Drought and farming

CSIRO research is assisting farmers with technologies and tools to manage during periods of drought.

Drought is a constant threat for Australian farmers. Increasing pressure on water resources means farmers have to be constantly aware of how much water their crops use and how to get the most out of what water is available.

Salinity and drought have focussed attention on one of the greatest challenges facing Australia – the need to develop farming systems better suited to our unique environment.

CSIRO's research focusses on best practice technologies such as:

  • precision agriculture and spatial modelling tools
  • developing drought tolerant plants
  • developing new cropping practices.

Precision agriculture and spatial modelling tools

CSIRO’s collaborative Pastures from Space project uses daily satellite information to estimate pasture biomass and delivers this information to farmers’ computers. This is 97 per cent accurate and can be used in dry conditions to enable farmers to make informed decisions on the sustainable management of their feed resources.

Drought tolerant plants

In particular CSIRO is looking at different ways to breed drought tolerant and water efficient crop varieties.

Using Delta Carbon Technology to identify plants that use water more efficiently, CSIRO has bred the wheat variety "Drysdale" that yields at least five per cent more than other varieties under dry conditions.

Drought tolerance is a complex biological trait with many genes involved in using water efficiently. CSIRO is identifying the genes involved in improving water use efficiency to help speed up the breeding of drought tolerant crop varieties.

As well as identifying useful genes, CSIRO is unraveling the biological mechanisms that plants use to conserve water to identify other ways to improve drought tolerance.

Livestock producers using decision support software in their animal breeding enterprises can benefit from incorporating water and cropping management tools.

New cropping practices

CSIRO is also helping farmers to manage water resources on their farms by developing user-friendly decision support tools. They are researching different crop and pasture management techniques for best conserving water in different regions.

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