Management Practices and Profitability in a Mediterranean Environment

6192 words (25 pages) Essay in Environmental Studies

08/02/20 Environmental Studies Reference this

Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work produced by our Essay Writing Service. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Management Practices and profitability in a Mediterranean Environment: A case study in Cunderdin, Western Australia.

Contents

1. Introduction

2.2 Soil types and soil analysis

3.1.1Land preparation

3.3 Variety selection

3.4 Crop rotation

3.5 Seeding and basal fertilisers

3.6 Seed depth

3.6 Pest and Disease Control

3.6.1 Diseases

3.6.2 Control of both leaf and root diseases

3.6.3 Weeds

3.6.4 Control and management of problematic weeds

3.7 Fertiliser application

3.7.1 Nitrogen applications and yield predictions

4.Gross margin analysis………………………………………………………………………9

5. Summary of Key Recommendations

6. References

Appendix A

Prices for wheat

1.      Introduction

 

Wheat is the most important crop grown in Australia (Mehmood et al. 2014). Wheat accounts for 70 per cent of Western Australian cereal production and seven million tonnes are generated annually unde

r rain-fed conditions in an area of about four million hectares. More than 80 per cent of WA wheat is exported making $2 billion in annual export earnings for the State. Wheat crops are also good for rotations with other crops and they highlight the benefits of growing cereal crops in rotation with other species. Wheat crop is often rotated with pastures /legumes crops to provide diversity, soil fertility benefit and additional biomass (Anderson and Garlinge 2000).

Wheat is majorly produced in Western Australia in the wheat belt. Cunderdin is a town located in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia 156 km east of Perth, along the Great Eastern Highway (Wikipedia 2018). The farm area studied is in The Cunderdin college farm about 4063 hectares of which 2524 hectares are designated to arable and also support a range of standard and alternative farming enterprises ( cunderdin.edu.au).

Due to the nature of Australian soils. They are old and heavily weathered (ken 2018) and taking account of the importance of wheat to the economy of Western Australia and land as a limited resource finding a suitable way of producing wheat that will be environmentally sustainable while ensuring maximum profit for the farmers is very important. Nitrogen as a major soil nutrient that determines the yield of the crop in relation to the rainfall quantity and bearing in mind the cost versus yield is for each kg of nitrogen added to the soil.

The response of wheat to management practices especially nitrogen may differ in the response of the quantity and amount of rainfall at the time of application. It is important to determine the quantity of wheat that will give the highest yield and best profit margin considering that the farmer is in the farming business to make a profit and also the management practice that will also be needed to achieve this using a modelling package yield prophet  and even field trip to the farm in Cunderdin  . I am investigating the best method and the best management practice to grow a profitable wheat in Cunderdin

This trials also offer me a good understanding of how to grow a profitable wheat and also for a career in agriculture if serving a consultant or as an agronomist.

Other areas that are important that will also be checked in the study include

  • The response of wheat  to stresses, such as disease, drought, frost and soil constraints
  • predict  an accurate seasonal yield of wheat using Yield prophet
  • developing a good crop diagnostic and decision making skills
  • crop disease management and forecasting
  • Soil management and conservation and weed constraints.

2 Area of Study

2.1 Climate

The climate of Western Australia’s wheat belt is strongly influenced by the position of a band of high pressure known as the sub-tropical ridge. This site used for the study falls under south-western Australia, southern Western Australia has a dry-summer sub-tropical (Mediterranean) climate similar to the Mediterranean basin, south California, Chile and the western tip of Cape Province, South Africa. Weather patterns in these regions are dominated by the influence of the dry, subsiding air masses of the sub-tropical ridge. In summer, as the ridge moves poleward, the climate has the characteristics and consistency of the dry tropics; while in winter it features the unpredictability of weather from the passage of the cyclonic circulations and cold fronts embedded in the western lines. The three characteristics of all Mediterranean climates and expressed particularly strongly in south-western Australia are:

A concentration of the rainfall in the winter season, with the summers being nearly, or completely dry; Warm to hot summers and mild winter; and High solar radiation, especially in summer.

The most important climatic elements influencing wheat production are rainfall, solar radiation and temperature. These, both directly and indirectly (for example, through waterlogging and salinity) determine crop growth.

The average rainfall of decile 5( 308mm). Precipitation occurs from May to October; the hottest month is January while the coldest months are July and August. Average temperature ranges from 26.4°c to 10.4 °c and annual evapotranspiration of 1600mm (Bureau of Meteorology 2018).

