Direct on-Farm Energy Use for High Value Grain Crops

Institute for Agriculture and the Environment, University of Southern Queensland - Tek Maraseni, Guangnan Chen, Thomas Banhazi, Jochen Bundschuh and Talal Yusaf

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

An Assessment of Direct on-Farm Energy Use for High Value Grain Crops Grown under Different Farming Practices in Australia

What is the problem?

Energy consumption has been studied and quantified in regards to crop production. But energy consumption under  zero tillage, conventional tillage, and irrigated farming systems, have not. This study therefore assessed the on-farm energy use for high-value grain crops (wheat, barley, and canola/sorghum) under Australia’s different farming practices, particularly in Northern, Western, and Southern Grain Region.

What did the research involve?

  • Focused on 3 high value grain crops (wheat, barley, and canola/sorghum) during 7 different time periods (April–June; July-September; and October–December in 2012) and (January–March; April–June; July–September; and October–December in 2013).
  • Field-operation data were used to calculate the on-farm fuel and energy use. In all farming operations diesel is used with an energy conversion factor of 38.6 GJ/kL.

What were the key findings?

Fuel Consumption: 

  • wheat and barley farming systems required the highest diesel amount for farming operations according to both data of Northern and Southern Grain Region while the Western Region had the least diesel amount requirement.
  • nder the conventional tillage system, the wheat (42.7 L/ha) and barley (39.2 L/ha) required the highest diesel amount. The irrigated farming system follows this with the barley (34.5 L/ha), wheat (30.3 L/ha) and sorghum (28.5 L/ha). On the other hand, crops under zero tillage required the least diesel amount.

Energy Consumption:

  • Crops under zero tillage system required less on-farm energy inputs than the conventional and irrigated systems in both Northern and Southern Grain Region. Meanwhile, crops under all cultivation types at Western region required the least energy amount.
  • Reduced and zero tillage systems save 12% and 24% energy.
  • With irrigation farming system, the crops wheat, barley, and sorghum required the highest amounts of diesel fuel energy and had a higher proportion of total on-farm direct energy use for all grains in Southern Grain Region.
  • Wheat and barley required the same amount of irrigation water (2.5 ML/ha) in the Northern and Southern region while sorghum required higher amount (7.5 ML/ha) in the Southern. Moreover, a pressured irrigation system is usual for barley in the Northern because of it higher energy amount requirement than surface irrigation systems. Furthermore, sorghum (3.8 GJ/ha) in the Southern required the highest irrigation amount energy, followed by barley (1.9 GJ/ha) in the Northern.

Final comment

The study indicated that the fuel input in grain production in irrigated systems is greater than dryland systems. Southern Grain Region sorghum under irrigated systems requires the highest energy amount, followed by barley, and Northern sorghum. Meanwhile, crops under zero tillage in dryland conditions requires less energy than the conventional. Among the three regions, Western Australia requires the least energy for each crop, particularly wheat and barley. Moreover, a complete life cycle analysis is also required to improve the overall sustainability of food production.

2015 - Australia - Institute for Agriculture and the Environment, University of Southern Queensland - Tek Maraseni, Guangnan Chen, Thomas Banhazi, Jochen Bundschuh and Talal Yusaf
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