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The Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture Report

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Updated: Jul 21st, 2022

Introduction

Climate change denotes one of the studies encounters presently faced by agronomists, conservation biologists, and plant environmentalists. With the worldwide greenhouse gas emanations projected to continue to upsurge for a significant period, the effect of eminent atmospheric and related alterations in temperature and precipitation are likely to influence the distribution of plant eco-physiology. Consequently, the impacts of anthropogenic environment shifts on plant development, reproduction, phenology, and dissemination have already instigated several debates and research articles on the tolerance of native grasses in hot and dry climatic conditions (Mganga et al., 2019).

Information is vital as farmers can decide on growing native grass in hot and dry conditions. Therefore, this report aims to analyze the economic feasibility of introducing native grass production to a farming system in Australia.

Background of the Study

Warm-Season Grasses in the Narrabri Region

The most popular grass grazed in various regions’ hot and dry climate are Bermuda grass, a non-native perennial warm-season grass, and annual grasses, such as the crabgrass. These warm-season grasses are usually associated with the hot and dry areas of various ecological areas. However, the Australian region is known for their native grass, including weeping grass, Kangaroo grass, brush-wire grass, windmill, and bottlebrush grass (Camhi et al., 2019). However, the growing climatic change compelled farmers to adopt new grass species that will enable them to satisfy the growing demand for fodder crops during warm seasons. However, the move to introduce foreign species of grass such as Bermuda grass in the region while maintaining the native grass has been faced by challenges related to the fiscal importance of the production.

Executing a grazing managing plan that poizes revenue and nutritive importance is imperative to utilize the potential of warm season grasses fully. Therefore, if the warm-season grass pastures are over-consumed, the Narrabri region will be devastated, whereas if it is under-exploited, the pastures will be wasted, thus reducing the nutritional worth and delectableness of the fodder. Research recommends not grazing native warm-season grass pastures below roughly 12 inches, while numerous warm-season grasses should not be grazed below 3 inches (Jones, 2019). Consequently, farmers and agricultural stakeholders in the Narrabri region need to note that the grazing administration strategy that capitalizes on animal performance by balancing forage yield and quality can shift annually centred on weather and environmental aspects. The inconsistencies in grass production performance research can be linked to changing environmental factors within the location and time.

Animal Performance on Warm Season Grasses

A few research articles have examined the cow-calf and stocker productivity when relocated from entophyte-infested long fescue in the summer to a warm-season grass. The results showed that animals feeding on native warm-season grass had a significant average everyday improvement compared to livestock fed entirely on entophyte-infected long feeds during the summer (Scordia & Cosentino, 2019). Conversely, other studies indicated no variation on the performance when animals graze on the long entophyte-infested tall fescue and the foreign grass. Similarly, other reports indicate minimal variation in the total income per acre between native warm-season grass and normal season grass, which is linked to the modest summer gains on the all-season grass.

Moreover, the investigation further indicated no change in cow or calf bodyweight gains when they graze on warm-season grass and all-season pasture during the summer (Scordia & Cosentino, 2019). However, according to the reports, the economic performance of the native warm grass production can be impacted by weeds which account for approximately 45 per cent of the loss in revenue. Therefore, it is apparent that where the fodder value is low on warm-season grass in summer, enhancements in production can be done by incorporating cool season and warm season grass systems, as the approach will improve both the yield of the forage and the body mass of livestock.

There is a growing debate in the Australian region that compares beef livestock performance from grazing various warm-season grass fodders. Agronomists and researchers have matched steer productivity when cropping seasonal grass to the sequential production of warm-season grasses in Narrabri. They established that the annual domestic gain for native warm grass grazing during the summer was 66 per cent higher than livestock feeding on the seasonal and native grass species (Tian et al., 2020).

Furthermore, they noted that the steers feeding on the seasonal grass yielded 287 lb. per acre before introducing native grass in their diet. The introduction of the animals to the native grass was beneficial to animals despite the growing numbers of foreign and seasonal grass (Tian et al., 2020). Consequently, there is significance to native grass compared to the seasonal and foreign forage, and the latter is efficient summer forage in the Narrabri region.

