With farm profitability being key, farmers cannot afford to miss out on yield in good years by having a “yield gap” of up to 40 % between potential and actual yields in many shires across Australia.

To investigate this yield gap Ag Consulting Co’s Stefan Schmitt is involved in local paddock monitoring as part of an Australia-wide project to learn more about yield gaps.

Funded by The Grains Research and Development Corporation “The National Paddock Survey” began last year, with the aim of finding reasons for the yield gap.

Paddocks surrounding the 12 Mile at Curramulka and on Pine Forest Road, near Paskeville, were among 250 selected for the study, which will continue until 2018.

Stefan said the locations were tested comprehensively in high-yielding and low-yielding zones before seeding and were soil sampled postharvest to work out the change in nutrient and water balance.

“Other work includes collating data such as yield maps, grain quality, fertiliser applications and herbicide applications since 2012. We have installed rain gauges as well as loggers to monitor temperature during flowering,” he said.

Each paddock was monitored at Growth Stage 30 and at flowering to check for pests, weeds and disease.

Stefan Schmitt said there will be numerous benefits from the research for farmers, consultants and science partners.

“The project was brought about through findings in the Victorian Mallee where 20 years of analysis comparing potential yield with actual yield, found an average yield gap of 20 percent,” he explained.

Key observations in the Mallee included variation of the yield gap between seasons, with smaller yield gaps in dryer years and higher yield gaps in wetter seasons.

Stefan said the aim is to learn how to close the yield gap in wetter seasons without significantly increasing risk to cropping systems.