Climate Change Has Stalled Australia’s Wheat Yields

Australia experienced almost triple the yield in wheat in the first 90 years of the 20th century, but 1990 did not fare as well. Since 1990, there has been a dangerous decline in Australia’s wheat production, and climate change is being blamed for this.

The global temperature rise and lesser rainfall have damaged the yields of Australian Wheat producers over the years. As the climate continues to change, there is a drastic effect on the wheat farmers and the Australian economy.

The lesser yield also poses a threat to global food security. Australia’s wheat industry is worth more than $5 billion per annum and is one of the most valuable crops for the Australian people and the government. Statistics have shown that the global food production needs to be increased at least by 60% to sustain it by 2050. With Australia being one of the largest wheat producers, exporters are starting to worry that the yield might be dangerously lower in 20 years.

The good news amongst all this is that farmers have found alternative ways to improve farming practices despite the poor conditions, but the dangerous question is; how long can they keep this up? The stabilized yields are being produced now, but in the distant future, alternative ways might not work when the conditions worsen.

Increasing change

Looking at yields from 1990-2015, the yields have remained the same, but potential yields have declined. The number has gone from 4.4 ton per hectare to 3.2 ton per hectare. Potential yields are determined by a number of factors:

  • Soil type
  • Weather
  • Sustainable best practice
  • Genetic potential

Secondary factors that affect yields include:

  • Economic considerations
  • Farmer knowledge
  • Attitude to risk

Australia has seen serious potential yield decline, but the trend seems to be inconsistent with different geographical locations. Some areas have been able to keep their yield similar for over a decade; others have seen a huge decline as large as 100kg per hectare.

Australia has weather stations monitoring their wheat growing areas, and according to analysis of the data collected by these stations, the rain falling on Australian crops has declined by about 2.8mm per season which is about 28% and the average temperature of these areas has risen about 1.05℃.

Studying the Australian wheat yields, it has become clearer that climate change is a bigger threat than perceived previously. A force that can threaten the production of food is something that needs to be addressed immediately. Greenhouse gases have raised the temperature of the earth and there are other countries such as Brazil and India which have seen a changing trend in their yields and crop production as well.

Agricultural research and development is important, but preventing further climate change should also be among the top priorities of all countries to prevent the damaging of further yields. A global awareness about the adverse effects of climate change needs to be created so that each country can work towards a better future for the Earth and its inhabitants.