Climatic Change

, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 167-181

First online:

Adapting dryland agriculture to climate change: Farming implications and research and development needs in Western Australia

  • Senthold AssengAffiliated withAgricultural & Biological Engineering Department, University of FloridaCSIRO Plant Industry Email author 
  • , David J. PannellAffiliated withSchool of Agricultural and Resource Economics, The University of Western Australia

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The Western Australian wheat-belt has experienced more rainfall decline than any other wheat-cropping region in Australia. Future climate change scenarios suggest that the Western Australian wheat-belt is likely to see greater future reductions in rainfall than other regions, together with a further increase in temperatures. While these changes appear adverse for water-limited rain-fed agriculture, a close analysis of the changes and their impacts reveals a more complex story. Twentieth century changes in rainfall, temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration have had little or no overall impact on wheat yields. Changes in agricultural technology and farming systems have had much larger impacts. Contrary to some claims, there is no scientific or economic justification for any immediate actions by farmers to adapt to long-term climate change in the Western Australian wheat-belt, beyond normal responses to short-term variations in weather. Rather than promoting current change, the most important policy response is research and development to enable farmers to facilitate future adaptation to climate change. Research priorities are proposed.