Transcript: FACEing the future
Dr Glenn Fitzgerald:
What we study here is we look at wheat and field pea under a range of environments. We've studied wheat for three years, and now we've followed that with a wheat and field pea rotation system for two seasons. The environments we've created include two levels of irrigation. We've had different levels of nitrogen and different times of sowing as well in the mix. We do that to understand the response of crops under this range of environments and in future conditions to be able to understand better what the agricultural systems will do.
We look at yield, grain quality, nutrition, pest and disease dynamics, and nitrogen cycling in order to understand how we can adapt the future elevated CO2 in order to maintain quality in yield.
What we've found to date is on average across all of our different environments we've seen an increase in yield of about 25% for both the field pea and the wheat. We had a second site up in Walpeup - which is a hotter, drier location - for a couple of years and we actually saw a stimulation of 50% or more in terms of the yield increase in wheat there. We also have seen reductions in wheat grain protein content, although for the field pea, which is a legume, we see no change in protein content. And those sorts of results really have big implications for future agriculture production in Australia, as well as human nutritional aspects.
We also have seen changes in the nutrient cycling. For example, nitrogen uptake increased by 25% and that has some implications for future nitrogen management, in terms of do we add more fertiliser or do we put it in a rotation system with legumes like we're doing here in AGFACE.
Another major aspect of the work is crop modelling where we actually use that to predict across the landscape and into the future what the effects of CO2 will be on the crop. And that then allows us to take our results here at Horsham, in one location, and extrapolate across the landscape. And from that we've been able to learn that under different temperature regimes and different rainfall patterns, looking into the future, we will probably have to select for a longer season cultivars, as well as similar sowing dates to later times in the year in order to maintain yields and quality under future conditions.
So where do we go from here? Well, we want to look at the rotation system to understand nitrogen fixation and the nitrogen dynamics in the crop and that takes several more years of research to accomplish. Ultimately, all of this research goes to inform the farming industry, the grains industry, to be able to adapt to future elevated carbon dioxide, and be able to maintain our yields and our grain quality. So hopefully that’s taught you a little bit more today about what we're doing here in the AGFACE project.
The AGFACE is a joint project with the University of Melbourne and is partially funded by the Grains Research Development Corporation.