Similarly, further studies compared the annual domestic revenue and the overall beef yield of livestock grazing on native grass in other regions of Australia. The steer performance was evaluated from April to September for all the forages; however, the steers on native grass showed increased performance, indicating the nutritious nature of native grass during the warm and dry seasons when fodder was low. Conversely, further research was conducted to evaluate rotating a cow-calf heard from a cool-season grass to warm-season grass during the summer months in Narrabri. The researchers recorded zero variation in cow-calf productivity across all the forages, despite the native grasses having a higher nutritional value than the native cool weather grass (Hanson & Ellis, 2020).

While the livestock performance from feeding native warm-season grasses was not compared to grazing the cool-season grass mixture in the summer, the warm season grass options produced 61 per cent additional forage in the summer periods than the cool-season grass mixture. Consequently, the warm season grass has proved to be more effective than its mixture; therefore, the farmers within the Narrabri region should be encouraged to produce the warm season native grass considering the hot and dry nature of the region.

Profitability of Producing Native Warm-Season Grass

While researchers have indicated that warm-season grasses could be an efficient complement fodder to tall fescue, these forages can be expensive. Both native warm-season grasses and Bermuda grass can be difficult to produce, and no grazing or hay should be anticipated during the establishment year, whereas the root system is developing. In the second year, numerous perennial warm-season grasses will not have realized full yield latent and should be utilized significantly in hay manufacturing and grazing (Zinnen et al., 2021).

The approach would mean that the farmers in the Narrabri region will invest approximately two years of capital in developing the native warm grass with restricted creation. On the contrary, the annual warm grasses are planted yearly around April or May with feeding happening in the preceding month (Zinnen et al., 2021). The annual establishing of annual native warm grasses can be a costly and labour intensive forage option for the farmers. Few studies have examined the revenue gains from grazing warm-season grasses and greater than the cost of production.

Researchers have utilized information from previous researchers to investigate the income from grazing beef steers on native warm-season grasses in Australia and established that feeding the steers on such fodder has positively high returns above the production cost. The returns fluctuated from a low of 99 dollars per acre to a tall of 345 dollars per acre, depending on native warm-season grass and feeding handling. Likewise, previous data was used to assess the economics of feeding bred heifers on native warm-season grass. The records indicated that the cost of bred heifers grazing seasonal grass and Bermuda grass were 0.65 dollars and 0.38 dollars per head daily (Zinnen et al., 2021).

Therefore, for the Narrabri farmers to realize an equitable income of these fodders on harvested feeds would be more than 1.89 dollars per head in a day. Furthermore, the returns on these two native types of grass would be at 0.31dollars per pound for the annual warm-season grass and 0.4 dollars per pound on seasonal grass (Zinnen et al., 2021). Considering the cost of production for feeding livestock the annual warm-season grasses compared to native warm-season grasses, the initial savings of the farmers will be determined by the price of machinery and fertilizer linked to the production of the forage.

Techniques for Grass Production

Pasture Cropping

Pasture cropping is the integration of grazing and cropping for the symbiotic significance of both initiatives, environmentally and economically. The technique depends on zero-till sowing a crop into the window of dormancy of grassland. It can entail planting winter grain crops into active summer pastures, seeding summer grain crops into active winter pastures, sowing fodder crops in either summer or winter climates, and incorporating cereals in the pasture land or conducting mixed farming. In areas of Quirindi, Australia, a perennial summer active pasture will cease to develop as the region approaches the first frost in April and May (Berto, Ritchie, & Erickson, 2021).

The native warm-season grass is crash grazed during this period, and winter growing crop is planted into the dormant pasture. The crop is grown through to maturity and then yielded before the summer grassland has an opening to put on significant development after its latency. Before the grain products, the pasture’s development is stalled by the shading and light competition from the crop. Once the product is yielded, light is allowed into the grass, the competition is removed, and the pasture’s growth enhances.

