A NSW Government website

Irrigated maize

Climate change offers opportunities and challenges to irrigated maize in NSW, with some regions expected to increase in climate suitability by 2050.

Maize growing in NSW is concentrated in the central south of the state but also extends over most of eastern NSW.Irrigated maize in NSW

Irrigated maize or ‘corn’ supplies breakfast cereals, popcorn, cornflour and stock feed. It is grown in the central and southern grain-growing regions (Murray, Riverina and Lachlan) and on the Liverpool and Moree plains of northern NSW. Maize is often grown close to major dairy production areas and beef cattle feedlots, where maize silage is used as a bulk energy source. The map shows major NSW maize growing regions. Darker colours represent larger areas of maize.

The key irrigated maize phenophases assessed in this project include sowing to tassel initiation, tassel initiation to silk, silk to dough and dough to maturity. A fully irrigated summer maize crop with a yield of 15t/ha has been modelled in this assessment.

What is the NSW DPIRD Climate Vulnerability Assessment? ⏷

Climate change is altering the growing conditions for many agricultural commodities across NSW. Primary producers need evidence-based information about the changing climate, and the risks and opportunities it may bring.

The NSW DPIRD Climate Vulnerability Assessments are enhancing the resilience of our primary industries by providing information and data to help the sector better plan for, and respond to, climate change. They have assessed climate change impacts for extensive livestock, broadacre and irrigated cropping, marine fisheries, forestry, horticulture and viticulture, and important biosecurity risks associated with these industries to inform sound planning, risk management and adaptation decisions.

Learn more about the Climate Vulnerability Assessment.

How we assessed climate suitability ⏷

Climate projections were sourced from Climate Change in Australia’s ‘Application Ready Data’. This dataset is comprised of projections from an ensemble of 8 global climate models, each presenting a plausible future climate. The models differ in their projections, giving rise to uncertainty which is reflected in the confidence statements given in brackets. Care should be taken when interpreting these results.

The Climate Vulnerability Assessment is intended to highlight potential industry- or regional-level changes. Intermediate and high emissions scenarios were used in the assessments (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), but these are not the only future scenarios possible. The inclusion of climate variables important to the commodities production was based on published research, expert knowledge and data quality and availability.

Learn more in the Climate Vulnerability Assessment Project Framework.

Climate impacts: what to expect

NSW irrigated maize growing regions are likely to maintain very high climate suitability in the east of the state and moderate to very high climate suitability in the west by 2050 under both emissions scenarios.

Irrigated maize vulnerabilities

  • The risk of heat damage during all stages of growth is likely to increase under future climate scenarios, particularly in the west of the state (moderate to high confidence)
  • Plant development may accelerate under future climate, and all phenophases are likely to shorten (high confidence).

Irrigated maize opportunities

  • Large areas along the Great Dividing Range which were previously too cool for plants to complete vegetative development are likely to become suitable for irrigated maize production (high confidence).
  • The irrigation water requirements of maize are unlikely to change in the future. While plants are likely to use more water due to warmer temperatures, the growing season is also likely to be shorter. These changes are likely to have an opposing influence on the total amount of irrigation water required to produce maize (modelling confidence varies substantially across the state).

Adapting to the changing climate

Adapting to a shorter growing season

  • Slower growing varieties may be necessary to restore yields under future climatic conditions,due to the likelihood of accelerated plant development under future climate. This may increase water demand.

Adapting to changing irrigation water requirements

  • The irrigated maize industry may need to be more efficient with water storage and water use by changing irrigation practices or adopting new technologies especially if season length is restored by developing slower-developing varieties. Expansion of irrigated maize to the upland parts of NSW and the Central Tablelands may be possible, but availability of irrigation could impose limits.

Where can I find the climate suitability maps?

Maps of historical and future climate suitability for commodities were produced to demonstrate where in the state a commodity is likely to thrive or else be limited by future climatic conditions. The maps are not provided on these webpages but can be found in the Climate Vulnerability Assessment Summary Report (PDF, 41425.92 KB).

Irrigated maize Factsheet

(PDF, 5533.17 KB)

Summary Report

(PDF, 41425.92 KB)

Related Climate Vulnerability Assessments

Contact us

For more information please email: vulnerability.assessment@dpi.nsw.gov.au