Crop production in the high rainfall zones of southern Australia - potential, constraints and opportunities

H. Zhang, Neil Turner, M.L. Poole, N. Simpson

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    Annual cropping has been expanding in the high rainfall zone of southern Australia. The higher rainfall and longer growing season compared with the traditional wheatbelt contribute to a much higher yield potential for major crops. Potential yields range from 5 to 8 t/ ha for wheat and 3 to 5 t/ ha for canola, although current crop yields are only about 50% of those potentials. The large yield gap between current and potential yields suggests that there is an opportunity to lift current yields. Both genetic constraints and subsoil constraints such as waterlogging, soil acidity, sodicity, and high soil strength contribute to the low yields. Waterlogging is a widespread hidden constraint to crop production in the region. Controlling waterlogging using a combination of raised beds and surface or subsurface drains is the first step to raise the productivity of the land. Increasing root growth into the subsoil remains a key to accessing more water and nutrients for high yield through early planting, deep ripping, liming and use of primer crops to ameliorate the subsoil. In order to realise the high yield potential, it is essential to achieve higher optimum dry matter at anthesis and high ear number through agronomic management, including early sowing with appropriate cultivars, a high seeding rate and application of adequate nitrogen along with other nutrients. Current cultivars of spring wheat may not fully utilise the available growing season and may have genetic limitations in sink capacity that constrain potential yield. Breeding or identification of long- season milling wheat cultivars that can fully utilise the longer growing season and with the ability to tolerate waterlogging and subsoil acidity, and with disease resistance, will give additional benefits. It is concluded that improving crop production in the high rainfall zone of southern Australia will require attention to overcoming soil constraints, particularly waterlogging, and the development of longer- season cultivars.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1035-1049
    JournalAustralian Journal of Experimental Agriculture
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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