Cool Burning

Cool burning is a technique of indigenous Australians normally use fire to burn vegetation. The linked loss of grazing and cropping animals resulted in the savannah changing into a dry forest. In the resulting forests, the fire-stick cultivation sustained an open canopy and facilitated the germination of short crops necessary for enhancing the containment volume of the domestic environment for grazing and browsing animals (Berto et al., 2021). Despite the native Australian communities focusing on the burning of the scrub to evade the growing zones, such type of farming directly boosted the food supply for the native community. Therefore, the farming technique can be used by the Narrabri farmers to directly increase the supply of native pasture by encouraging the growth of the fodder crops in the region.

Empirical Model

Representative Farm

Representative farm models are virtual concept farms that denote the practices of a specific crop and areas. The model was first established in California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The concept’s excellence in helping the farmers achieve increased yields can benefit the native grass producers in the Narrabri region to measure the economies of scale. The researchers and stakeholders of the Narrabri farming systems can utilize this method by determining its effectiveness through selecting three distinct representative farms sizes with the same native warm grass pasture. The data collected from every firm understudy should comprise costs of production, harvests, and prices (Camhi et al., 2019).

Therefore, the prices and yields can further be used to project the income of an acre per year. The baseline results from the studies will enable the stakeholders to determine the status of each farm in the region and the overall industry, thus understanding how the climate changes impact the warm season grass production.

LP Model

The linear programming model is a technique employed to realize increased outcomes, such as profits and reduced expenses. The concept is a mathematical concept whose necessities are characterized by linear connections. It can be employed to design various concerns in planning, scheduling, assigning, routing, and scheming of native warm-season grasses production initiative in the Narrabri region (Camhi et al., 2019). Since the production of these pastures involves various aspects, such as expenses and profits, the model will be beneficial in projecting the returns of the investment. Therefore, the LP model is important to appreciate the outcome linked to the production of native warm-season grass in the Narrabri region.

Discussion

Considering the LP model and representative farm concepts, the most appropriate methods for farming native warm-season grasses are the pasture cropping technique. The technique has varied benefits that originate from the technique. Despite the method being exhausting the pasture due to their transient nature, during the hot and dry season, it will enable the native grass to successfully grow as the weed and pests will be controlled by the crops (Hancock et al., 2020). The pasture cropping method has numerous benefits to the farmers and the general Narrabri farming system stakeholders. As shown in Table 1 below, the stakeholders should consider using the data to implement the technique.

COT FWS IMP DW CP LF SPTr SUTr AUTr UP NGCB NGG NGPC NGCBI NGGI NGPCI NGRVGS NGOTH THHC NGTHS FBS
200 2 200 200 200 200 0 0 0 0 34.0846 0 0 2.40441 0 54.489 10000 5000 816.915 61.2687 56.489
1038 47358.8 -259.7 491.75 528 0 0 -129.27 -129.27 -310.2 -129.27 -129.27 -310.2 50 10 9 429 1013288 1.01329

Table 1 and 2 above shows the equilibrium resolution to cultivate 200 hectares to every wheat, improved pasture, and cotton. The pasture will offer adequate forage to fatten 200 livestock. Conversely, 56 hectares of non-arable farmland can be utilized to sow native grass, and approximately 57 hectares of the land used for native grass using the pasture cropping technique. Therefore, the exploited total income from the initiative will be 1.01329 million dollars annually (Hancock et al., 2020). Pasture cropping will hence increase the economic returns of the farmers in the Narrabri region thus should be adopted for the warm season grass production.

On the contrary, the allowable increment and reduction below the autumn workforce distribution would mean that the resolution for the project will be stable over a range of 265.5 which is (960 + 1691.5) to 139 which is (960-821) -$178,53). Practically, changing the gross margin and solving the model values outside the range develops the results illustrated in the Table 2 below. The table shows the sensitivity of the farm plan to Autumn workforce supply.

