Modelling suggests high yields

Kate MatthewsCountryman

WA wheat yields are looking promising this season, according to Yield Prophet modelling data which is forecasting crops reaching up to 5.5t/ha.

The model has been used for several seasons in the northern Wheatbelt and is being tested this year in the south.

It's aimed at giving wheat growers a more accurate prediction of yield potential throughout the season and measures soil moisture and nitrogen.

Planfarm Geraldton agronomist Cameron Weeks has been using Yield Prophet with farmers involved in the Northern Agri Group, which covers Northampton, Binnu to Yuna.

Modelling generated in August showed a 50 per cent probability of yields reaching 3.5t/ha at a site in Northampton, 4.1t/ha at a loamy soil site in Balla and 3.6t/ha on Balla sand and 2.8t/ha at a shallow loam site in Ajana.

Mr Weeks said besides helping farmers make decisions on nitrogen application, Yield Prophet provided growers a better estimate of yields if they were looking to forward contract.

The North East Farming Futures Group has also been using the modelling, which indicated a 100 per cent probability of yields reaching 2 to 3t/ha in Perenjori and Morawa, including 4t/ha at one site in Morawa.

Full Flag Agronomics consultant Simon Teakle said four of the sites in each area were modelled last year but were overestimated.

Yields were forecast to reach 1.2 to 1.3t/ha but went as low as 0.9t/ha to 1.3t/ha.

"The same sites this year are expected to yield double," Mr Teakle said.

"The information is valuable but there needs to be more work on soil characterisation to increase the model's accuracy. In Perenjori, 10 soils have been characterised but there needs to be two to three times that amount and the same number for Morawa."

In the Central Agricultural Zone, there is an 80 per cent chance of wheat yielding site specific 1.8t/ha in Corrigin, 2.3 to 2.6t/ha in Wickepin, 3.1t/ha in Tincurrin, 2.4t/ha in Tarin Rock and 3t/ha in Nyabing.

Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) Yield Prophet operations manager Keith Devenish said 30 sites had been set up across the Central and Great Southern agricultural regions this year.

"With a dry start, most sites were forecast to yield 1.2 to 1.8t/ha and have now been increased to 1.8 to 3t/ha," he said.

The model is showing a direct correlation between growing season rainfall and yield and has helped farmers with nitrogen rates.

"This season, a lot of farmers involved in the project were able to save money by not applying additional nitrogen," Mr Devenish said.

On the South Coast, the model predicts an 80 per cent chance of yields reaching 5/ha at Tenterden, 4.6t/ha at South Stirling, 2.5t/ha at Woogenellup and 5.5t/ha at Green Range.

Grower group Stirling to Coast Farmers has taken the lead and sourced funding for its own research with help from DAFWA Albany development officer Jeremy Lemon.

"Some yields along the South Coast may seem high but a high level of paddock management is required to achieve this yield," Mr Lemon said.

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