By Helen Olsen
A cold, wet November day didn"t dampen the enthusiasm of about 150 people who gathered to see what"s new in the world of high rainfall zone cropping, and to be at the opening of the new crop trials site for Southern Farming Systems (SFS).
The site represents a new phase for SFS and the research it undertakes to expand cropping into Australia"s cooler, high rainfall regions.
Projects already at the site include barley, wheat and canola trials - utilising raised beds technology - and research on the use of fungicides and nitrogen.
Photo: Information exchange: Shari Wallis, a soil extension officer with the Victorian Department of Primary Industries in Geelong, compares notes with Luke Batters, a Landmark agronomist from Wycheproof.
Given many farms in this climatic belt across southern Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the south-west of Western Australia are mixed enterprises, SFS is also researching ways to improve the coexistence of crops and livestock through crop grazing trials.
SFS started in 1995 on a farm donated by the philanthropic Vizard Foundation.
However earlier this year the property was sold to Tony Santic, owner of Melbourne Cup winner, Makybe Diva. SFS chief executive officer Col Hacking says the first trials site served the organisation well as it grew from its founding six growers to a membership today of 800. But he says the new site, 10 kilometres west of Inverleigh on the Hamilton Highway in Victoria, is more accessible and will allow more farmers to visit.
The site - on the property of John and Hillary Hamilton - has lighter soil than many farms in the region, but SFS has set up several satellite sites covering a range of soils: "This will enable us to carry out trials relevant to all of the southern farming region," says Mr Hacking.
Like many grower groups around the country, SFS has set out to establish a "one-stop shop" for agronomic information in its quest to lift average cereal yields from 4.5 tonnes per hectare to 6.0 t/ha.
Hand-in-glove with this is the exploration of better machinery and grain storage options, and a leadership program to attract more young people into its management team.
For more information: Col Hacking, 03 5229 0566
GRDC Research Code: SFS00007, program 4