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Record Wheat Yield Raises Bar for Queensland Irrigators

02 April 2012

AUSTRALIA - Queensland's highest recorded wheat yield was achieved on the Darling Downs last year thanks to new management guidelines from CSIRO.

Grown under irrigation by the Bligh Family at Brookstead, the 8 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) crop showed that irrigated wheat crops are starting to reach their full potential in north-eastern Australia.

Allan Peake, a CSIRO agronomist who led the GRDC funded ‘Achievable Yields’ research project, said this result follows a disastrous season in 2008 which slowed widespread irrigated wheat production.

"In 2008 we experienced a grain-price spike that encouraged irrigated farmers to grow large areas of wheat under irrigation for the first time," Mr Peake said.

"Unfortunately the crops in Queensland and Northern NSW realised yields of between 4 and 6 t/ha, when 7 to 8 t/ha had been anticipated. The yields were low because of widespread lodging (where plants fall over), which caused over $20 million in losses to the 2008 irrigated wheat crop," he said.

The Achievable Yields project has set a new benchmark for high yielding wheat crops and created a set of management guidelines for growing wheat successfully in Queensland and Northern NSW.

"To achieve high yields like this record crop, growers need to use ‘canopy management’ techniques to avoid lodging," Mr Peake said.

"When the young crop grows too well, the crop becomes very dense. This means the wheat plants compete for light and grow taller than they need to be, making their stems and root systems weaker, and more likely to fall over."

Correct timing of Nitrogen fertiliser application is a key factor in preventing lodging. Mr Peake recommends that growers should not apply all of their Nitrogen fertiliser before the crop is sown, but instead apply it later in the growing season when the crop really needs it.

Choice of variety is also critical, with growers advised to sow quick-maturing, lodging resistant varieties, rather than the longer-season varieties that growers often favour for dryland wheat production.

TheCropSite News Desk

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