Advertisement

Socio-psychological and management drivers explain farm level wheat yield gaps in Australia

  • Airong ZhangEmail author
  • Zvi Hochman
  • Heidi Horan
  • Javier Garcia Navarro
  • Bianca Tara Das
  • François Waldner
Research Article

Abstract

Achieving sustainable global food security for a rapidly growing world population is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Producing more food efficiently by closing the yield gaps is regarded as a promising solution to address this challenge without further expanding farming land. However, there is limited understanding of the causes contributing to yield gaps. The present study aimed to comprehensively examine three dimensions of the causes for the wheat yield gaps in Australia: farm management practices, farm characteristics and grower characteristics. Computer-assisted telephone interviews of 232 wheat producers from 14 contrasting local areas were conducted. The data collected on these three dimensions were used to develop a comprehensive framework to understand causes of yield gaps. Results reveal significant differences between farms with smaller yield gaps and those with greater yield gaps in relation to farming management as well as farm and grower characteristics. Findings further underline that farms with smaller yield gaps are likely to be smaller holdings growing less wheat on more favourable soil types, are more likely to apply more N fertiliser, to have a greater crop diversity, to soil-test a greater proportion of their fields, to have fewer resistant weeds, to adopt new technologies, and are less likely to grow wheat following either cereal crops or a pasture. They are more likely to use and trust a fee-for-service agronomist, and have a university education. The dynamic relationships between grower characteristics and farm management practices in causing yield gaps are further highlighted through a path analysis. This study is the first to demonstrate that yield gaps are the result of the intertwined dynamics between biophysical factors, grower socio-psychological characteristics and farm management practices. Socio-psychological factors not only directly contribute to yield gaps, but they also influence farm management practices that in turn contribute to yield gaps. Our findings suggest that, to close wheat yield gaps, it is important to develop integrated strategies that address both socio-psychological and farm management dimensions.

