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Cropping in NSW

Broadacre cropping is a major agricultural industry, covering most of the eastern two-thirds of NSW. Overall broadacre cropping contributes a total gross value of $4.6 billion in NSW. Of this, cotton contributes the largest proportion at $1.6 billion, followed by wheat, which contributes $1.4 billion. Other significant crops in NSW include cereals (rice, oats, barley, sorghum, maize), pulses (lentils, lupins, chickpeas, mung beans, faba beans), peanuts, canola and other oilseeds.

Current Climate Impact Trends

A warming climate with increasingly frequent extreme events and declines in April-October rainfall in the southeast of Australia since the late 1990s has resulted in increasingly challenging conditions for cropping in NSW. Continuous improvement in agronomic practice and innovation in technology and genetics has increased crop yields and land productivity. However, the accelerating change in climate could outpace such developments.

For cotton and wheat, the current climate trends point to a shorter growing season for wheat and a longer growing season for cotton. For irrigated cotton and rice, issues around water availability are a concern, although improvements in water use efficiency have offset reduced availability for some producers. With regards to both irrigated crops and rainfed crops, reduced rainfall presents a challenge when combined with increasing temperatures however, rising carbon dioxide levels appear to bring some benefits to the crops.

Future Climate Change

Developments in varietal breeding and crop water use efficiency are already working to offset some of the historical trends of changes in climate conditions. Increased carbon dioxide is expected to have a positive impact on crop water use efficiency. However the question remains as to whether such developments and the positive elements of changing conditions, such as warmer temperatures to reduce the impacts of cold conditions on crops, will continue to be sufficient to outpace the negative impacts of changes to rainfall and extreme heat.

Climate change may also present challenges for the cropping sector due to changing climatic conditions that influence the occurrence of pests and diseases in the future. Some pests and diseases that affect broadacre crops may expand into new areas and pests and diseases currently limited by colder conditions may become more viable and pervasive under a warming climate.

Vulnerability Assessment

The NSW DPI Climate Change Research Strategy is working to develop a comparable analysis of climate change impacts for a range of key primary industries across NSW. For cropping, the Vulnerability Assessment project is analysing climate change impacts for dryland wheat, barley, canola, chickpeas, lupins, and irrigated crops of cotton, rice, wheat, maize and lucerne. In addition, the project is also analysing climate change impacts on related pests and diseases such as Verticillium wilt (Verticillium dahliae), and cereal stem and stripe rusts (Puccinia spp.).

This work will provide a picture of potential climate change impacts to the broadacre cropping sector across NSW, looking ahead to 2050. It will also identify adaptation needs and priorities to guide research and development activities over the next 30 years to increase resilience of this critical sector to a changing climate.

Cropping Commodities 

The cropping node will cover the following commodities in the Vulnerability Assessment project:

  • Barley
  • Canola
  • Chickpeas
  • Cotton
  • Irrigated Lucerne
  • Irrigated Maize
  • Irrigated wheat
  • Lupin
  • Rice
  • Wheat

Cropping Biosecurity Risks

The Vulnerability Assessment project will also analyse the impacts of climate change for the following crop diseases:

  • Verticillium wilt (Verticilium dahliae)
  • Wheat stripe rust (Puccinia striiforms f. sp. Tritici)
  • Wheat stem rust (Puccinia graminis f. sp. Tritici)
  • Stem rot (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum)


Information sourced from;

ABS Catalogue 7503.0, 2013-14 to 2017-18

ABS Catalogue 7503.0, 2013-14 to 2017-18

ABS Catalogue 7503.0, 2017/18