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31 May 2016 The history of using rainfall data to improve production in the grain industry in Australia—from Goyder to ENSO
Derek Yates, R. Willem Vervoort, Budiman Minasny, Alex McBratney
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Rainfall is a major driver for dryland wheat yields across Australia. Many authors have covered issues such as rainfall trends in Australia, and much of this information has been reviewed and updated in recent years in relation to the Millennium drought and associated concerns about climate change. However, despite a long history of work relating rainfall to grain yields, there has been no overall historical review of attempts at predictive methods and their reliability. Although many of these attempts have now been abandoned or revised, and science has moved in different directions, a review is useful to identify historical patterns and to recognise recurring themes. This might lead to new science questions and a re-appreciation of older findings. The aim of this study is therefore to review the overall literature on this topic, provide a historical timeline, and summarise the achievements and any remaining research questions.

The early use of climatic data in Australia was to categorise existing and likely areas for production, with production, not surprisingly, being the emphasis. The search for a crop or climatic index was possibly initiated in an attempt to understand or simplify the complex relationships between crops and the environment. No single index has proved universally applicable, but some acceptance of early growing-season rains as an indicator seems common. The development of complex climatic models, and the availability of quality data for agricultural systems models, has allowed further quantification of the relationship between crops and climate, especially on a seasonal basis. There is little doubt that the relationship between the climatic southern oscillation phenomenon and seasonal rainfall patterns in Australia is important, but its absolute definition remains elusive.

From a producer’s perspective, relationships between rainfall at specific (indicator) periods and seasonal or annual rainfall, as appropriate to specific crops, would be useful simple indicators because many farmers already maintain their own rainfall records.

© CSIRO 2016
Derek Yates, R. Willem Vervoort, Budiman Minasny, and Alex McBratney "The history of using rainfall data to improve production in the grain industry in Australia—from Goyder to ENSO," Crop and Pasture Science 67(5), 467-479, (31 May 2016).
Received: 16 February 2015; Accepted: 1 November 2015; Published: 31 May 2016
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