Labor (hrs) NGCB (ha) NGCBI(ha) NGPC(ha) NGPCI(ha) NGTHS (kg) NGRVGS(t) NGOTH
(t)
FBS(t) TGM ($m)
2652 63 63 188 10 5 63 1.01436
960 54 2 57 61 10 5 56 1.01329
139 50 4 0 54 0 10 5 54 1.01277

From the table, it can be concluded that less Autumn workforce minimizes the total gross margin and the quantity of pasture cropping. Considering that level of labor availability, no threshing should be performed on the farmland, thus no sales to the human consumer marketplace. However, the availability of Autumn labor increases the sales in human consumer markets by 188 kg hence boosting the total gross margin to $1.01436m (Hancock et al., 2020).

Finally, table 3 below shows a sensitivity assessment on the native grass seed harvests. The evaluation varies the yield in a respective sequence of 80 percent, 60 percent, 40 percent, and 10 percent of the originally presumed value, thus resolving the model with each variation. Therefore, table 3 below indicates the sensitivity to native seed yield comprising lucerne.

Yield (kg/ha) % of base solution value NGPC(ha) NGPCI(ha) NGCB(ha) NGCBI(ha) NGRVGS(t) NGOTH(t) NGTHS(kg) FB (t) Nonarable land use (ha) TGM ($m)
100% 56 54 2 10 5 61 56 113 1.01329
80% 71 68 3 10 5 60 71 141 1.0131
60% 94 90 4 10 5 59 94 188 1.01287
40% 140 134 6 10 5 55 141 281 1.01235
10% 375 350 25 10 5 375 750 0.9644

The rise in the quantity of pasture cropping and the use of total arable land, would instigate the reduction in the assumed native seeds. On the contrary, when the native grass is at 10 percent in productivity, the land dedicated to native forage rises hence non-arable land becomes regulated in the project. There is a significant rise of the quantity of pasture cropping, thus fava bean trades. The grass seeds are generated from 375 hectares that are dedicated to native pasture controlled by the cool burning technique and similar sizes for pasture cropping (Hancock et al., 2020).

Benefits of Pasture Cropping

Increased Profitability

While adopting pasture cropping, native crop harvests can be sustained while further realizing a significant decrease in fertilizer utilization, both in the pasture and crop. The fertilizer employment during the pasture only stage is eliminated, whereas the crop fertilizer inputs are minimized. The approach will help in increasing the crop yield since there will be improved soil structure, health, and nutrient cycle. Since the farmers from the Narrabri region are coming from a traditional cropping practice, herbicide product application costs during the summer period will be eliminated (Hancock et al., 2020).

Consequently, the summer season will become productive for the native warm-season grass, as the stock yield and graze from the paddocks will be utilized for an extra six months period of the year. The move will see reduced costs and additional productivity realized by the farmers. Therefore, pasture cropping will enable farmers in Narrabri to reduce costs while maximizing the revenue and quality of their produce.

Reduced Pesticides

The reduction of pesticides in the environment and farms positively benefits both the farmers and the general environmental conservation programs. The current years have experienced a significant increase in herbicides utilization in traditional cultivation systems. The move was facilitated by introducing double knock approaches, which has further introduced an increase in the utilization of unsafe herbicides (Hancock et al., 2020). Therefore, eradicating the summer crop-free season will also eradicate the pesticides, thus boosting the outcome of the grass. The yielding of a pesticide-free pasture will boost the revenues of the producing farmers and increase the adoption of native grasses as most farmers prefer herbicides and pesticide-free pasture for their livestock.

The connection between Small Indigenous Grass Seed Business to Native Grass Production

Numerous perennial warm-season grasses are native to the Narrabri region of Australia. The native warm-season grasses mostly used for fodder in Australia are Eastern Gama grass, switchgrass, Indian grass, and little bluestem. These native warm-season grasses are forage that grows during the summer period, and they can offer quality pasture with reduced input cost if the farmers in the Narrabri region handle them appropriately.

The native warm-season grasses usually create their growth from April to September, which complements cool-season grasses. Grazing the NWSG in the summer period will minimize the impacts of fescue toxicities on animals and enable the farmers to boost fodder quality over a significant period of the year (Godfree et al., 2017). The grasses are deeply entrenched and effective utilizers of water, making them drought tolerant and beneficial to incorporate as part of the agricultural perennial pasture base.

