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Rainfall-yield relationships across the Australian wheatbelt

Stephens, D.J. and Lyons, T.J. (1998) Rainfall-yield relationships across the Australian wheatbelt. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 49 (2). pp. 211-224.

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A network of rainfall stations was selected across the Australian wheatbelt and monthly rainfall regressed with wheat yields from the surrounding shires for the period 1976-87. Yields were found to be strongly related to fluctuations in total rainfall amount and the seasonal distribution of rainfall through the year. These temporal relationships vary spatially and appear to be regulated by the water-holding capacity of regional soils. Sixteen agrometeorological zones were defined with similar rainfall-yield relationships. In all these, autumn rains that permit an early sowing, and finishing rains after July, are most important for higher yields. As the rainfall distribution becomes more winter-dominant, both crop yield variability and the usefulness of high winter rainfall decreases. Heavy rainfall in the month after sowing can have a negative effect in southern Australia, as plants are more prone to suffer potential yield losses from a wet soil profile. Waterlogging has a large negative effect in the south-west of Western Australia, such that the rainfall distribution can be more important than the rainfall amount. Rainfall-yield correlations are generally more positive in drier regions, and are enhanced by persistent rainfall anomalies between April and November during El Niño Southern Oscillation years.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: CSIRO
Copyright: © CSIRO 1998
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