Climate Champion Series : Susan Findlay Tickner

The following is a guest post in our Climate Champion series – today by Susan Findlay Tickner

Name: Susan Findlay Tickner
Location: Horsham, Victoria
Role: Grain grower

Susan Findlay Tickner is what you’d call a pragmatic optimist. “I want to be the best farmer I can be. As farmers, we are feeding the men, women and children of our planet.”

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Climate challenges undeniably affect her farming enterprise—growing grains in Victoria’s Wimmera region—but she and husband Simon “expect to make good returns and grow our business in the long term.”

“Climate is our greatest farming challenge,” Susan says. “We have faced lack of rain, too much rain, heat and frost during our growing season.”

Susan sees knowledge as power in the face of Australia’s increasingly variable climate. “Our job is to stay informed, use technology well and remain nimble to keep one step in front of the climate challenge.”

“We need understand how climate variability impacts on our enterprise and manage the effects to remain sustainable.”

Sustainability, Susan says, is about understanding the impact of what she does every day. “As farmers, we strive to be able to farm better: more efficiently and more productively. That’s what we have to think about every time we make a decision about what to plant, when to plant and the nutrients we put into those plants.”

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The basic process is growing and selling grain, but Susan believes that “the minutiae of this process is what creates sustainability. Every detail counts.”

Australian farmers are passionate about what they do, and enthusiastic about growing as much food and fibre not just today or tomorrow, but forever.

For Susan, this means “looking after and enhance the quality of our soils, maximising the use of the rain that falls onto our land and minimising inputs to grow the most grain we can.”

As variable as the climate is, Susan focuses on ‘getting smarter’ about the factors that she can control:
· what mix of crops to plant, and which varieties
· what nutrients they put on
· how much fertiliser to use
· reducing how much they till the soil
· planting seeds between last year’s rows of harvested grains.

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These decisions are all about reducing the risk they experience because of climate, and maximising their returns so that their business can be sustainable.

Technology is a farmer’s greatest friend these days. Susan mentions the technology in selecting grains for their germplasm, breeding and variety. There’s technology in tillage equipment, GPS/steering and paddock mapping. There is even more technology in the form of weather forecasting, mobile applications and modelling.

“Then we have good old common sense to bring all that together,” she says.

Susan is a farmer in the Climate Champion program, a group of farmers keen to communicate with other farmers about managing climate risk, and to researchers about what farmers need from research and development. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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