Cunderdin climate summary including average minimum temperatures (°C), average maximum temperatures (°C) and average rainfall (mm).

Source: Bureau of Meteorology 2018

The 11-year mean temperature for 2007–2017 was the highest on record at 0.61 °C above average (Bureau of Meteorology 2018). Seven of Australia’s ten warmest years have occurred since 2005 ((Bureau of Meteorology 2018), and Australia has experienced just one cooler than average year in the last decade (2011) ( (Bureau of Meteorology 2018). Background warming associated with anthropogenic climate change has seen Australian annual mean temperature increase by approximately 1.1 °C since 1910.

The main natural climate drivers for Australia, namely the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), were in a neutral phase for most of the year ((Bureau of Meteorology 2018). However, there were cooler than average waters to Australia’s west and warmer than average waters to the east of Africa during the year. This created a strong temperature gradient across the Indian Ocean which favoured a drying influence on Australia.

These Climate forecasts indicate that Western Australia’s climate in the near-term will be so different from that of the past. Therefore, the need for farmers to adopt new farming practices to cope with the risks presented by climate variations. The use of climate model projections tools indicates a continued warming over the coming years and a reduction in winter or spring rainfall for south-east Western Australia. The anticipated warming and rainfall decline have a detrimental impact on the stream flow in the agricultural industry in Western Australia.

2.2 Soil types and soil analysis

 

Western Australia cropping soils are Ancient (Flower 2018). Weathering over time has leached the soil of minerals and clay from the topsoils leaving them sandy particles and chemically infertile (GRDC 2015). The Cunderdin College farm soil is alkaline red duplex (Xanthic Ferralsol) with a sandy clay loam texture with about 22 % clay and pH of 5.7 increasing with depth to 7.3. Calcium carbonates concretions are also visible below 40 cm (Flower K.C et al. 2017). The clay subsoil can store large amounts of water, but it has a weak structure, and small pores size makes the distribution of water difficult for crop roots to access the stored water. The soil at the site has changed when comparing the chemical analysis for 2007 to 2017; Organic carbon has increased from 0.98 % to 1.05 % due to different cultural practices. Therefore this will contribute to nutrient turnover, moisture retention and availability. Soil pH has also been stabilised to the required level for most plants ( between 5.5 to 8.5)

 ( see Table 1 ).

Table 1: Cunderdin soil analysis in 2017 and 2007

Soil analysis in 2017

Soil analysis in 2007

Nutrients

Unit

Depth 10 cm

Depth 20 cm

Depth 30 cm

Depth 10 cm

Depth 20 cm

Depth 30 cm

Nitrate-N

mg/kg

19

6

5

17

9

5

Ammonium-N

mg/kg

3

1

1

5

1

1

Phosphorus

mg/kg

45

14

8

29

10

6

Potassium

mg/kg

733

614

547

579

529

464

Sulphur

mg/kg

3.5

2.4

2.9

10.3

9.0

6.5

Organic carbon

%

1.05

0.72

0.65

0.98

0.63

0.54

Conductivity

dS/m

0.06

0.06

0.09

0.12

0.10

0.11

pH (CaCl2)

pH

5.7

6.7

7.3

6.6

7.1

7.7

pH (H2o)

pH

6.6

7.7

8.2

7.1

7.8

8.4

Cu- DTPA

mg/kg

1.08

0.84

0.92

0.99

1.01

1.19

Zn- DTPA

mg/kg

0.67

1.25

1.83

0.33

0.15

0.10

Mn- DTPA

mg/kg

30.01

10.58

6.11

24.99

11.44

7.26

Fe- DTPA

mg/kg

12.96

6.34

5.21

14.35

8.93

7.26

Total N

%

0.10

0..06

0.06

0.08

0.05

0.04

TOTAL C

%

1.00

0.63

0.73

Depth (10 cm = 0-10 cm)

Source: Flower 2018.

3.  Wheat Crop Management

3.1.1Land preparation

Zero tillage was used in land preparation this is because  Australian soils are ancient, weathered and fragile therefore most WA farmers sow wheat use the Zero-till method with no ripping of the land and less traffic to reduce compaction and retain more moisture(Anderson and Garlinge 2000).

The soil was improved with the stubble from the previous crop left after harvesting to decompose and replenish the soil organic carbon content ( AgriFutures 2017). No-till not only eliminates erosion it also helps in the efficient use of soil moisture. Herbicides predominantly control weeds, and most of the residue from the previous crop remains on the soil surface for moisture and soil conservation(Ashworth 2018).

