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Grain Study Maps Potential to Nearly Double Australian Wheat Harvest

A global map of world grain production created by researchers at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has found that Australian farmers have the potential to produce twice as much wheat as they currently do.

Assuming best management practices and no pest issues, researchers used data from soil maps and over 4,000 weather stations in grain growing regions to forecast simulated crop yields.

"The potential for the wheat crop is determined by mainly the weather, the soil type and of course the management," CSIRO researcher Zvi Hochman said.

Taking into account a 15 year time span for all of Australia, the average potential wheat yield was found to be 3.35 tons per hectare, compared to the actual current average yield of 1.74 tons per hectare, according to information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and ABARES, indicating that although a doubling of output every year is unrealistic, the potential is there for a significant increase.

"There are reasons, both economic and logistic, why you can't actually achieve the full potential every year”, says Dr. Hochman to ABC, “but our best farmers will achieve 75 to 80 per cent of yield potential, so there is still a big gap between that 80 per cent and what is being achieved.”

Taking the average value of wheat, estimated to be $250 per ton, multiplied by the area of wheat acreage in Australia of 27.5 million hectares, researchers found that the industry is losing up to $6.5 billion in potential income by not achieving its best yields.

The team suspects that the answer lies in getting a number of small production factors right in order to close the gap and is moving to decipher the steps farmers can take to increase production and realize latent potential.

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