A snapshot of key agricultural management practices undertaken on Australian grain-growing properties has been captured in a new report.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Farm Practices Survey Report 2012 provides an insight into the farming operations of our nation’s grain producers.
The GRDC invests around $150 million of grain levies and government funds each year in research, development and extension (RD&E). Of this, about $37 million is invested in farming practices RD&E to provide grain growers with better tools and information to enhance farm profit and sustainability.
The GRDC commissioned a survey of growers about their farming operations for the 2011 winter cropping year and where possible this data was tracked against a 2008 baseline assessment.
The report provides data to monitor and evaluate which farming systems and practices are working well and where ‘gaps’ are evident. The report is a key source of information for identifying future investment opportunities to drive productivity, profitability and sustainability improvements on grain farms.
The survey in 2011 covered 1312 grain farming businesses and 2.36 million hectares of crop area, representing approximately 8 per cent of the estimated area of crop planted in Australia.
The report’s co-author and GRDC Farm Practices Project Manager, Jan Edwards, says that in comparing the two sets of data, the percentage of farm income flowing from winter cereals has increased in most parts of Australia, (except for central Queensland and parts of Western Australia) and it remains at 66 to 67 per cent of farm income nationally.
“The percentage of wheat in the cropping mix has increased in many regions of Australia, notably in the eastern states and the central and eastern areas of WA,” she said.
“The percentage of barley has fallen significantly in most regions, while winter oilseeds have shown an increase in many areas.”
The report indicates that winter pulses have increased in the northern and western parts of New South Wales and Queensland, much of Victoria and South Australia, and the northern and southern areas of WA.
Ms Edwards said tillage practices had shown some changes since the previous survey, with the percentage of the crop planted using zero or no-tillage remaining high at more than 60 per cent of the hectares nationally, although the percentage has fallen in parts of SA, Victoria and NSW.
“This decrease has been matched by an increase in direct drilling and some increase in minimum-tillage. It is possible that weed management strategies have influenced these changes.”
The use of controlled traffic continues to grow nationally and now represents more than 20 per cent of the cropped area, although this is higher in the heavier soils of northern NSW and central Queensland.
The use of variable rate technology remains at below 10 per cent of the cropped area, while yield mapping has increased to now represent more than 20 per cent of the cropped area.
Sixty per cent of the cropped area had stubble retained right through to planting in 2011, with this being slightly higher in the northern areas. There has been a slight
increase in stubble being burnt; nationally, more than 5 per cent was burnt early and almost 8 per cent burnt later as a ‘cool’ burn. Both these are increases compared with the 2008 crop year.
Across much of NSW, Victoria, SA and WA about 25 per cent or more of the crop was sown after growers had assessed the amount of plant available water at planting, with similar levels of assessment being made throughout the season, especially in NSW, southern Queensland and SA.
Ms Edwards said the report showed that soil testing remains a popular practice, with most regions soil testing more than 30 per cent of their cropped area.
The GRDC Farm Practices Survey Report 2012 can be viewed and downloaded via www.grdc.com.au/farmpractices.
Caption: The GRDC-commissioned farm practices report reveals that winter oilseeds have shown an increase in percentage in the cropping mix in many areas.
Jan Edwards, GRDC
02 6166 4500
Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
National, North, South, West