Climate is a key driver of sugarcane productivity. Advance knowledge of the likely climate and its impact on production could add value to production, harvest and marketing efforts. A climate forecast system that incorporates five patterns or phases of the southern oscillation index is used to assess whether an early indication of sugarcane yield anomalies in Australia can be produced. Results indicate that, for certain sugarcane growing regions, the climate forecast system offers better estimates of the direction of the anomaly when compared with no climate forecast system. Improved results of the direction of the yield anomaly can be obtained some 7 months prior to the commencement of harvest. This information can then be used by marketers to plan better the customer allocations, shipping schedules and storage requirements for the next season. Advance knowledge of the crop size can also assist industry decision makers in scheduling when the harvest season should commence. Further research is required to determine if other climatic indices, such as sea surface temperatures, can improve yield estimation. Consideration also needs to be given to determining whether the magnitude and the direction of the yield anomaly can be more accurately forecasted with varying lead times. Copyright © 2003 Royal Meteorological Society.
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