A willingness to learn and put knowledge into action has helped a group of farming families from Muckadilla, Queensland, win $2,000 and the State's top TOPCROP group award for 2000.
The Muckadilla group, on its own initiative, "did everything you could want to see in participatory, action learning," according to the group's Queensland Farming Systems facilitator, Roma Department of Primary Industries agronomist Gillian Stewart.
The Muckadilla group comprises around 10 families, cropping an average of more than 1,200 hectares of predominantly belah/sandalwood country. While some members of the group have farmed their properties for 30 years, the majority ploughed for the first time 12-14 years ago, according to the group's chairman, Jon Hacker.
With the need to maintain soil fertility high on members' priority lists, fertiliser trials have been a major focus since the group's foundation. Members are also looking at the fertility-building potential of pulse crops like chickpea and mungbean, with more area going under those crops every year.
Wheat with small grain problem
"Wheat is still the major crop for our members, and an emerging problem is the increase in small grain," Mr Hacker says. "We're not sure whether the cause is lack of moisture during the growing period — 2000 was pretty hard, for instance, with only 50 mm of in-crop rain — or an imbalance between available water and nitrogen. We're trying to work out that balance in our fertiliser calculations."
(Small grain is addressed in our research report p3—Ed.)
Apart from the practical paddock work carried out using the TOPCROP weed and disease guides, Mr Hacker said the key to the Muckadilla group's success was participatory learning and social interaction between members and between the group and other interested groups.
"The TOPCROP process has led us to a better understanding of our soil types and their water-holding capacity."
Program 4.1.2 Contact: Mr Jon Hacker 07 4626 8341