"The biggest eye-opener our group has ever had."
That is how Wimmera farmer Tim Bolwell described the recent visit of the award-winning Wallup TOPCROP group to WA. The WA tour was the national prize won by the group in the 1999 competition, supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), to find Australia's best TOPCROP group.
Mr Bolwell, the chairman of the Wallup group, said 16 members and two facilitators had inspected farming operations from Geraldton in the north to Esperance in the south-east of WA. The visits included spending time with the joint WA TOPCROP state winners, Tenindewa at Mullewa and Kunjin at Corrigin.
"Three things really stood out — the herbicide resistance problem they've got over there, their landcare efforts, and the age of their farmers," he said. "We just couldn't believe the resistance problem they have with wild radish, for example, which they are trying to cope with by changing rotations and weed control methods. It's something we are going to have to watch even more closely over here, particularly with resistance in ryegrass and radish.
"Salinity is another big issue, with areas the size of football fields being lost to salinity each day. And this is where their landcare efforts are very noticeable, some farmers putting as much as 25 per cent of their land under trees.
"While salinity in our local area is not a big issue, even though it is elsewhere in the Wimmera, there are some patches which will have to be watched. It also showed us that we will need to do more aerial surveying to keep an eye on such things as watercourse management."
Mr Bolwell said, in contrast to the Wimmera, the WA farmers the Wallup group met were much younger, but like Wallup members they possessed a very much "can-do" and positive attitude to farming.
TOPCROP's national manager, Dr Ross Cutler, who went on the tour, said it was obvious that the Wallup group was well organised with a high level of interaction and interdependence between members.
"The Wallup group feeds off each other — and they also typically and modestly deprecate the level of their achievements," he said. "Their cohesiveness is very noticeable and they support each other very well.
"While monitoring is a key feature of TOPCROP activities and while the Wallup group is still doing this, they have moved beyond being just a crop monitoring group into areas such as sustainability and community priorities like occupational health and safety."
Contact: Mr Tim Bolwell 03 5398 9229 or Dr Ross Cutler 03 5255 5614