Northern grain growers could boost their crop profitability by up to 60% by fine tuning their farming systems.
Agripath director Simon Fritsch delivered this message to agronomists and grain growers attending the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grain Research Updates at Coonabarabran last week and at Goondiwindi and Talwood this week.
Mr Fritsch said enormous potential existed for northern growers to start bridging the gaping divide between average farm yield and attainable crop yield by ensuring farming systems are robust and effective.
“The main difference between average and top farmers is the occurrence of problems which affect yield,” Mr Fritsch said.
“In practice many crops are affected by several `profit draggers’ like disease, nematodes, weeds, low nitrogen, timeliness or harvest losses which, in combination, affect yield by 20-30% and drag profit down by 50-60%.
“Attention needs be given to all profit draggers but the best results will be derived if time and effort are simultaneously given to crop selection, rotations, crop frequency, risk management and farm cost choices. Teamwork, labour, safety and machinery decisions are also important.
“On average, northern growers are achieving less than 50% of their achievable crop yield and if this gap could be closed, farm profitability would increase dramatically.”
Water Use Efficiency (WUE) calculations have an important role to play in quantifying attainable crop yields for specific locations and seasons and can assist growers in making crop management decisions based on economics according to Mr Fritsch.
Recent research supported by the CSIRO and GRDC has reinforced the benefits of setting profitable crop yield targets, calculating the amount of water needed to achieve these yield targets and assessing that against available stored soil moisture and the potential for in-crop rainfall.
Agripath’s work backs the premise that crop yield is highly influenced by fallow rainfall storage and soil moisture at sowing, finding that even small amounts of additional stored moisture can increase profitability substantially.
In general it has found that an extra 20mm of soil stored water could add 400kg/ha to yield which is enough to double profits in some situations.
“An example of this is a site at Coonamble where APSIM modelling determined that an extra 16mm is stored on average in a soil with a plant available water capacity (PAWC) of 180mm compared to a soil with a PAWC of 150mm,” Mr Fritsch said.
“This extra water produced an additional 381kg/ha of wheat – that is, a gain of 23kg/hectare/mm – which would improve profit from $144/ha to $219/ha.
“At the end of the day, good crop yields are a result of good planning and implementation of crop production involving a myriad of details starting with crop choice, the rotation program and how much moisture is stored and used on the farm.
“Combine this with good planting technology and timeliness and the best practice management in fertilisers, weeds, pests and other aspects of crop agronomy and there is potential to substantially improve grain yields and profitability.”
Caption: Simon Fritsch, Agripath director, Tamworth, says farmers could narrow the gap between average farm yield and attainable crop yield by ensuring farming systems are robust and effective.
Simon Fritsch, Agripath director, Tamworth
Sarah Jeffrey, Senior Consultant Cox Inall Communications
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