Needs for applied climate education in agriculture
George, DA and Birch, CJ and Clewett, JF and Wright, A and Allen, WR and Keogh, DU, Needs for applied climate education in agriculture, Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 47, (1) pp. 1-12. ISSN 0816-1089 (2007) [Refereed Article]
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.