By NOEL MURPHY
FARMING across south-western Victoria will need to change as the rain-belt moves, according to the head of a scientific team studying lakes west of Geelong.
Professor Peter Gell said drying of lakes, the worst in 5000 years, showed rain patterns moving southward along with later winter rains and an earlier onset of the summer dry.
Prof Gell said a gradual contraction of the winter growing season was unfolding.
Combined with the possibility of rising sea levels affecting groundwater quality, farming patterns could be forced to change significantly, he warned.
“One trajectory of change we’ve shown from the past to the present shows how unusual the present is compared to long-term variability and that lends weight to scenarios of ongoing change,” Prof Gell said.
“We’re talking about a southwards movement of the rain-belt, which will affect autumn and spring rainfall,” Prof Gell said.
“The September/October rain is very important for finishing off crops, so if the patterns change and there’s an increase in evaporation it will be more challenging in some places to grow crops or food than in the past.
“We’re already in a pretty dry climate and our scenarios suggest the winter rainfall belt will move southward, so we’ll get a break in the season probably coming later and the switch to a dry summer may occur earlier than in the past – that’s very much on average.’’
Prof Gell’s study of six lakes across western Victoria, including Lake Modewarre, found that human land use had impacted dramatically on them.