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Graincast: forecasting Australia’s national grain crop yield

WheatProject vision: To build the digital infrastructure necessary for the Australian grains industry to map, monitor, manage and forecast production across vast areas of our continent.

Grain production is closely tied to climate and is one of the most volatile industries in Australia, making planning and managing a huge challenge.

Unfortunately, the current information base is limited. Planning for harvest, transport, storage and marketing is based on historical records supplemented by subjective assessment of current crop conditions. There is no comprehensive national system for quantifying and geo-locating crop area, and the size of the national grain crop area and expected yield is never known with required accuracy at a locally relevant scale.

Nevertheless, there is some uptake of decision tools such as Yield Prophet® and iPaddock, showing that there is appetite for services that supply data, provided the output is of value and packaged in a user-friendly manner.

Each actor along the grains supply chain has a unique need for customised grains information, which could be met with a comprehensive grains production and forecasting information system. It would need to provide up-to-date estimates of crop area, near real-time measures of crop yield, crop yield forecasts, and estimates of uncertainty for the entire agriculture value chain.

Wheat in a fieldThis is where Digiscape comes in. With CSIRO’s expertise in grain forecasting, climate, remote sensing, data management, software engineering, social innovation and more, our aim is to build a real-time grain forecast platform for Australia. It will open up greater informed decision-making, such as:

  • Farmers will be able to predict yield within-season to inform input management and forward-selling
  • consultants able to advise farmer clients on a portfolio of cropping enterprises to manage risk and return
  • bulk handlers having more precise estimates of crop area and yield down to individual farm scale, allowing better planning and utilisation of transport and storage
  • grain marketers tracking and monitoring the global grain supply better and taking advantage of market fluctuations.

 

Our grain forecast system will also open up the capability for new decisions, such as:

  • farmers (individually or aggregated) able to seek better deals on inputs from resellers
  • resellers being able to supply more product where and when it is needed
  • bankers able to make more transparent lending decisions for seasonal or capital finance
  • insurers able to objectively assess risk profiles before setting premiums for products such as multi-peril crop insurance.

This project is led by Dr Roger Lawes.