We've been working with the Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) to develop and support Yield Prophet®, a web-based decision-support tool for grain growers. Yield Prophet® is built on the farming systems model Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM).

Using Yield Prophet® to match crop inputs to attainable yields

Yield Prophet® is an online crop production model that provides grain growers and consultants with paddock-specific yield forecasts as well as crop growth and resource information.

Yield Prophet® acts as an interface to the crop production model APSIM incorporating soil test results, growing season rainfall, crop management and historic climate data to provide accurate and objective real-time assessments of seasonal yield potential.

Using the grower's own soil test data, it estimates the probabilities of a specific paddock obtaining a range of yields. By matching crop inputs with the attainable yield in a given season, growers may avoid over- or under-investing in their crop.

All major varieties of wheat, barley and sorghum, are supported as well as, to a lesser extent, canola and oats.

Soil test data for the paddock – an essential input

Soil test information is an essential input, allowing Yield Prophet® to simulate root growth and determine what resources are available to the crop.

Crop details required are the type and amount of starting stubble, sowing date, crop type, cultivar and sowing density.

Yield Prophet® uses the past 100 years of climate data (maximum and minimum temperature, radiation, evaporation and vapour pressure) for the Bureau of Meteorology weather station nominated by the grower.

During the season, the grower can optionally enter rainfall for an individual paddock. They can also update paddock management details (cultivations, applications of nitrogen fertiliser, irrigation) as they occur.

Interpreting the yield probability curve

A yield-probability curve is the main output of Yield Prophet®. Growers can see the likely impact of different sowing dates, varieties, and irrigation and nitrogen applications by choosing different 'scenarios'.

Using the probability curve generated for each scenario, Yield Prophet® estimates the probability of achieving a higher (or lower) yield as a result of adding water or nitrogen, sowing on a different date or sowing a different variety. It can also estimate gross margin based on the predicted grain quality and price.

Yield Prophet® Lite

A free version of the platform, called Yield Prophet® Lite , has been launched to give new users unfamiliar with digital agriculture tools the ability to trial its benefits. A simplified feature set allows farmers to predict the probability of yields for a variety of common crops by inputting common variables such as nitrogen and organic carbon content in soil, and comparing against historical rainfall and the forecast probability. Yield Prophet® Lite is available to download from the Apple App Store .

How a South Australian grain grower saved A$20,000 using Yield Prophet®

(This is an excerpt from Managing Climate Change in Australia FARMER'S STORIES [PDF, 216KB] )

After saving $20,000 by holding onto their crop for grain despite the drought, Bill and Jeanette Long are more confident about using Yield Prophet®.

Late winter was dry and by late September, it was clear that yields would be disappointing.

"Many of the growers in the region cut grain crops for hay," says Bill. "This cashes in on the good crop growth made with the early rains and offsets the risk of not getting the rain needed for a decent grain yield."

"But there is a trade-off. Grain fetches a higher price per tonne than hay, so if we make the wrong choice we could lose out."

Bill’s gut feel was to cut some of his crop for hay. He decided to check his intuition with Yield Prophet®, an online computer model that estimates crop yields under different climate scenarios.

Yield Prophet® predicted that Bill's wheat would still achieve significant grain yields. Given skyrocketing prices for wheat with the national drought, Bill decided not to cut hay.

"I'm glad I followed Yield Prophet®," says Bill. "It's fantastic—having access to this kind of science to check against your gut feel is just invaluable."

Partners

Yield Prophet® is funded by the BCG (the Birchip Cropping Group), with added support from CSIRO, the Grains Research & Development Corporation and the national Managing Climate Variability program.

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