Climate applications

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) Climate Applications Science Program works with primary industries to improve the assessment and management of climate risk.

We have experience in agro-climatic analysis for key dryland and irrigated industries. Our work involves regular interaction with climate science from:

  • the Bureau of Meteorology
  • the university sector.
Applying advances in climate science will enable South Australian primary industries to exploit opportunities in  good seasons and manage the risks in the poor seasons. This application will allow for a greater adaptive capacity for farmers who deal with dry and erratic climate in southern Australia.

As Australia’s driest state, South Australia is vulnerable to both season-to-year climate variability, and longer term changes to a hotter and most likely drier climate. Natural and agricultural systems in South Australia are exposed and sensitive to adverse changes and fluctuations in climatic conditions. However, recent seasons have shown that there are coping strategies available from existing and emerging technologies.

Our Climate Applications scientists lead applied adaption research projects such as:

  • investigating the mechanisms of heat stress and frost stress in crops
  • improving the water use efficiency of grain farming systems.

We work closely with SARDI Viticulture and Farming Systems researchers to improve the ability of our state’s grains, wine grape and almond industries to manage risks associated with a warmer and water-constrained future.  

We lead the field in:

  • viticulture climate applications
  • physiology and modelling
  • dryland farming
  • livestock management.

Dr Peter Hayman leads this program, which has 2 subprograms:

  • Managing Climate Risk
  • Crop Ecophysiology.

Subprograms and research focus

Managing Climate Risk

This subprogram has a strong track record of working with industry to improve climate risk management.
Research projects within this subprogram include:

  • Managing almond production in a variable and changing climate. This project will provide almond growers with a better understanding of the:
    • phenology of almond trees in relation to climate
    • risks of climate to their industry which will differ in impact and risk rating according to the phenological development stage
    • potential management options to alleviate these risks along  and a cost-benefit analysis of adaptation using these options.
  • Regional assessment of climate and water risks and opportunities for South Australian irrigated industries. We will assess climate and water risks and opportunities of established and alternative industries in the context of current and future climates. This project is a partnership between:
    • SARDI Climate Applications
    • SARDI Water Resources and Irrigated Crops
    • the Bureau of Meteorology
    • the SA Murray-Darling Basin NRM Board.
  • Managing grapevines during heatwaves. This project aims to improve management strategies to protect grapevines in extreme heat.
  • Can advances in mid-term weather forecasts reduce emissions from nitrogen fertiliser? Led by Queensland University of Technology, this project:
    • investigates whether advances in mid-term weather forecasts can  improve farm management practices  to reduce emissions from nitrogen fertiliser.
    • assesses how different fertiliser regimes can  mitigate nitrous oxide emissions under forecast scenarios.
Previous research projects include:

  • TREND: Transects for Environmental Monitoring and Decision-Making. The terrestrial production theme of TREND investigated the concept of space as a proxy for time to better understand climate change impacts and adaptation options for South Australian agriculture. The project focused on dryland grains industry and irrigated viticulture.
  • Bridging the gap between seasonal climate forecasts and agricultural decision makers in Australia and the Philippines. This project demonstrated the application of information from El Nino and La Nina based forecasts to:
    • farm-level decisions such as crop choice
    • policy-level decisions such as rice importing.

Subprogram contact

Dr Peter Hayman
Phone: (08) 8303 9729

Crop Ecophysiology

This subprogram research focusses on the measurement and modelling of the water, carbon and nitrogen economies of:

  • perennial crops (grapevine, olive)
  • annual crops (wheat, sunflower, pea, chickpea, maize, soybean, cotton)
  • in rain-fed and irrigated systems.
We are interested in the adaptation of crops to environmental stresses, including extreme temperatures.

Associate Professor Victor Sadras leads the Crop Ecophysiology  subprogram, with established international collaborations in:

  • China
  • The United States
  • Spain
  • France
  • Kenya
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Chile
  • Argentina.
Research projects include:
  • Water use efficiency (WUE) of dryland and irrigated cropping systems. This project focuses on cereal-based systems in Australia to:
    • revise current theory
    • quantify climatic constraints to WUE, upper limits, and gaps between potential and actual
    • develop crop management to improve WUE.
  • Yield gap analysis. This research seeks to:
    • review definitions and methods to quantify yield at different levels (actual, attainable, potential) and different scales in space (field, farm, region, global) and time (short, long term)
    • assess the methods to benchmark yield and water productivity gaps
    • identify the causes of gaps between yield levels, emphasising economic, social and environmental trade-offs
    • devise actions to reduce the gaps in a context of multiple objectives (economic, social, environmental) and time scales (short, long-term).
  • Adaptation of pulses to abiotic stresses. This project aims to:
    • improve the adaptation of chickpea to water, salinity and heat stress
    • identify secondary traits for adaptation to Australian low rainfall environments in field peas using practical phenotyping techniques.
  • Physiology of yield and adaptation to stress in grapevine. This project aims to:
    • quantify the effect of high temperature on grapevine phenology, physiology and wine attributes
    • develop management practices to counteract warming effects.
  • Nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in grain crops. This project aims to identify:
    • sources of variation and gaps between potential and actual NUE
    • interactions between nitrogen and water use efficiency in Mediterranean environments.

Subprogram contact

Assoc Prof Victor Sadras
Phone: (08) 8303 9661

Program leader

Dr Peter Hayman
Science Leader, Climate Adaptation
SARDI Sustainable Systems
GPO Box 397 Adelaide SA 5001
Phone: 08 8303 9729

Page Last Reviewed: 06 Feb 2015
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