Conclusion

The myriad relation between plants and their herbivores, their symbiotic relationship has been impacted by the climatic changes globally. The emission of greenhouse gasses has instigated the change in climate and weather conditions in some areas. Furthermore, this has also influenced the production of forage for livestock in Australia. However, native warm-season grasses can help curb the growing demand for fodder during the summer seasons. The warm-season grasses can act as food for the local farmers’ livestock while also serving as their economic revenue.

The farmers should employ the pasture cropping technique to grow the pasture as it will enable them to increase productivity and the general structure of the soil. Considering the dry conditions of the Narrabri region, cultivating the warm season grasses will boost the supply of forage for both the livestock and the current consumer base. Therefore, the stakeholders, farmers, and agricultural researchers should further investigate the conditions necessary for the production of native warm-season grass to curb the demand for the forage and find solutions to improve the cultivation of the grasses. The pasture cropping technique involves planting crops through drilling, and there is no tiling of the soil, nor is there a fallow time.

Weed management is helped by competition in the pasture and ground cover in the crop from a litter matt on the ground from pre-plant intensive grazing of the grassland. The paddocks used in the pasture cropping technique can be utilized for more than one year, and despite the grains being sustained in approximately three years, it has been identified that ecological reaction, such as perennial grass recruitment tends to delay the growth of grass.

Conversely, while cool burning technique has been discontinued in various areas of Australia, it has been reinvented to some native regions by teaching the farmers from the regions where the practice is extant in continuous unbroken traditions such as the Noongar community’s cold fire. The native inhabitants used the practice to facilitate hunting, alter the structure of animal and plant species in the ecological zone, weed management, hazard control, and enhance biodiversity. The cool burning farming method has had a long-standing impact of shifting dry forest into savannah, thus increasing non-specific grass species.

However, the planting of these native grasses, including Bermuda, Kikuyu, Centipede, St. Augustine, Carpet, and Bahia, require specific considerations in such climatic conditions. Growing such grasses would necessitate that farmers start the planting process from springs and use sod or plugs rather than seeds. With the rising market demand for such grasses due to the increasing climate changes in various regions, the farmers are expected to enjoy substantial returns from the already existing and growing marketplace demand.

References

Berto, B., Ritchie, A. L., & Erickson, T. E. (2021). Seed-enhancement combinations improve germination and handling in two dominant native grass species. Restoration Ecology, 29(1), e13275. Web.

Camhi, A. L., Perrings, C., Butterfield, B., & Wood, T. (2019). . Journal of Environmental Management, 252, 109644. Web.

Godfree, R., Firn, J., Johnson, S., Knerr, N., Stol, J., & Doerr, V. (2017). Why non-native grasses pose a critical emerging threat to biodiversity conservation, habitat connectivity and agricultural production in multifunctional rural landscapes. Landscape Ecology, 32(6), 1219–1242.

Hancock, N., Gibson-Roy, P., Driver, M., & Broadhurst, L. (2020). The Australian native seed survey report. Australian Network for Plant Conservation, Canberra.

Hanson, J., & Ellis, R. H. (2020). . Plants, 9(4), 446. Web.

Jones, T. A. (2019). . Rangeland Ecology & Management, 72(6), 1017–1029. Web.

Mganga, K. Z., Nyariki, D. M., Musimba, N. K., & Mwang’ombe, A. W. (2019). Indigenous grasses for rehabilitating degraded African drylands. In Agriculture and Ecosystem Resilience in Sub Saharan Africa (pp. 53–68). Springer.

Scordia, D., & Cosentino, S. L. (2019). Perennial energy grasses: Resilient crops in a changing European agriculture. Agriculture, 9(8), 169.

Tian, P., Xu, W., Li, C., Song, H., Wang, M., Schardl, C. L., & Nan, Z. (2020). Phylogenetic relationship and taxonomy of a hybrid Epichloë species symbiotic with Festuca sinensis. Mycological Progress, 19(10), 1069–1081. Web.

Zinnen, J., Broadhurst, L. M., Gibson-Roy, P., Jones, T. A., & Matthews, J. W. (2021). . Biodiversity and Conservation, 1–24. Web.

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