– diagnostic agronomy for the southern region

Author: Chris Pittock | Date: 10 Feb 2015

Chris Pittock,

Grains Services Branch, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria

GRDC project code: DEP00002

Keywords: diagnosis, constraint, economics, training.

Take home messages

  • CropPro easily diagnoses or confirms diagnosis of wheat and canola constraints.
  • Quickly and easily compare constraint management options.
  • Crop disease manual for southern region grain crops is online!
  • Train and support agronomists and growers with go-to resources at


CropPro delivers diagnostic and economic tools for accurate identification and efficient management of constraints to crop productivity. The three core functions of CropPro are to diagnose the cause of crop problems, support risk analysis and to provide evidence-based information for management of crop constraints. Developed by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries Victoria (DEPI) and co-funded by DEPI and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), CropPro is the southern region component of the GRDCs National Diagnostic Agronomy Initiative.

Primarily aimed at the crop advisory sector, the developing portal has been tested by southern region advisers. Evaluation has demonstrated that many advisors will use CropPro to confirm their assessment of crop problems, while others may use it as more of a primary diagnosis tool or to better engage with their grower clients.


CropPro is the result of collaboration between the GRDC, the Victorian Government as well as QLD DAFF and DAFWA. Victoria lead the development of economic videos explaining key factors in farm enterprise economic decision making. QLD DAFF lead the development of the economic modelling tool OPTION$ for testing likely economic outcomes of crop management decisions. DAFWA lead the development of the wheat and canola DIAGNOSE tools using LUCID key software.

Studies on the needs of growers and the skill sets of agronomists have guided the development of the CropPro portal. Testing the draft portal with agronomists has refined the product released during 2014. Further testing with agronomists has enabled focus on improvements and feedback to the GRDC on industry needs.

Results and discussion

CropPro provides several core resources that are designed to underpin accurate diagnosis and efficient management of wheat and canola constraints. These include:

Crop nutrition resources

Unique resources focussed on crop nutritional status include in-depth reviews on copper, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, sulphur and zinc, as well as a review on physical and chemical soil constraints of wheat crops in southern Australia. Discussion is presented on soil pH, nutrient availability, salinity and sodicity, tools and calculators for soil amendment, as well as methods for diagnosis and management of subsoil constraints.


The DIAGNOSE tool provides constraint diagnosis through a ‘LUCID key’. This tool uses observations about an underperforming crop and shortlists likely underlying constraints based on this data. It does not rely on technical terms or require users to be familiar with the details of each constraint. Each constraint, such as stripe rust in wheat, has an information page that provides short-form summary information and links to key resources on identification, cause and management of the constraint. As part of the national initiative, the basis of the wheat and canola tools was developed by initiative project partner DAFWA, and then customised for southern region agronomic conditions.

Early users reported the ready identification of Beet Western Yellows Virus (BWYV) through use of the canola DIAGNOSE tool during the 2014 season. Early and accurate diagnosis of crop constraints will add value to the grains industry by efficiently informing constraint management approaches.


Economic considerations of constraint management are explored through the OPTION$ page. Users can test different management actions, for example applying different fungicides, against the default ‘do nothing’ option. An economic analysis of likely net return of each option and preferred option is presented. Accompanying videos explore concepts such as risk and sunk cost as well as ‘economic considerations’ highlighting management practices that may manage risk into the future. Preventing a green bridge to reduce stripe rust disease pressure in following seasons is an example. These tools can provide an opportunity to start risk management and farm economics discussions with clients – underpinning ongoing enterprise viability.

The example below (Figure 1) indicates the likelihood of exceeding a certain income level under nil, cost-efficient (Mix 1) and effective (Mix 2) spray approaches for stripe rust in wheat. Note that the higher cost, but effective approach is the preferred option in higher yielding seasons as the additional yield supports the higher spray cost. Should the seasonal outlook become drier, and potential yield become reduced, re-running the model with a different yield range will refine the economic outlook of future control choices.

Figure 1. Example stripe rust management scenario: early wheat crop modelled on a wide yield range of 1 to 5 t/ha with an expected price of $200/t.

Figure 1. Example stripe rust management scenario: early wheat crop modelled on a wide yield range of 1 to 5 t/ha with an expected price of $200/t. Comparison of Option$ modelling of net income likelihood under a single spray (Mix 1, $20/ha) versus program spray (Mix 2, $60/ha) versus nil treatment. Note the crossover of treatment plots at $180 – indicating where a low yielding outcome fails to support high input strategy.


The EXPLORE function presents key information resources in browseable and searchable form. The Victorian Government’s Crop Disease Manual and a unique set of nutrient review articles are available online for the first time. Additionally, the EXPLORE function provides a customised search portal to find recent and evidence-based information from trusted sources.

Agronomist toolkit

A rich resource for all advisors – the Agronomist Toolkit is especially valuable for early career agronomists. Key online and app-based resources are organised into pre-crop and in-crop sections, and then by agronomic themes of nutrition, disease, weeds and pests – it is a fast-track to finding useful and trusted tools and information.


CropPro is a resource for the southern region grains industry to streamline the diagnosis, management and economic decision making associated with crop constraints. Early users indicate that many have and will continue to use CropPro to confirm their own diagnosis of crop constraints, while others will employ the Diagnose tool as primary diagnosis approach.

Agronomist Toolkit has been highlighted by users as great resource for new and training agronomists. Universities and TAFEs have indicated that CropPro will become part of their teaching and learning approach. This will feed the grains advisory sector with new graduates familiar with this ready resource – an embedded ability to check their approach and learn on-the-job. 

Contact details

Chris Pittock

Grains Services Branch, Farm Services, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria

0458 620 759