Research strategy to grow out of dual-purpose crops review
Grain growers and advisers across Australia are helping to shape the development of a national research strategy focused on increasingly popular dual-purpose crops.
As part of an extensive review of its dual-purpose crops research investment, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is surveying growers and advisers in mixed farming zones about their use of these crops and their plant breeding and agronomic investment priorities.
Results from the survey will play a pivotal part in building a future national research strategy aimed at assisting mixed farmers in extracting maximum value from dual-purpose crops, which can be grazed in the early vegetative stages before continuing on to produce grain.
In response to the growing trend of incorporating livestock back into cropping systems for risk management, economic and crop management purposes, the GRDC is undertaking a Dual-Purpose Crops Review, headed by GRDC project managers Tom Giles and Tanya Robinson.
Mr Giles says that while dual-purpose crops have been popular for several decades in high-rainfall zones, providing winter stockfeed before continuing on to produce normal grain yields, their use is now extending to traditional grain belts as more grain growers introduce livestock into their cropping operations.
In recognition of this, Mr Giles says the GRDC plans to develop a new dual-purpose crop investment plan, the framework for which will be governed by the review and feedback from growers and advisers.
“The review process is intended to give us a solid grasp of where these crops are being grown and by whom, and how they are being managed, so we can understand what growers need from future RD&E efforts to help improve their production system,” Mr Giles said.
“The review will also help to determine the ideal characteristics required of dual-purpose crops for various regions. It is important that we identify whether suitable varieties already exist to meet growers’ needs and whether there is a requirement for further improvement in terms of plant breeding.”
Miss Robinson says the review will identify the gaps in current dual-purpose cropping
knowledge and will assist in establishing national research strategy priorities for all crops that can be grazed, including wheat, barley, canola, oats and triticale.
She said interest in dual-purpose crops was increasing as growers recognised the value of mixed farming systems.
“Dual-purpose crops tolerate grazing and can recover to produce a grain or hay crop,” Miss Robinson said. “They provide forage to fill the winter feed gap in the livestock cycle, and grazing these crops can have a number of risk management and crop management advantages.”
Grazing can reduce early biomass of the crop canopy, delaying maturity and conserving water for late-season grain fill which contributes to potentially higher yields, and the delay in plant maturity can potentially allow crops to escape frost events.
Dual-purpose crops also add flexibility to farming systems, as decisions to cut crops for hay or silage can be made mid-season in response to livestock prices or weather conditions.
“There are many opportunities and advantages in using these dual-purpose crops in different systems, in different regions, and growers are out there looking for answers and advice,” Miss Robinson said.
“The review we are undertaking will enable us to build a research strategy to provide growers with the answers, support, resources and products they require to make the most out of dual-purpose cropping.”
Advising Mr Giles and Miss Robinson in the process are five review panel members independent of the GRDC. They include chair Dr John Radcliffe from CSIRO, Dr Hugh Dove also from CSIRO, NSW Department of Primary Industries research agronomist Dr Peter Martin, Charles Sturt University’s Professor Ted Wolfe and consultant Denis McGrath.
Once information from the survey is collated and added to existing scientific
literature, a review paper will be drafted and returned to survey participants for further comment.
New investment in the GRDC’s dual purpose/mixed-farming portfolio, based
on stakeholder feedback and review panel recommendations, will be developed
late in 2011, with work relating to the strategy to begin in 2012.
Caption: Interest in dual-purpose crops is increasing as growers recognise the value of mixed farming systems.
• For more information contact Tom Giles, GRDC project manager plant breeding, on 02 6166 4500, or Tanya Robinson, GRDC project manager practices, on 02 6166 4500
• GRDC project code: GRD4-6
• This media release and other media products are available via www.grdc.com.au/media
GRDC Project Code