Optimising grain yield and grazing potential of crops across Australia’s high-rainfall zone: a simulation analysis. 1. Wheat Academic Article uri icon


  • Interest is growing in the potential to expand cropping into Australia’s high-rainfall zone (HRZ). Dual-purpose crops are suited to the longer growing seasons in these environments to provide both early grazing for livestock and later regrow to produce grain. Grain yield and grazing potential of wheats of four different maturity types were simulated over 50 years at 13 locations across Australia’s HRZ, and sowing date, nitrogen (N) availability and crop density effects were explored. Potential grazing days on wheat were obtained by simulating sheep grazing crops to Zadoks growth stage Z30 at 25 dry sheep equivalents (DSE)/ha. Optimal sowing dates for each maturity type at each location were matched to the flowering window during which risk of frost and heat stress was lowest. Overall, we found significant national potential for dual-purpose use of winter wheat cultivars across Australia’s HRZ, with opportunities identified in all regions. Simulated mean wheat yields exceeded 6 t/ha at most locations, with highest mean grain yields (8–10 t/ha) in southern Victoria, and lower yields (5–7 t/ha) in the south-west of Western Australia (WA) and central and northern New South Wales (NSW). Highest grazing days were from winter cultivars sown early (March–mid-April), which could provide 1700–3000 DSE-days/ha of grazing across HRZ locations; this was 2–3 times higher than could be obtained from grazing spring cultivars (200–800 DSE-days/ha). Sowing date was critical to maximise both grazing and grain yield potential from winter cultivars; each 1-week delay in sowing after 8 March reduced grazing by 200–250 DSE-days/ha and grain yield by 0.45 t/ha. However, in Mediterranean climates, a lower frequency of early sowing opportunities before mid-April (<30% of years) is likely to limit the potential to use winter cultivars. Prospects to graze shorter season spring cultivars that fit later sowing windows require further examination in south-west WA, the slopes of NSW and southern Queensland.


  • Bell, LW
  • Lilley, JM
  • Hunt, JR
  • Kirkegaard, JA

publication date

  • 2015