GRDC strives to close the yield gap
Author: Dr Neil Fettell | Date: 24 Feb 2016
By GRDC northern region panellist Neil Fettell
The drive to close the yield gap across New South Wales and Queensland cropping areas is continuing to gain momentum following the collection of hundreds of crop performance datasets for the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) funded National Paddock Survey.
The National Paddock Survey initiative aims to determine the difference between actual yield and potential yield (the yield gap) and equip growers with the tools and resources to maximise their grain production per millimetre of soil moisture.
It is a joint project led by the southern-based BCG (Birchip Cropping Group) in association with CSIRO (the major science partner), farming systems groups and agronomic consultants across Australia.
The yield gap is a major issue for growers in the northern part of Australia. Previous research conducted by the CSIRO has found, for example, that northern wheat growers could produce an additional 1.19 tonnes/hectare using better adapted varieties and best practice management.
Further, average northern wheat yields of 1.7 t/ha over the 1996-2010 period 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 we can successfully bridge that yield gap, is it critical to accurately determine just how big the gap is across regions, crops and soil types.
Under the National Paddock Survey project, crop performance data is being collected throughout the cropping cycle (pre-sowing to harvest) on two production zones in 250 paddocks nationally and correlated to plant water use.
The project began in 2015 and is due for completion in 2018. It initially surveyed sorghum production in the north and has since been expanded to include winter crops.
This data will be used to identify the major constraints to production in different regions and soil types, providing valuable information to growers to aid in planting decisions, rotation planning and crop management.
Identifying and closing the yield gap is vital to future farm profitability. Grain production has become a finely tuned business which relies on maximising production per millimetre of rainfall and efficiently managing input costs.
To do this, growers require rigorous and widely validated research information that’s applicable to their environment and production conditions.
Projects like the National Paddock Survey will provide this type of information and can help growers manage individual paddocks according to production potential and likely constraints as well as benchmark performance against other growers in their regions.
A major aspect of the project is the use of yield maps, which are important for identifying the high-yielding and low-yielding parts in a paddock and take into consideration potential yield constraints such as weeds, diseases, soil and nutrition.
The results of the National Paddock Survey are made available to participating growers online and in the form of annual reports.
More information on the National Paddock Survey is available by following this link.
Dr Neil Fettell
0427 201 939
Sarah Jeffrey, Senior Consultant Cox Inall Communications
0418 152 859
GRDC Project Code BWD00025