The notion of farming systems has been used in Australian agriculture to better understand the biophysical processes of farming and the management options at the paddock and farm level. The concept of adaptation in response to change is not new to farming systems thinking and it provides a good basis to consider adaptation from adjustment change through to more transformational changes.
One of the challenges for climate change adaptation in farming systems is that the terms “farming systems” and “climate change adaptation” are very elastic and can be applied to a vast amount of R&D. This raises the need to be clear about what we mean on climate change adaptation and appropriate ways to incorporate climate change into existing farming systems R&D. Our focus is on adaptation to climate change at the paddock and farm level. This leaves adaptation studies on crop and animal physiology at a lower level that feeds into farming systems and regional considerations at a higher level.
Farming systems thinking is useful at three main levels. One, it allows us to focus on interactions at the paddock level. This raises questions on how R&D on agronomy and pasture management should take into account impacts and adaptation to climate change. Two, farming systems thinking is useful for considering management at the farm level. This raises questions of R&D on whole farm modelling and frameworks to consider climate risk in farm management. Three, farming systems thinking is useful for classifying types of farms in agroecological zones. The notion of these zones shifting raises questions of how farming systems will change. At the same time farming systems in an adjacent warmer and drier zone offer spatial analogues.