May 4, 2022

New Zealand government supports new data-driven forecasting tool for agriculture sector

New Zealand government is investing in the development of a new forecasting tool that makes full use of innovative climate modeling to help farmers and producers prepare for dry conditions, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said .

The new approach, which will cost $ 200,000 and is jointly funded by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and the National Water and Atmosphere Research Institute (NIWA), will provide daily drought forecasts over 35 days. .

Later, the project will also explore drought forecasts up to six months in advance. NIWA currently provides monthly seasonal climate forecasts that project over three months, but are not drought specific.

O’Connor said, “We are harnessing the latest advances in climate science and data to put information in the hands of the people who can make the best use of it. “

He says, “Knowing well in advance when dry conditions await means you can cut your fabric accordingly at critical times on the farm. Early warning can help determine storage levels, water storage, and food management options.

State-of-the-art data-driven techniques are being used by scientists at NIWA to make this forecast more precise and accurate for New Zealand, according to O’Connor, based on a weather model released in 2020 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric of the United States of America. Administration.

He says, “Droughts are part of agriculture, but when they last for several months or affect large swathes of the country, they can have a major impact on rural communities.

“The new forecasting tool will be a companion to New Zealand’s Drought Index. The index was developed by NIWA in collaboration with MPI and launched in 2017.

“It is used to determine the current state of drought across the country and measures the duration and intensity of recent drought.”

O’Connor continues, “A classification of large-scale drought-related adverse events that was in place for much of New Zealand as of March 2020 was lifted on November 30, 2021.

“Meanwhile, the government has responded with approximately $ 20 million in funding to help rural communities, including support for recovery counseling. Further assistance was also provided through feed coordination services.

“With climate change, severe weather is both more frequent and more intense. It is therefore important that we help farmers and producers prepare their businesses for future climatic conditions.

The development of the forecasting tool will benefit from input from a wide range of end users, says O’Connor. In addition to farmers and producers, representatives of local and central government, advisers and industry bodies will be consulted. The tool is expected to be available by the end of 2023.

“Improved forecasting will alleviate some of the financial and mental burden that drought places on farmers and producers. It will also make our primary industries more resilient, productive and sustainable, ”concludes O’Connor.