Keywords

Crop management Nitrogen fertiliser Soil type Wheat Consulting services Crop rotation Technology adoption 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was jointly funded by GRDC (Grains Research and Development Corporation) and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Corporation). We gratefully acknowledge the expert advice provided by Jan Edwards and Alan Umbers of GRDC as well as by Pam Watson, CEO of Down To Earth Research, who conducted the interviews. Rick Llewellyn and Marta Monjardino of CSIRO made useful suggestions about the survey questions. We thank Lygia Romanach and Robert Garrard of CSIRO and three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Altman DG, Royston P (2006) The cost of dichotomising continuous variables. BMJ 332:1080.  https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7549.1080 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson W, Johansen C, Siddique KHM (2016) Addressing the yield gap in rainfed crops: a review. Agron Sustain Dev 36(1).  https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-015-0341-y
  3. Angus JF, Grace PR (2017) Nitrogen balance in Australia and nitrogen use efficiency on Australian farms. Soil Res 55:435–450.  https://doi.org/10.1071/SR16325 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Angus JF, van Herwaarden AF (2001) Increasing water use and water use efficiency in dryland wheat. Agron J 93:290–298.  https://doi.org/10.2134/agronj2001.932290x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Angus JF, Kirkegaard JA, Hunt JR, Ryan MH, Ohlander L, Peoples MB (2015) Break crops and rotations for wheat. Crop Pasture Sci 66:523–552.  https://doi.org/10.1071/CP14252 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Arbuckle JG, Moeton LW, Hobbs J (2015) Understanding farmer perspectives on climate change adaptation and mitigation: the roles of trust in sources of climate information, climate change beliefs, and perceived risk. Environ Behav 47(2):205–234.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916513503832 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Beeston G, Stephens D, Nunweek M, Walcott J, Ranatunga K (2005) GRDC strategic planning for investment based on agro-ecological zones. Final report to GRDC, June 2005. Commonwealth of Australia, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  8. Beza E, Silva JV, Kooistra L, Reidsma P (2017) Review of yield gap explaining factors and opportunities for alternative data collection approaches. Eur J Agron 82:206–222.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eja.2016.06.016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown HE, Huth NI, Holzworth DP, Teixeira EI, Zyskowski RF, Hargreaves JNG, Moot DJ (2014) Plant modelling framework: software for building and running crop models on the APSIM platform. Environ Model Softw 62:385–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Byrne BM (2001) Structural equation modeling with AMOS: basic concpets, applications, and programming. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, MahwahGoogle Scholar
  11. Carberry PS, Liang W, Twomlow S, Holzworth DP, Dimes JP, McClelland T, Huth NI, Chen F, Hochman Z, Keating BA (2013) Scope for improved eco-efficiency varies among diverse cropping systems. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110(8381–8386):8381–8386.  https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1208050110 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Carolan MS (2006) Social change and the adoption and adaptation of knowledge claims: whose truth do you trust in regard to sustainavle agriculture. Agric Hum Values 23:325–339.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-006-9006-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cassman KG, Dobermann A, Walters DT, Yang H (2003) Meeting cereal demand while protecting natural resources and improving environmental quality. Annu Rev Environ Resour 28:315–358.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.energy.28.040202.122858 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cornish PS, Murray GM (1989) Low rainfall rarely limits the yield of wheat in southern NSW. Aust J Exp Agric 29(2):77–83.  https://doi.org/10.1071/EA9890077 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. D’Emden FH, Llewellyn RS, Burton MP (2008) Factors influencing adoption of conservation tillage in Australian cropping regions. Aust J Agric Resour Econ 52(2):169–182.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8489.2008.00409.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Field A (2009) Discovering statistics using SPSS, 3rd edn. SAGE Publications Ltd, LondonGoogle Scholar
  17. Fischer RA (2015) Definitions and determination of crop yield, yield gaps, and of rates of change. Field Crop Res 182:9–18.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2014.12.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. French RJ, Schultz JE (1984) Water use efficiency of wheat in a Mediterranean type environment. I. The relation between yield, water use and climate. Aust J Agric Res 35:743–764.  https://doi.org/10.1071/AR9840743 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Godfray HC, Beddington JR, Crute IR, Haddad L, Lawrence D, Muir JF, Pretty J, Robinson S, Thomas SM, Toulmin C (2010) Food security: the challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 327(5967):812–818.  https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1185383 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Hochman Z, Horan H (2018) Causes of wheat yield gaps and opportunities to advance the eater-limited yield frontier in Australia. Field Crop Res 228:20–30.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2018.08.023 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hochman Z, Holzworth D, Hunt JR (2009) Potential to improve on-farm wheat yield and WUE in Australia. Crop Pasture Sci 60:708–716.  https://doi.org/10.1071/CP09064 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hochman Z, Prestwidge D, Carberry PS (2014) Crop sequences in Australia’s northern grain zone are less agronomically efficient than implied by the sum of their parts. Agric Syst 129:124–132.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2014.06.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hochman Z, Gobbett D, Horan H, Navarro Garcia J (2016) Data rich yield gap analysis of wheat in Australia. Field Crop Res 197:97–106.