The primary reason to apply lime is to correct high levels of acidity in the soil.  The soils are not acidic( pH ranges from 5.7 -7.3)  so agricultural lime is not used. Acidic soils reduce plant growth by inhibiting the intake of major plant nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

3.2 Time of Sowing

Sowing a wheat variety in April can help to optimise farm yields, increase farm area sown and reduce the risks of later season heat shocks across much of WA without significantly affecting frost risk. (GRDC2015 ) Sowing opportunities also differ between locations. To take advantage of moisture we sowed on the 18th of May 2018 and our potential maturity is on 7th of November 2018. Frosts during flowering may affect wheat yields if the sowing date of a variety doesn’t match its maturity. Also looking at past years of rainfall does not guarantee that the rainfall trend continues into the future but it can give us some idea of what might happen.

3.3 Variety selection

Chief CL wheat was selected for our Cunderdin site. Chief CL Plus is an APW-imi variety which was released in 2016. This variety is the highest yielding APW-imi variety in the NVT and had yields which were competitive with Mace in last year’s trials. This variety offers a potential imidazolinone wheat option on wheat stubble as the variety has good yellow spot resistance

 Its relative returns (gross margin) is $4.10 /tonne, excl GST.  The variety is useful for weedy paddocks (mainly bromegrass), and it is also susceptible to stripe rust (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development 2018).

3.4 Crop rotation

 

Wheat crop is best rotated with pastures /legume crops to provide diversity, soil fertility benefit and supplementary biomass (Anderson and Garlinge 2000). The rotation sequence usually includes wheat or another cereal crop grown in rotation with a broadleaved (non-cereal) eg Canola plant. The common broad-leaved plants are pasture, legumes and Brassica species. our Cunderdin site, they practice diverse rotation ( cereal-legume-brassica) to build healthy soils(Table ). The rotation includes canola, Albus lupin and then wheat for 2017, 2016, 2015 respectively. The main reason for diverse rotation is that it spreads, reduces weed seed bank, diseases and insect pests’ pressure because it allows for varied management choice but on simulation with some programs like RIM 2014. A rotation of wheat, barley, canola ten years have shown higher margin and lower seed weed bank

3.5 Seeding and basal fertilisers

 

Wheat varieties differ with seed weight. The larger the seed weight, the fewer seeds in each kilogram of grain. Subsequently, at lower seeding rates, there will be fewer seeds/m2 if the seed is large and this could result in a reduced yield potential(Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development 2018). The high planting rate of 81 kg/ha will reduce plants and weeds competition (calculation for seeding rate is shown below).

To calculate a seeding rate targeting a 2t/ha yield:

Seeding rate = plant density (number/m2) x seed weight (g/1000 seeds)/seeding efficiency (%)

Seed weight for Chief CL= 46 mg (46g/1000 seeds)

Target plant density= 150 plants/m2

seeding efficiency (establishment percentage) is 85 %

then target seeding rate is: (150 x 46)/85 = 81.176 kg/ha (GRDC 2015).  I will then buy 85 kg of seed so as to increase germination percentage.

3.6 Seed depth

 

Majority of current wheat varieties have a coleoptile index of 6-7 cm, therefore, seeding into moisture at 2-4 cm is preferred. Tine seeder was used at a row spacing of 25 cm as it provides the improved herbicides (trifluralin) incorporation and safety. It is also cheaper than disc seeder with less maintenance and can penetrate hard soil with easy therefore placing the seed at depth to reach moisture (Ashworth 2018). Seeding was done on the 18th of May, and the expected maturity date is 7th November taking into consideration pre-season soil moisture (2000 kg/ha of canola stubble) and the weather conditions.  

3.6 Pest and Disease Control

 

3.6.1 Diseases

Leaf diseases are a widespread phenomenon in Western Australian wheat crops. Their incidence, severity and impact vary across regions in response to management and seasonal climatic conditions (Anderson and Garlinge 2000). The central wheat leaf diseases present are yellow leaf spot (Pyrenophora tritici-repentis) and septoria nodorum blotch (Stagonospora nodorum) and are a constraint to wheat yields in Australia (Flower 2018). Other problematic diseases of concern are root rot disease; their impact varies across regions in response to management and seasonal conditions. The most prevalent root diseases at the site are crown rot (Fusarium pseudograminearum) and Rhizoctonia root rot (Rhizoctonia solani) while the main nematode is root lesion nematode (Pratylenchus neglectus). Crop rotation with canola has proven to be the agronomic practice to alleviate the disease problem(Anderson and Garlinge 2000).  

