Plan for major boost in crop yields in higher rainfall areas

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 5th March 2010

A $3million initiative to increase grain yields by two million tonnes in high rainfall areas of the Western Australian Wheatbelt was announced today by WA Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman.

Wheat - Source: NSW DPI - Alf Manciagli The ‘Bridging the Yield Gap’ initiative aims to overcome yield constraints for growers from Esperance through to Northampton whose properties receive more than 350mm of annual rainfall.

Mr Redman said average crop yields in these environments had been static at about 2.5 tonnes per hectare for the past 15 years, despite access to new disease resistant and higher yielding varieties. He said this initiative was about finding out why and how to overcome these barriers.

“This initiative is a huge shift in thinking and resources for the Department of Agriculture and Food. Previously, the department has focused on a component of the whole system – like soil acidity or herbicide resistance,” the Minister said.

“The Bridging the Yield Gap initiative is about looking at the entire picture. We need to look at traditional problems that hold farmers back like soils and plant physiology. But we also need to look at the people constraints – we need to understand what is holding our people back from adopting new technologies and new ways of doing business.”

The five-year program aims to lift grain production in higher rainfall environments closer to the water potential of the land by providing growers with information and solutions to address yield problems.

“Modelling in the past two years indicates better use of available rainfall could potentially deliver an extra two million tonnes of grain per year into the Western Australian grains industry, worth roughly $500million at today’s prices.”

The initiative will be a collaborative effort between growers, consultants, researchers and other stakeholders. The first 12 months of the program will focus on engaging stakeholders and identifying soils where there is the greatest potential to increase yield in sustainable ways.

During the coming year, the program will develop a web-based portal on the department’s website, specifically for growers and agribusiness in the high rainfall areas of the Wheatbelt.

“This portal will be a one-stop-shop for advice and information exchanges between growers, consultants and researchers, delivering timely agronomic information, research results and decision-making tools,” Mr Redman said.

“The department will provide advice on the latest technologies and how to tap into local knowledge to identify what works best.”

‘Bridging the Yield Gap’ is part of the department’s recently released Plan to Support Grains Industry Development and is among a number of initiatives to be announced which will underpin the future international competitiveness of the grains industry.

Further information about the initiative and more information on the Plans to Support Industry development are available from the department’s website