Huge peanut profits await closing of 'yield gap'
Clear potential to double peanut yields is driving research efforts to close the gap between current and possible outcomes.
Kingaroy Farming Systems Institute principal agronomist, Graeme Wright, is heading up the research and advisory team for a project aiming to help growers boost peanut yields by 2 t/ha through improved agronomic practices. Dr Wright said current peanut yields in the State's high irrigation areas are a third to a half of the yields that current varieties have shown in experimental plots and on leading farms.
Growers would receive a net total benefit of around $38 million a year if the 13,000 hectares of irrigated peanut production area achieved the full genetic yield potential of existing varieties. More realistically, the project hopes to achieve a yield increase of 2 t/ha across the irrigated peanut industry within three to five years, bringing around $13.5 million in net benefits to existing irrigated growers.
"Intake figures from the Peanut Company of Australia (PCA) show that commercial yields of 2-4 t/ha are common for current commercial varieties, while experimental and leading grower yields can exceed 7-8 t/ha," Dr Wright said. "Two to 3 t/ha is unsatisfactory and results from poor agronomy while 5-6 t/ha can be achieved using better agronomy."
Major reasons for poor yields appear to be associated with inadequate plant stands, sub-optimal irrigation management and late-season disease such as white mould and late leaf spot
Dr Wright estimated that disease problems could be responsible for around 10 per cent of the 'yield gap', inadequate plant stands (15 per cent), poor crop nutrition (10 per cent), irrigation management (20 per cent), harvest management particularly in wet harvests (15 per cent), poor rotations (20 per cent) and weed management (10 per cent).
The research team is targeting Queensland's four major high-irrigation peanut production areas — Texas/Inglewood, Coominya and Central and North Queensland. The research will be carried out through broad industry focus groups and will involve on-farm trials and the use of decision support tools like APSIM Peanut.
"While the price structure for peanuts provides excellent premiums for nut quality, high yields remain the best guarantee of improved crop returns," Dr Wright said.
Program 2.4.1 Contact: Dr Graeme Wright 07 4160 0700