Shift of focus needed to increase yields

By Shawna Rowe

CIUDAD OBREGON, Mexico – Limited resources on farms are proving to be a major road block in efforts to increase crop yields, a leading Australian scientist said on Thursday.

Tony Fischer.  Photo by Shawna Rowe

Tony Fischer
Photo by Shawna Rowe

“Options for greater yields are limited,” said Tony Fischer, a research fellow from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia. “The agronomic processes in potential yields appear to be exhausted.”

The problems of yield gain appear to be tied more closely now to activity on farms, he said. Small constraints such as late planting, late watering and climate change are resulting in farm yields only reaching 60 percent of potential.

Fischer admitted that a lot of room for new agronomic practices exists, but he believes that those opportunities are not within wheat breeding. A stronger need for agronomists to focus on resource management that directly affects wheat production is needed, he said.

According to his research, the gap that exists between how much scientists can experimentally produce and how much farmers can actually produce around the world is shrinking. By doing research in environments similar in climate to the farmers, scientists are making progress toward increasing the real production of wheat. Fischer believes science can make more progress in these less-than-preferred environments.

“World average wheat yield is continually increasing,” Fischer said. “Even in the harshest environments, science can make progress.”

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