Farmers are on the frontline of changing climate

The Australian native finger lime is a rare citrus fruit, found only in isolated pockets of sub-tropical rainforest. When Europeans colonised Australia, many trees were cleared for farming.

Aboriginals have been using finger limes for thousands of years as a food and medicine due to its antiseptic qualities and ability to fend off disease.

But like our planet, finger limes are fragile and vulnerable.

In 2014, my wife and I bought a small block of land in Eungella, 90km west of Mackay where we planted 400 finger lime trees. They thrive in a rainforest climate of high, consistent rainfall where there is a distinct change of season and cold winter. The air is clean, the waterways pristine and soils exceptionally nutritious.

But over the last two years, weather conditions have not been so predictable.

We have suffered from the impacts of a cyclone, flooding, drought, and bushfire.

Today, the climate is so uncertain that we need to be alert to the challenges when producing food.

I started noticing it more in March 2017.

That month, we were struck by cyclone Debbie. The winds destroyed a quarter of our trees and damaged a further half. The rain that followed flooded and waterlogged our soils, resulting in further losses. The following year, we suffered one of the driest periods on record.

With the fallen timber lying dry on the ground from cyclone Debbie, bushfires became high risk. That summer fires came within 400m of wiping us out.

I must admit that so far in 2019, growing conditions have been ideal. I don't dispute that even with climate change, there will be periods of good weather.

But I also understand these periods will become less frequent as temperatures rise.

Climate scientists project Australia will encounter more extreme weather events and inconsistent weather patterns due to climate change, that is being made much worse by the burning of coal. As a result, our nation's crops are going to be more and more vulnerable.

Unless we reduce our emissions and the impact of climate change, farmers like myself will have no choice but to increase prices to sustain productivity.

We are lucky to live in a country that provides unique growing conditions for produce such as finger limes.

Let's retain this pristine environment, and the rare species that depend on it, while we still can.

Jock Hansen is the owner of Eungella Finger Limes, Queensland