3.6.2 Control of both leaf and root diseases

 

Rotation is important in curbing inoculum levels. Management of these diseases consists of a combination of factors like cultural, agronomic and plant resistance. Fungicide use has become an additional management tool (Bhathal 2003). The benefits of crop rotation are well established, and the importance of using these ‘break crops’ to follow cereal crops has been emphasised (Flower 2017).  Chemically seed treatments can control seed-borne diseases, and long-acting seed dressings prevent the very early build-up of some diseases such as leaf spot. When disease levels increase in later crop stages, a single well-timed spray achieves the most profitable fungicide use. The optimum timing is mostly between flag leaf emergence and head emergence (Anderson and Garlinge 2000). Epoxiconazole at 125 g/L was applied but for higher disease risk situations can be applied at the 40 mL rate in coinciding with 30-60 mL applied in-furrow (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development 2018).

3.6.3 Weeds

 

Weeds impose one of the major expenses a farmer is always faced with. This is because they struggle with plants for available nutrients and soil moisture and also serve as host for diseases, therefore, applying appropriate control measures is important. The main weeds associated with winter wheat crop are annual ryegrass (Lolium rigidum), bromegrass (Bromus diandrus), barley grass (Hordeum leporinum), wild oats (Avena fatua) and wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum).

 

3.6.4 Control and management of problematic weeds

 

The progress of resistance in glyphosate in several weeds has placed improved trust in in-crop weed management. Various selective herbicides now with their resistance issues, there is far greater dependence on pre-emergent herbicides as well as growing reliance on numerous non-herbicide tactics to keep weed seedbanks in decline. Early weed control (within three weeks of germination) in the summer fallow will reduce inoculum levels and complement the moisture and nitrogen conservation benefits of summer weed control. Glyphosate-based herbicides provide a broad spectrum of weed control, can be tank mixed with other herbicides for enhanced knockdown of weeds that are hard to kill and are the relatively low cost (Anderson and Garlinge 2000). GRDC (2015) recommended the application of knockdown herbicide like glyphosate 450 g/L or paraquat/diquat 250 g/L, the full rate at an application rate of 1.5 L +water 0.1% /ha in 100 L of water to be  applied before seeding to kill emerged weeds have also proven to be effective. Pre-Emergent herbicides like trifluralin should follow this at a rate of 480 g/L (sometimes applied with triallate at 500 g/L or Avadex extra to control wild oats). The tri-allate is usually used to improve the control of ryegrass and wild oats. Sakura® 850 WG at 118 g/Ha is also another alternative as a pre-emergent herbicide on bread wheat (not durum wheat) for the control of annual ryegrass. Post-emergent herbicides like Diuron 4L at 300 g/ha or Tigrex are also a good option for control of grass and broadleaved weeds and applied with a boom spray or aircraft. MCPA amine at 750 g/L and Affinity Force was also used. The type of nozzle to be used is the 02 flat fan (air induction -AI 11002 VS-275 kPa) to minimise drift of the chemical. Weeds were in the 2-5 leaf stage, and the crop has at least 3 to 5 leaves on the main stem( Flag leaf stage). Crop and weeds were dry at the time of spraying based on a recommendation from (Flower 2017). Crop topping (spraying herbicide over the crop when near maturity, weed at milky/soft dough) will enhance harvest weed seed management.  To reduce weed seed bank, other management practices like swathing and seed harvesting will be done.

3.7 Fertiliser application

 

Proper fertilisation is essential to achieving maximum yield and quality of winter wheat. A compound fertiliser like Agstar zinc applied basally (N 13.9%, P 14.2 % S 9.0 %, CU 0.10 % and Zn 0.82) at a rate of 80–100 kg/ha. Most of western Australia soils lack zinc, so top dressing with a zinc fertiliser at a later stage will boost the yield, but the soil has sufficient amounts of potassium, so there is no need to add potassium. Topdressing with liquid urea ammonium nitrate (Flexi-N®) sprayed uniformly onto the crop at stem elongation stage at 40 L/ha ( Flower 2017). Fertiliser absorption is also determined by soil moisture especially for nitrogen

3.7.1 Nitrogen applications and yield predictions

 

Based on the yield prophet crop model 40 kg/ha of N should be applied and the expected average yield (30th – 70th percentile) of 2.4-2.6 t/ha. Agstar zinc (compound fertiliser) was

applied basally (N 13.9%, P 14.2 % S 9.0 %, CU 0.10 % and Zn 0.82) at a rate of 80–100 kg/ha and top dressing with (Flexi-N®) at stem elongation stage at 40 L/ha (Flower 2017). The compound fertiliser was incorporated during seeding on 18th May 2018 and then top dressed with liquid nitrogen on the 10th July 2018.  With the current weather conditions adding more nitrogen did not make a difference on the grain yield( Figure 6) as this was noticed in yield prophet. Consequently adding more nitrogen will result in a loss in profit margins.

