Agronomic advice in a variable climate; chess, poker or the pokies?

Peter Hayman1, Barry Mudge2, Mark Stanley3, Graeme Anderson4 and Dale Grey 4

1 SARDI Climate Applications, GPO Box 397, Adelaide, SA, 5001

2 Mudge Consulting, The Oaks, Port Germein, SA.

3 Regional Connections, Port Lincoln, SA

4 Biosecurity and Agriculture Services Branch, Agriculture Victoria


The variable and erratic climate is an ongoing challenge for grain farming in Australia. Awareness of some of the drivers of climate variability such as El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is increasing, but communicating and applying probabilistic seasonal climate forecasts to decision making continues to be difficult.

This short paper is a reflection based on 1) an overview of agronomic written advice provided in GRDC updates, fact sheets and Ground Cover articles and 2) workshops on climate risk held in July and November 2018 with 20 early to mid-career agronomists from the southern grains region. We found that most agronomic advice is like chess where there is always an optimum move determined by skill. Climate risk is acknowledged, but it is often treated more like the pokies (random chance) than poker where decision outcomes are due to skill and chance. There are many reasons that probabilistic seasonal climate forecasts are hard to use, one of them might be because we provide advice for chess not poker.


The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia. It has approximately 500 active members drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector.

Photo Credits

David Marland Photography Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University

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