Long Paddock

Australian Grassland and Rangeland Assessment by Spatial Simulation (Aussie GRASS) Extension Sub-project

Extension Report Cover

Extension Report Cover

Final Report for the Climate Variability in Agriculture Program

April 2001
Col Paull, Neil Cliffe and Wayne Hall

Summary

The Aussie GRASS Extension sub-project has involved extensive national collaboration between seven State agencies in order to achieve the objectives set out in the original Aussie GRASS project proposal. This report outlines the extension approach adopted to promote the transfer of technology generated by a complex research project. As well, the lessons learnt as part of this sub-project are detailed in order that both the author and readers may benefit from the experience.

A range of 33 core products and related information was identified and produced, being mainly State-based spatial maps covering recent rainfall, pasture production/condition, fire, drought declarations, seasonal climate outlook indicators, future rainfall/pasture growth and product integration. The products, and guidelines for their interpretation, were produced and distributed widely to policy-makers, agribusiness, extension officers and pastoralists. Input of this information into some State and national government decision-making was influential, as it helped to satisfy a growing government demand for factual, scientific information on seasonal conditions.

A national benchmarking survey was conducted, and five State reports and a national report published. A key finding was that rangeland managers and agribusiness are increasingly valuing the type of information generated by the Aussie GRASS project when making business decisions, e.g. decisions involving sustainable production practices (such as setting stock numbers, planting pastures, burning), enterprise selection, financial management, marketing, drought management and property development. A total of 41% of respondents said that 'big-picture' information was important in their planning; 83% have used seasonal climate forecasts; and many said that the provision of 'Feed Shortage Alerts', and warnings of possible deterioration of pastures or soil would be valuable (69%, 52% and 43% respectively). However, some users of such products had problems with accessing, interpreting and using them; also there were reservations about product accuracy and forecasting ability. The extension program addressed these issues.

A total of 25 training workshops was conducted around Australia to help 304 extension staff and key clients understand how the products were produced, and how to use them to make better decisions. Feedback from participants is discussed.

Unfortunately, in all States and the Northern Territory (except possibly Queensland), researchers had reservations regarding the accuracy of products during the period of the Aussie GRASS extension program. Most core products are still on a password-protected website and marked 'Experimental Prototype', which dissuades clients from using them in business management decisions. Consequently, much of the extension action was too late in the project, and aimed at awareness rather than adoption of the profitable use of the information in making key business management decisions. While the extension team has made excellent progress, further expenditure is required to ensure that the full return on resources invested so far is realised.

Full report (PDF, 4.5M, last updated 01:38PM, 5 December 2008)*

* Requires Adobe Reader

Last updated 15 June 2009

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