Doole, G. J. & Weetman, E. (2009). Tactical management of pasture fallows in western Australian cropping systems. Agricultural Systems, 102(1-3), 24-32.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/2675
Agricultural systems in the Western Australian wheatbelt are increasingly moving towards specialist crop production due to elevated cereal prices, depressed markets for livestock products, and ongoing labour scarcity. However, the profitability of crop-only farms is threatened by increasing levels of herbicide resistance and declining soil fertility. This study determines the value of ungrazed pasture fallows grown tactically between crop phases to address these agronomic constraints. A novel metaheuristic optimisation technique, compressed annealing, is used to determine profitable flexible land-use sequences in a complex simulation model. Tactical use of single-year, ungrazed pasture phases is found to be more valuable than the use of break crops in crop-only systems. In contrast to previous analysis, it is identified that rotation of short periods of crop and pasture is more profitable than extended phases of both. Effective weed control without dependence on selective herbicides is the key agronomic characteristic determining the value of intermittent pasture phases. Accordingly, the number of single-year pasture phases employed in a sequence should increase with the severity of herbicide resistance. Compressed annealing is shown to be a practical method of identifying profitable land-use sequences that respond to information that unfolds dynamically.
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