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Spatial and temporal patterns in Australian wheat yield and their relationship with ENSO

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Potgieter, A. B., Hammer, G. L. and Butler, D. (2002) Spatial and temporal patterns in Australian wheat yield and their relationship with ENSO. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 53 (1). pp. 77-89. ISSN 1836-0947

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Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/AR01002


Spatial and temporal variability in wheat production in Australia is dominated by rainfall occurrence. The length of historical production records is inadequate, however, to analyse spatial and temporal patterns conclusively. In this study we used modelling and simulation to identify key spatial patterns in Australian wheat yield, identify groups of years in the historical record in which spatial patterns were similar, and examine association of those wheat yield year groups with indicators of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). A simple stress index model was trained on 19 years of Australian Bureau of Statistics shire yield data (1975–93). The model was then used to simulate shire yield from 1901 to 1999 for all wheat-producing shires. Principal components analysis was used to determine the dominating spatial relationships in wheat yield among shires. Six major components of spatial variability were found. Five of these represented near spatially independent zones across the Australian wheatbelt that demonstrated coherent temporal (annual) variability in wheat yield. A second orthogonal component was required to explain the temporal variation in New South Wales. The principal component scores were used to identify high- and low-yielding years in each zone. Year type groupings identified in this way were tested for association with indicators of ENSO. Significant associations were found for all zones in the Australian wheatbelt. Associations were as strong or stronger when ENSO indicators preceding the wheat season (April–May phases of the Southern Oscillation Index) were used rather than indicators based on classification during the wheat season. Although this association suggests an obvious role for seasonal climate forecasting in national wheat crop forecasting, the discriminatory power of the ENSO indicators, although significant, was not strong. By examining the historical years forming the wheat yield analog sets within each zone, it may be possible to identify novel climate system or ocean–atmosphere features that may be causal and, hence, most useful in improving seasonal forecasting schemes.

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural meteorology. Crops and climate
Plant culture > Field crops > Wheat
Live Archive:12 Jan 2024 05:02
Last Modified:12 Jan 2024 05:02

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