4. Gross margin analysis

Every farmer is into farming to make profits. The projected yield and prices and cost of inputs for all the crop were taken into consideration while calculating or estimating the margin. The margin was calculated by dividing gross profit divided by total revenue and expressed as a percentage. The lower the expenses toward its cost of goods sold, the smaller the difference between gross profit and total revenue, and the higher the gross margin. Gross margin for wheat was calculated using the following formula [gross margin = income (yield × price) – variable costs]. Variable costs included seed, agro-chemicals, fuel and machinery repairs as well as insurance (Flower et al. 2017). From the yield prophet, the fig 4.1 below shows that the optimum Nitrogen for a crop is 2.65 per hectare that addition of more nitrogen does not increase the yield. Therefore for the farmer to optimise its cost and grain yield 2.65 is best. Fig 4.2 also confirmed the earlier statement that the new fertiliser does not result in a proportionate yield that the additional.

Fig 4.1

Figure 4.2: Cunderdin return (calculated as gross margin return (yield x price) – the cost of fertiliser)

Source: www.yieldprophet.com.au

 

 

 

 

Table 2: Gross margin Analysis for Cunderdin winter wheat 

Item

Unit

Quantity

Unit Price ($)

Total ($)

Wheat yield

t/Ha

2.6

345

Gross Income

 

897

Variable costs

 

Seeds

Kg

85

1000/tonne

85

Seed treatment 1

Kg

85

0.04

   3.40

Seed treatment 2

Kg

85

0.07

5.95

Fertilisers

 

Flexi N

L/Ha

16.896

0.63[1]

10.64

Agstar Zinc

kg/ha

80

675/tonne

54.00

Chemicals

 

Pre-emergence herbicide

 

Sakura 850 WG Herbicide

$/kg

118

340

40.12

Carfentrazone 400g/L

$/L

0.02

190

3.8

Glyphosate 540

$/L

1.2

6

7.2

Trifluralin

g/L

480

5.75

2.76

Triallate

g/L

500

9.58

4.79

Post-Emergence herbicide

 

Diuron

L

0.3

9.00

2.7

Affinity® Force

L

0.1

122.5

12.25

MCPA amine (750g/L)

L

0.33

8.75

2.89

Fungicides

 

Epoxiconazole 125g/L

L

0.5

17

8.5

Levies

 

GRDC Levies

%

1

728

7.28

EPR & state levies

$/tonne

3.5

2.6

9.10

Operation

 

Fuel & Oil

$/t

12.94

Repair & Maintenance

$/t

18.92

Freight

 

Grain

$

3.6

20

52

Fertiliser

$

0.166

20

2.80

Contract work

 

 

 

 

Insurance

$8.50/$1000

 

8.5

7.62

spraying

$14.00

 

14.00

Fertiliser spreader

$8.50/ha

 

8.50

Total Variable Costs

 

 

 

377.16

Gross margin/ha

 

 

 

519.84

Prices for wheat are on Appendix A.

5. Summary of Key Recommendations

Stubble retention provides the opportunity to improve Water Use Efficiency and hence crop performance significantly. Soil moisture is essential because it also helps in the take up of nitrogen by plants. Rotation also impacts on the yield of wheat. Cover crops should not be recommended to follow cash crops in a Mediterranean environment like Cunderdin (flower2107) rather canola is the best to precede a wheat (flower2017). For a profitable wheat crop, diverse rotation and 20kg of Nitrogen per hectare is ideal to ensure a good margin.

 6. References

 

Appendix A

 

Prices for wheat

Source: AWB Grain prices 2018


[1] The price was provided by Geraldton

In Flexi N: 32% and specific gravity 1.32 kg/l, V=0.32*1.32*40= 16.896 L/ha

Source: GRDC 2018.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Find out more

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have the essay published on the UK Essays website then please:

McAfee SECURE sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams Prices from
£124

Undergraduate 2:2 • 1000 words • 7 day delivery

Order now

Delivered on-time or your money back

Rated 4.6 out of 5 by
Reviews.co.uk Logo (188 Reviews)