Climate change to blame for flatlining wheat yield gains says CSIRO
Research undertaken by CSIRO is claiming that Australia’s wheat productivity has flatlined as a direct result of climate change.
Although 2016 saw a new National wheat harvest record, the findings indicate that this result masks a worrying trend.
While the wheat yields tripled between 1900 and 1990, growth has stagnated over the next 25 years…
A CSIRO study which monitored 50 sites across Australia’s wheat zone between 1990 and 2015 found that climate change was the clear cause of the decline, even after the bumper 2016 figures were included.
Average temperature increased by more than 1 degree within the crop growing period over 26 years with rainfall declining by about 72mm or 28%.
A spokesman from CSIRO said the team considered other factors that could have shared the blame, like investment in research and development, changing patterns of land use and soil fertility.
However, all of these could be ruled out: investment in R&D were stable, changing land use patterns should have favoured wheat production and soil management improved as farmers adopted new techniques such as zero-til.
The study also found that wheat growers made significant productivity gains over the 26 year study period. However instead of translating to improved yields, the research team found these gains cancelled out the negative climate changes.
If climate change continues as observed at these research sites, productivity gains may no longer be able to compensate for the decline.
This is unfortunate given that the world demand for food is increasing and for farmers to benefit from these growing markets could be in doubt.
A CSIRO senior research scientist expects that some may eventually move out of grain growing, choosing livestock or other options, as climatic conditions decline.
Other farmers in the more favourable parts of the wheat growing areas, will continue to do quite well, but there appears to be an overall negative trend.
Even with the 2016 anomaly the trend line remained statistically sound even after this record year was factored in. “There is a difference between weather and climate”, it was stated,” don’t expect to see many more years like last year in the next 26 years”.
Post by RFCS WA Counsellor Robyn Lewis
Taken from ABC Rural (ABC News Corp) Thursday 9.3.17. (uploaded on twitter)