Modelling irrigated sugarcane crop under seasonal climate variability: a case study in Burdekin district

An-Vo, D.-A. ORCID: and Mushtaq, S. and Reardon-Smith, K. (2017) Modelling irrigated sugarcane crop under seasonal climate variability: a case study in Burdekin district. In: 22nd International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM 2017), 3-8 Dec 2017, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.


Sugarcane industries worldwide are exposed to uncertainty associated with weather and seasonal climate variation. This variability often impacts negatively on crop production, leading to conservative farming strategies that sacrifice productivity in order to reduce the risk of losses in poor years. The situation is especially
severe in Australia where sugarcane production is subject to an extremely variable climate. Inter-annual variability in climatic properties in Australia is about 15–18% higher than any other major agricultural nation.
In such an extremely variable environment, knowledge of crop performance under different climate conditions
and use of seasonal climate forecasts in decision making can play an important role in supporting agricultural
risk management.
Here, we quantified the effect of seasonal climate variability on sugarcane performance under rain-fed
conditions and irrigation by integrating the long term climate data record into a crop model, the Agricultural
Production Systems SIMulator (APSIM) Sugar, which was calibrated using case study information for the Burdekin sugarcane production region. Two irrigation schedules of five and 20 days were simulated for a range of irrigation water volumes applied in each irrigation event to the plant crop and four ratoons to study the effect of irrigation timing. We conducted economic analyses to convert biophysical yield results into economic returns which were classified according to annual precipitation terciles i.e. wet, normal, and dry climate conditions. This framework allowed us to identify optimal irrigation strategies to achieve maximum yield or economic return under different climate conditions.
The results showed that seasonal climate has a strong influence on crop performance and cash flow in both
rain-fed and irrigated sugarcane in the Burdekin region. The case study example was not economically viable
under normal and dry climate conditions for either the rain-fed or limited water volume simulations, which
indicates the significant importance of using seasonal climate forecasts in irrigation scheduling decisions.
Different optimal irrigation strategies associated with different climate conditions were observed for all
cropping stages (i.e. the plant crop and four ratoons). Results also showed that more regular irrigation resulted
in better water use efficiency in terms of both yield and economic benefits. Yield and economic benefit increases for the 5 day irrigation schedule can be up to AUD 40 t ha−1 and AUD 1000 ha−1, respectively, compared with those for the 20 days schedule.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Copyright 2017 Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand Inc. Files associated with this item cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2018 01:30
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2020 02:46
Uncontrolled Keywords: sugarcane, seasonal climate, irrigation, decision support, APSIM Sugar
Fields of Research (2008): 07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070103 Agricultural Production Systems Simulation
Fields of Research (2020): 30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3002 Agriculture, land and farm management > 300205 Agricultural production systems simulation

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