Build resilience not resistance

It is safe to say that 2020 was a challenging year for Australian agronomists on many fronts. If we put aside our immediate thoughts of the impact of the world-wide COVID pandemic, the key stories that remain include ongoing drought in some regions, a summer of bushfires, international trade barriers and sanctions. Many regions have seen their first crop in years, only to have difficulty getting it off with no staff on the ground due to international and domestic border closures.  If only the ‘new’ pest Fall armyworm had also go the message about those closures, we may also not be facing the onslaught of yet another destructive and aggressive challenge.

While all of this may seem overwhelming as we wait to put 2020 in the rear vision mirror, without sounding too negative, we can all learn a lot by reflecting on its challenges and putting them back into perspective.

While we would all be forgiven for not building global pandemic into our 2020 business plan, but as for the rest, should these have been on our radar? We need to ask, were any of these challenges truly unforeseen, or did they just happen in rapid succession in 2019/2020?

The recommendation of business experts to cope with the impost of COVID was that we needed to ‘pivot’…ground one foot and change direction with the other. While ‘pivot’ has become the catch phrase of 2020, in reflection, we need to question whether this should be a basic business principal for all, rather than just a crisis response.

Like all other Australian small businesses, agronomists are exposed to the vagaries of the national economy. It is however, the everchanging ecosystem that is our work environment, that presents additional pressures. While just as variable, the impost of drought, flood, heat waves which are often termed as natural disasters are, in fact, part of our everyday business and as such, belong in everyone’s SWOT analysis.  Year 8 science also tells us that this ecosystem – be it at a regional, field /paddock, or micro level is dynamic. With that, will come adaption, development of resistance, and shifting populations of both pest and friendly species alike.

Why then, do we continue to act surprised and bewildered when we are hit with yet another ‘natural’ challenge?

While experience in the industry will give practitioners some expertise to deal with changing fortunes in the paddock, even the most knowledgeable of consultants will admit that no two seasons are the same. For many of us, it is a long time since that final exam at university, but this dynamic system in which we operate leaves us no choice but to focus on ongoing professional development and information sharing to tackle ‘new’ problems. COVID-19 restrictions have made this learning somewhat difficult in a face to face context. Platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn have become invaluable tools both instantaneous information sharing, discussion and problem solving. Additionally, a myriad of online learning content has made its way to the internet, and much of it is free.

In 2020, Crop Consultants Australia was one of the few organisations who were able to run a face-to-face training event. Focusing on tackling the big ‘What If’s in agriculture, the workshop examined many of the ‘prickly’ topics that we often see as the challenges in our industry, but potentially, are just part of its fabric.

From getting a better handle on climate prediction, to considering farming systems post glyphosate, the workshop encouraged participants to start thinking ‘outside the box’ to find new answers to old problems. Consistently though, the presenters’ message to attendees reinforced the importance of planning and being willing to alter that plan if needed.

The recordings from this event, are publicly available to all on the Crop Consultants’ YouTube Channel to listen to as a podcast to take in the full event. (

The challenge for all practicing agronomists, is to ensure that they are part of the ongoing conversation on current issues, and never stop searching for, or considering alternative answers. While we wish for a more stable environment on all fronts in 2021, the last decade, not just the last year, has taught us that there is no such thing as an average year, and our key tool in addressing this is resilient planning.

Please visit our website for the latest on our planned 2021 events and email the CCA office to ensure you are on our mailing list for invites.