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2016.08.017 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Holzworth DP, Huth NI, deVoil PG, Zurcher EJ, Herrmann NI, McLean G, Chenu K, van Oosterom EJ, Snow V, Murphy C, Moore AD, Brown H, Whish JPM, Verrall S, Fainges J, Bell LW, Peake AS, Poulton PL, Hochman Z, Thorburn PJ, Gaydon DS, Dalgliesh NP, Rodriguez D, Cox H, Chapman S, Doherty A, Teixeira E, Sharp J, Cichota R, Vogeler I, Li FY, Wang E, Hammer GL, Robertson MJ, Dimes JP, Whitbread AM, Hunt J, van Rees H, McClelland T, Carberry PS, Hargreaves JNG, MacLeod N, McDonald C, Harsdorf J, Wedgwood S, Keating BA (2014) APSIM—evolution towards a new generation of agricultural systems simulation. Environ Model Softw 62:327–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hu L, Bentler PM (1999) Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Struct Equ Model 6:1–55.  https://doi.org/10.1080/10705519909540118 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hunt JR, Kirkegaard JA (2011) Re-evaluating the contribution of summer fallow rain to wheat yield in southern Australia. Crop Pasture Sci 62:915–929.  https://doi.org/10.1071/CP11268 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Isbell RF (1996) The Australian soil classification. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, VictoriaGoogle Scholar
  28. Isbell RF, McDonald WS, Ashton LJ (1997) Concepts and rationale of the Australian soil classification. CSIRO land and water, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  29. Johnston RM, Barry SJ, Bleys E, Bui EN, Moran CJ, Simon DAP, Carlile P, McKenzie NJ, Henderson BL, Chapman G, Imhoff M, Maschmedt D, Howe D, Grose C, Schoknecht N, Powell B, Grundy M (2003) ASRIS: the database. Soil Res 41:1021–1036CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kenny DA, McCoach DB (2003) Effect of the number of variables on measures of fit in structural equation modeling. Struct Equ Model 10:333–351.  https://doi.org/10.1207/S15328007SEM1003_1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Khuu A, Juerg Weber E (2013) How Australian farmers deal with risk. Agric Finance Rev 73(2):345–357.  https://doi.org/10.1108/afr-10-2012-0054 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kingwell R, Pannell D (2005) Economic trends and drivers affecting the Wheatbelt of Western Australia to 2030. Aust J Agric Res 56(6):553.  https://doi.org/10.1071/ar04196 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kirkegaard JA, Hunt JR (2010) Increasing productivity by matching farming system management and genotype in water limited environments. J Exp Bot 61:4129–4143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kirkegaard JA, Conyers MK, Hunt JR, Kirkby CA, Watt M, Rebetzke GJ (2014) Sense and nonsense in conservation agriculture: principles, pragmatism and productivity in Australian mixed farming systems. Agric Ecosyst Environ 187:133–145.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2013.08.011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Leviston Z, Price JC, Bates LE (2011) Key influence on the adoption of improved land management practice in rural Australia: the role of attitudes, values and situation. Rural Soc 20:142–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lynch B, Llewellyn R, Umberger W, Kragt ME (2017) Farmer interest in joint venture structures in the Australian broadacre grains sector. Agribusiness 34:472–491.  https://doi.org/10.1002/agr.21525 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mahul O, Stutley CJ (2010) Government support to agricultural insurance: challenges and options for developing countries. World Bank, Washington DCCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Marra M, Pannell DJ, Ghadim AA (2003) The economics of risk, uncertainty and learning in the adoption of new agricultural technologies: where are we on the learning curve? Agric Syst 75:215–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Monjardino M, McBeath TM, Brennan L, Llewellyn RS (2013) Are farmers in low-rainfall cropping regions under-fertilising with nitrogen? A risk analysis. Agric Syst 116:37–51.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2012.12.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Monjardino M, McBeath T, Ouzman J, Llewellyn R, Jones B (2015) Farmer risk-aversion limits closure of yield and profit gaps: a study of nitrogen management in the southern Australian wheatbelt. Agric Syst 137:108–118.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2015.04.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mueller ND, Gerber JS, Johnston M, Ray DK, Ramankutty N, Foley JA (2012) Closing yield gaps through nutrient and water management. Nature 490(7419):254–257.  https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11420 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Price JC, Leviston Z (2014) Predicting pro-environmental agricultural practices: the social, psychological and contextual influences on land management. J Rural Stud 34:65–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Quinn CE, Burbach ME (2008) Personal characteristics preceding pro-environmental behaviors that improve surface water quality. Great Plains Res 18:103–114Google Scholar
  44. Sadras VO, Angus JF (2006) Benchmarking water use efficiency of rainfed wheat crops in dry mega-environments. Aust J Agric Res 57:847–856CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sheng Y, Zhao S, Nossal K, Zhang D (2015) Productivity and farm size in Australian agriculture: reinvestigating the returns to scale. Aust J Agric Resour Econ 59:16–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. van Gool D (2016) Identifying soil constraints that limit wheat yield in South-West Western Australia. Resource management technical report 399. Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, PerthGoogle Scholar
  47. van Ittersum MK, Cassman KG, Grassini P, Wolf J, Tittonell P, Hochman Z (2013) Yield gap analysis with local to global relevance—a review. Field Crop Res 143:4–17.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2012.09.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. van Rees H, McClelland T, Hochman Z, Carberry P, Hunt J, Huth N, Holzworth D (2014) Leading farmers in South East Australia have closed the exploitable wheat yield gap: prospects for further improvement. Field Crop Res 164:1–11.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2014.04.018 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zhang W, Cao G, Li X, Zhang H, Wang C, Liu Q, Chen X, Cui Z, Shen J, Jiang R, Mi G, Miao Y, Zhang F, Dou Z (2016) Closing yield gaps in China by empowering smallholder farmers. Nature 537(7622):671–674.  https://doi.org/10.1038/nature19368 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health & BiosecurityCommonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research OrganisationQLDAustralia
  2. 2.Agriculture & FoodCommonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research OrganisationQLDAustralia

Personalised recommendations