Your gateway to a wide range of natural resources information and associated maps

Victorian Resources Online

Primary Production Landscapes of Victoria - Northwest Victoria

Primary Production Landscapes Home

Land use

North West Victoria is the major source (40%) of Victoria’s dryland agriculture production. Dryland cropping (predominantly cereals) is the major farming system of these landscapes. The other significant land use is grazing and production from native vegetation (13% for Victoria). Irrigated agriculture and horticulture occupy nearly 100,000 hectares (10% of Victoria’s irrigated primary production) along the Murray River corridor. Mean annual rainfall increases from north to south (300-650 mm).
Primary Production Landscapes

The sandy and calcareous soils associated with the dunefields of the Mallee represent the lowest rainfall production landscape in Victoria. Land use includes dryland cropping and horticulture.

Southern Mallee / Northern Wimmera
The Southern Mallee / Northern Wimmera represent a broad transition from sandy soils of the Mallee Dunefields to grey cracking clay plains of the Northern Wimmera.

Southern Wimmera
The cracking clays soils of the Southern Wimmera plains and rises receive higher rainfall than the Northern Wimmera / Southern Mallee region. This historically has resulted in higher grain yields than those produced in the landscapes to the north. Land use is diverse and includes broad acre cropping and mixed farming (largely sheep).

North West Victoria legend

Management practices and issues in response to Climate Change

Traditional 2 to 3 year crop rotations have altered to a ‘flexible’ rotation taking advantage of commodity prices and seasonal conditions. Advances in crop management have allowed farmers to continuously crop (previously pest and disease issues were a major constraint). Dry sowing of cereals is common, many land managers plant for opportune rain events at the beginning of the growing season.

Significant shift over the last 5 years from conventional tillage to no-tillage systems (focus on retaining soil moisture). Other positive impacts from technology include regular soil testing by land managers, controlled-traffic farming (CTF), plant breeding and variable rate technology (VRT).

A shift to shorter-season cereal varieties has occurred reflecting decreased rainfall. Grain quality has improved in drier seasons while yields have decreased. Screenings and protein issues are recognised in barley production.

The shorter growing season and shortage of water has meant the number of mixed farming enterprises has declined (producers move to grain growing). Fodder production in the farming system has increased significantly in response to less available rainfall to finish crops.

There has been a significant uptake of stock containment areas to reduce land degradation (mainly wind erosion) and protect livestock welfare in mixed farming systems.

North West Victoria - aerial photo

Future scenarios for farming systems
  • Grain and commodity prices and global climate change impacts are considered to be the significant factors in future dryland cropping and are a greater concern than regional impacts of climate change.
  • There is a general belief that farmers have adapted to climatic conditions and will continue to evolve their cropping system to suit.
  • Impacts of wheat market de-regulation are yet to be experienced and uncertainty surrounds this.
  • On-farm grain storage is predicted to further increase in response to ageing regional infrastructure and new export marketing opportunities.
  • Continued uptake of new technology and approaches including CTF, VRT, and stubble retention will support future grains production.
  • Access to water via the Wimmera Mallee pipeline may encourage a return of livestock to the Northern Wimmera and Southern Mallee in mixed farming systems.
  • Potential threats to biodiversity and ecosystem condition from climate change remain. Government policy to reward landholders for providing ecosystem services (e.g. Ecotender) is important.
  • Recent experience of reduced rainfall is a primary concern for grain growers who have relied on good growing seasons occurring at least once in 3 to 4 years.

North West Victoria - Birchip cropping
Cropping - Birchip

Victoria’s changing climate

Growing Season Cumulative Rainfall minus Evaporation (four scenarios from past records)

North West Victoria Ouyen
North West Victoria Warracknabeal
North West Victoria Rupanyup
North West Victoria - graph legend

Mean annual temperature (two scenarios from past records and one predicted scenario)

2050 A1FI prediction
North West Victoria mean annual temp 1970-1995
North West Victoria mean annual temp 1996-2005
North West Victoria mean annual temp 2050
North West Victoria mean annual temp legend

Mean annual rainfall (two scenarios from past records and one predicted scenario)

2050 A1FI prediction
North West Victoria mean annual rainfall 1970-1995
North West Victoria mean annual rainfall 1996-2005
North West Victoria mean annual rainfall 2050
North West Victoria mean annual rainfall legend
Page top