LIVERPOOL PLAINS farmers who joined forces in 1999 with the simple aim of improving their returns carried off the NSW TOPCROP award for 2001.
Established initially as an agronomy group to identify the key drivers of profit in their farming systems, the AMPS group decided that more factors than just production were important. Also important were farm business and financial structures, marketing and being aware of the latest research results.
According to the group's independent agronomist, Greg Giblett, the group's marketing committee pressed for a corporate structure, resulting in the establishment of AMPS Commercial Pty Ltd. The new structure could pursue marketing issues and commercialise ideas and products generated by AMPS Research Inc.
Mr Giblett says that while marketing and value-adding are the ultimate goals, AMPS Commercial will initially generate some income by bulk purchase of farm inputs, mainly chemicals, fuel and insurance.
AMPS Research has also succeeded in obtaining support from the GRDC and Incitec Fertilizers for a collaborative project with NSW Agriculture and the neighbouring farmer group, Advance Farming.
The three-year project will investigate deficiencies of soil micro-nutrients on the Liverpool Plains under summer and winter cropping systems and their implications for sustainable cropping,
"The group is trying to find out what, apart from the basic nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur and zinc, is limiting yield in their high-input cropping systems," said Mr Giblett.
The group believes that if it can identify nutrient imbalances in high-yielding agricultural systems, then it might help lower-yielding systems avoid the same problems in the future.
After an initial soil survey and testing identified a history of nutrient depletion, the project has focused on the impact of adding to a sorghum crop a 'luxury' mix of macro- and micro-nutrients on top of what the growers are already doing in their normal fertiliser program. Related trials will continue.
State TOPCROP coordinator, Neil Inall said other impressive initiatives that helped AMPS top the list in NSW for 2001 included:
- benchmarking the profitability of fanning enterprises and crop mixes, with the assistance of Vanguard Business Services of Dubbo
- on-property, farming systems trials of liquid phosphorus - which some group members are already using - and of biological products with suggested potential to reduce fertiliser costs
- a study trip to the Darling Downs and central Queensland to look at how well farming practices and cropping systems layouts performed with overground flood flows and associated gullying under strip cropping systems
- a seven-day grain marketing course, held in collaboration with Grainco, to better understand risk management tools and marketing options.
Contact: Mr Greg Giblett 02 6769 8316