Agronomic options for improving rainfall-use efficiency of crops in dryland farming systems

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    Yields of dryland (rainfed) wheat in Australia have increased steadily over the past century despite rainfall being unchanged, indicating that the rainfall-use efficiency has increased. Analyses suggest that at least half of the increase in rainfall-use efficiency can be attributed to improved agronomic management. Various methods of analysing the factors influencing dryland yields and rainfall-use efficiency, such as simple rules and more complex models, are presented and the agronomic factors influencing water use, water-use efficiency, and harvest index of crops are discussed. The adoption of agronomic procedures such as minimum tillage, appropriate fertilizer use, improved weed/disease/insect control, timely planting, and a range of rotation options, in conjunction with new cultivars, has the potential to increase the yields and rainfall-use efficiency of dryland crops. It is concluded that most of the agronomic options for improving rainfall-use efficiency in rainfed agricultural systems decrease water losses by soil evaporation, runoff, throughflow, deep drainage, and competing weeds, thereby making more water available for increased water use by the crop.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2413-2425
    JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
    Issue number407
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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