CrossRef |

Drosdowsky W (2002) SST Phases and Australian rainfall. Australian Meteorological Magazine 51, 1–12.

George DA, Clewett J, McBride J, Balasubramanian TN, Huda AKS, Geethalakshmi V, Selvaraju R, Mavi H (2000) Seasonal climate and weather forecasting – agricultural applications. In ‘The international conference on managing natural resources for sustainable agricultural production in the 21st century. Vol. 1 – Invited papers’. (Eds JSP Yadav, GB Singh) pp. 34. (ICAR: New Delhi, India)

George DA, Birch C, Clewett JF, Wright A, Allen W (2005a) Major issues and solutions to applied climate education in Australia. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education. 12, 21–31.

George DA, Birch CJ, Buckley DB, Partridge IJ, Clewett JF (2005b) Surveying and assessing climate risk to reduce uncertainty and improve farm business management. Extension Farming Systems Journal 1, 71–77.

George DA, Clewett JF, Birch C, Partridge IJ, Clarkson NM, Allen W (2005c) Applied climate education to help manage climate change in Australia. In ‘Proceedings of the 17th international congress of biometeorology’. (Ed. P Hoeppe) pp. 235–238. (The International Society of Biometeorology: Garmisch–Partenkirchen, Germany)

George DA, Clewett JF, Birch C, Wright A, Allen W (2006a) Development and accreditation of an applied climate education unit for sustainable land use in Australia. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture in press ,

George DA, Clewett JF, Selvaraju R, Birch CJ (2006b) Applied climate education and training for agricultural and natural resource management in India, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Australia. Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension 12, 141–157.

Graham LB, Wheeler MA, Clarkson NM (2000) Seasonal streamflow forecasts to improve management of water resources: 1. Establishing needs of irrigators from pilot studies around Australia. In ‘Proceedings of the 26th national and 3rd international hydrology and water resources symposium’. (Eds J Ruprecht, B Bates) pp. 631–636. (The Institution of Engineers, Australia: Perth)

Hammer GL, Hansen JW, Phillips JG, Mjelde JW, Hill H, Love A, Potgieter A (2001) Advances in application of climate prediction in agriculture. Agricultural Systems 70, 515–553.
CrossRef |

Hatfield JL (1994) Future needs in agricultural meteorology: basic and applied research. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 69, 39–45.
CrossRef |

Hollinger SE (1994) Future direction and needs in agricultural meteorology/climatology and modeling. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 69, 1–7.
CrossRef |

Honey P, Mumford A (1986) ‘The manual of learning styles.’ (Maidenhead: London)

Jarvis P (1995) ‘Adult and continuing education. Theory and practice.’ 2nd edn. (Routledge Falmer: London)

Keogh DU, Abawi GY, Dutta SC, Crane AJ, Ritchie JW, Harris TR, Wright CG (2004a) Context evaluation: a profile of irrigator climate knowledge, needs and practices in the northern Murray-Darling Basin to aid development of climate-based decision support tools and information and dissemination of research Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 44, 247–257.
CrossRef |

Keogh DU, Bell KL, Park JN, Cobon DH (2004b) Formative evaluation to benchmark and improve climate-based decision support for graziers in western Queensland Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 44, 233–246.
CrossRef |

Keogh DU, Watson IW, Bell KL, Cobon DH, Dutta SC (2005) Climate information needs of Gascoyne-Murchison pastoralists: a representative study of the Western Australian grazing industry. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 45, 1613–1625.
CrossRef |

Kilpatrick S (1997) ‘Effective delivery methodologies for education and training to rural Australia.’ (Centre for Research and Learning in Regional Australia and the Australian National Training Authority: Launceston, Tas.)

Kilpatrick S (1999) Learning on the job: how do farm business managers get the skills and knowledge to manage their businesses? Centre for Research and Learning in Regional Australia, Discussion Paper D3/1999, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Tas.

Kruger J, Dunning D (1999) Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77, 1121–1134.
CrossRef | PubMed |

McBride JL, Nicholls N (1983) Seasonal relationship between Australian rainfall and the southern oscillation. Monthly Weather Review 111, 1998–2004.
CrossRef |

McCown RL (2002) Changing systems for supporting farmers’ decisions: problems, paradigms and prospects. Agricultural Systems 74, 179–220.
CrossRef |

Meinke H, Baethgen WE, Carberry PS, Donatelli M, Hammer GL, Selvaraju R, Stockle CO (2001) Increasing profits and reducing risks in crop production using participatory systems simulation approaches. Agricultural Systems 70, 493–513.
CrossRef |

Meinke H, de Voil P, Hammer GL, Power S, Allan RJ, Stone R, Folland CK, Potgieter A (2005) Rainfall variability at decadal and longer time scales: signal or noise? Journal of Climate 18, 89–96.
CrossRef |

Munro RK, Lembit MJ (1997) Managing climate variability in the national interest: needs and objectives. In ‘Climate prediction for agricultural and resource management’. (Eds RK Munro, LM Leslie) pp. 3–20. (Bureau of Resource Sciences: Canberra)

Nelson RA, Holzworth DP, Hammer GL, Hayman PT (2002) Infusing the use of seasonal climate forecasting into crop management practice in north east Australia using discussion support software. Agricultural Systems 74, 393–414.
CrossRef |

Nicholls N (2003) Climate change: are droughts becoming drier and more frequent? In ‘Science for drought – proceedings of the national drought forum’. (Eds R Stone, IJ Partridge) pp. 1–7. (Queensland Department of Primary Industries: Brisbane)

Nicholls N, Drosdowsky W, Lavery B (1997) Australian rainfall variability and change. Weather 52, 66–72.

Paull CJ, Hall W (1999) A survey of the assessment of seasonal conditions in pastoral Australia – benchmarking in the AussieGRASS project, Part 1: Queensland report. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.

Paull CJ, Hall W (2000) A survey of the assessment of seasonal conditions in pastoral Australia – benchmarking in the AussieGRASS project, Part 6: national summary. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.

Perry KB (1994) Current and future agricultural meteorology and climatology education needs of the US extension service. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 69, 33–38.
CrossRef |

Rijks D, Baradas MW (2000) The clients for agrometeorological information. Agricultural and Forestry Meteorology 103, 27–42.
CrossRef |

Roberts K (2000) An analysis of group processes in farmer learning: the Australian experience. Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension 6, 235–244.

Sivakumar MVK, Gommes R, Baier W (2000) Agrometeorology and sustainable agriculture. Agricultural and Forestry Meteorology 103, 11–26.
CrossRef |

Stephens M, McGuckian N (1994) ‘Skills evaluation and education kit.’ (Rural Finance Corporation of Victoria: Melbourne)

Stigter CJ, Sivakumar MVK, Rijks DA (2000) Agrometeorology in the 21st century: workshop summary and recommendations on needs and perspectives. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 103, 209–227.
CrossRef |

Stone R, Hammer GL, Marcussen T (1996) Prediction of global rainfall probabilities using phases of the Southern Oscillation Index. Nature 384, 1896–1909.

Vizard AL, Anderson GA, Buckley DJ (2005) Verification and value of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology township seasonal rainfall forecasts in Australia, 1997–2005. Meteorological Applications 12, 343–355.
CrossRef |

Zuber-Skerritt O (1993) Improving learning and teaching through action learning and action research. Higher Education Research & Development 12, 45–58.

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (7)