Crop performance data from hundreds of paddocks across Australia’s grain belt is being gathered to help growers close the ‘yield gap’ and maximise farm profitability.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation is funding the National Paddock Survey initiative, which aims to determine the difference between actual yield and potential yield (the yield gap) and provide growers with tools and resources to enable them to close the gap.
The National Paddock Survey is a joint project led by Birchip Cropping Group in association with CSIRO (the major science partner), farming systems groups and agronomic consultants in the southern, western and northern cropping regions.
Crop performance data will be collected throughout the cropping cycle (pre-sowing to harvest) on two production zones in 250 paddocks nationally and correlated to plant water use.
This data will be used to identify the major constraints to production in different regions and soil types.
The project began this year with sorghum summer crops in the north, and then expanded to include winter crops as well. It is due for completion in 2018.
Project leader and BCG consultant Harm van Rees said the National Paddock Survey was about growers ‘‘trying to get a grip on how big the yield gap is’’.
‘‘There’s a very good reason why farmers need to know what the yield gap is — we are now getting very close to being able to grow as much grain as we can for every millimetre of rainfall,’’ Mr van Rees said.
‘‘At the same time, the cost of production has gone up significantly, so identifying and closing the yield gap is more important than ever.’’
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, which may feature different yield constraints.
Two farmers who are taking part in the National Paddock Survey are brothers Peter and Ian Taylor, who own and operate a family farming enterprise at Lubeck in the Wimmera.
‘‘The National Paddock Survey is a good opportunity to improve the information we can bring to our farming business to give us our best yield opportunities,” Peter Taylor said.
‘‘We’ve had really good experiences with hosting on-farm trials over the years, which have proved beneficial to the farm.
‘‘We are happy to be part of this national program, not only to gain a better understanding of crop potential for our farm, but to be able to contribute information to other farmers in the community and around Australia.’’
The results of the National Paddock Survey are made available to participating growers online and in the form of annual reports.