AGFACE research concludes
Following 11 years of field trial research to better understand and provide solutions to future challenges facing the grains industry under climate change elevated CO , the AGFACE program has concluded.
The Australian Grains Free Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment (AGFACE) facility in the dryland wheat belt near Horsham, Victoria, closed it's doors in May 2018. For just over a decade, researchers investigated the impacts of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) on wheat, pulse and oil seed crop production by elevating CO2 levels around field crops.
Findings from the first seven years of research focused on yield, grain quality and disease responses to elevated CO2 (eCO2). Following teh first phase, the research team, led by Glenn Fitzgerald (DEDJTR) and Michael Tausz (UM), then concentrated on increasing understanding of eCO2 impacts on water and nitrogen resource use and grain yield and quality, so that growers might capitalise on the ‘CO2 fertilisation effect’ without the negative impacts on grain protein and micronutrients.
AGFACE key findings include:
- crops grown under elevated CO2 grow bigger but they will need more nitrogen and phosphorus to support them, and grain quality will decrease;
- the impact elevated carbon dioxide has on crops varies according to cultivar;
- in the absence of increased moisture and heat stresses, the growth and yield of wheat, field peas, lentils and canola, on average, yielded 25 per cent higher than plants grown under current CO2 levels ( the 'CO2 fertilisation effect)';
- bigger crops grown under higher CO2 are likely to need more nitrogen and phosphorus to support them;
- cereal grain protein, micronutrient levels and bread quality will decrease with protein decreasing more under elevated CO2 in semi-arid conditions (potentially affecting Australian grain quality relative tothe rest of the globe;
- diseases such as barley yellow dwarf virus and crown rot are likely to be more severe under elevated CO2;
- Increasing temperatures and reduced rainfall may tend to lower yields, counteracting the benefits of CO2;
- greater legume growth under elevated CO2 could benefit future rotation systems by supplying more nitrogen to soils, but more phosphorus fertiliser will be required to maintain growth on deficient soils;
- areas of Victoria best suited to cropping will effectively move further south because of less rainfall and heat stress in the northern districts, unless we can adapt crops to cope with changing climatic conditions, and
- the ability to adapt to changing climate will depend on developing new cultivars and management systems that take advantage of the positive aspects of CO2 and overcome the negatives.
AGFACE was a joint project of Agriculture Victoria and the University of Melbourne, with funding support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation, the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Australian Research Council.
Results from research carried out as part of the AGFACE projects are available at www.grdc.com.au.