Wheat yield increases of 1.19t/ha possible in the north

Author: Sarah Jeffrey | Date: 07 Mar 2014

CSIRO scientist Zvi Hochman

A new benchmarking tool aimed at narrowing the gaping wheat yield gap across the northern cropping belt will soon be available to the region’s growers and agronomists.

Maps detailing actual and achievable yield data have been compiled by the CSIRO and will be made accessible through a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) funded project.

The results suggest that growers in the northern region could produce an additional 1.19 tonnes/hectare using better adapted varieties and best practice management and boost average crop returns by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

CSIRO Senior Principal Research Scientist Zvi Hochman told advisors and growers attending last week’s GRDC Northern Grains Research Updates at Coonabarabran and Nyngan that wheat growers in the GRDC’s northern region averaged yields of 1.7 t/ha over the 1996-2010 period.

He said this represented approximately 47% of the yields considered achievable taking into account water limitations, environmental conditions and the use of best practice and well-adapted varieties.

“Before you can bridge the yield gap you need to know big it is. This study suggests that farmers in the northern region could achieve average yields of 2.9 t/ha,” Dr Hochman said.

“The opportunity is large and a lot of it is about attention to detail - the right variety, sowing early, making sure fertilisers are adequate and controlling weeds during fallow can all be very important.

“Of course none of these things can be done without cost but as long as all the details are taken care of, that’s what best practice is about. If you can achieve best practice you can close the gap between the average yields being achieved on farm now and what is the attainable yield.”

The yield data maps will be available within the next nine months as part of a web-based tool that will enable growers and advisors to benchmark individual wheat yields against achievable wheat yields and the average wheat yields being achieved by others in their local shire areas.

The results will then help in determining target yield for individual farms and the changes required in management practice to achieve it.

 “Making the maps available online means farmers and advisors can use these maps as a benchmarking tool to answer questions such as whether they are achieving better or worse than their shire’s average yields over the same period and how close they are to closing the yield gap.

“Additionally, advisers could challenge themselves to diagnose the cause of the yield gap for their clients.”

Dr Hochman said the research found that the northern region’s yields were 5.3% lower than relative yields in the southern region and 8.9% lower than in the western region, suggesting there is significant scope to boost yields in the north through better application of current technologies and best practice.

The CSIRO is calling for interested growers and advisors to test the usability and usefulness of the website before it goes public. For more information, contact Zvi Hochman on 07 3833 5733 or email zvi.hochman@csiro.au

The GRDC’s Northern Research Updates continued at Goondiwindi and Mungindi this week.

For Interviews

Zvi Hochman, CSIRO Senior Principal Research Scientist
07 3833 5733

GRDC Project Code CSA00042

Region North, South