Grains Research and Development

Date: 04.08.2014

Expert grains advice on tap through new online platform

Author: Tristan Price
GRDC's Kyle Thoms showcasing eXtensionAUS

A world-class information sharing tool that connects grain growers and agronomy experts has been launched to help address every day and emerging on-farm challenges through collaboration between farmers and technical specialists.

The new eXtensionAUS web platform is now live and offers ready access to resources and expert knowledge that can help growers address on-farm issues and adopt practice change.

Growers can use the service to request solutions to specific agronomic issues from leading researchers and agronomy experts right across Australia. More than 100 specialists have so far registered their interest in eXtensionAUS with a growing number actively engaging with industry, sharing knowledge and working together in new ways.

The platform is based on a system successfully implemented in the United States over the last decade, where technical experts can identify issues as they emerge in real-time and provide tailored advice to individual growers.

After securing agreement to a transfer of the technology to Australia, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) in partnership with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) has now commenced a nine month trial of the system.

The test-phase of eXtensionAUS has established expert resources for crop nutrition administered by DPI and crop diseases by DEPI, with GRDC’s funding supporting the leadership teams in each pilot whose role it is to coordinate eXtensionAUS experts and generate practical information and content for the platform.

GRDC senior manager for products and services, Kyle Thoms, said eXtensionAUS presents a significant development in providing expert advice for grain growers.

“We’re really excited about eXtensionAUS’s potential to change the way Australian grain growers approach cropping issues by providing open access to leading industry experts,” he said.

“Websites have a natural advantage as an information service as they are available around the clock, but they typically don’t allow people to effectively engage with one another. eXtensionAUS is different. It allows people to connect, have real conversations, explore issues in a more personal way, have an influence over the information made available and to interact with tools, including social media, that can enhance learning. 

“The platform offers expert feedback on specific and topical challenges, like beet western yellows virus, which has been of concern in many grain growing areas this year and a focus for crop disease specialists collaborating with eXtensionAUS. There’s enormous scope for the grain growing community to better understand significant issues like this and find solutions by working directly with experts on eXtensionAUS.

“Because it’s all about two-way communication, with users able to post questions on emerging issues and receive feedback from experts, this is a resource that will continue to grow and evolve along with grain growers’ needs.

“More than ever before, farmers are able to access digital resources and communicate online. There will always be a central role for an on-the-ground agronomist who can look in detail at a particular cropping context to find solutions for individual growers, but eXtensionAUS provides that first step to getting a handle on an agronomic issue or what new practices could deliver benefits on-farm.

“This project is a great example of how we can take innovative technology and initiatives from global grain-producers like the US, where there is a huge focus on effective extension, and shape those for Australian grain growers.”

eXtensionAUS can be accessed at http://www.extensionaus.com.au/

ENDS

CAPTION: GRDC senior manager for products and services, Kyle Thoms, says Australian grain growers now have access to comprehensive agronomy advice online, with the launch of the eXtensionAUS online platform. Photo: GRDC

For Interviews

Julie White, NSW DPI
02 4939 8990

Katherine Hollaway, VIC DEPI
03 5362 2331

Contact

Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
0409 675100

GRDC Project Code DAN00188, DAV00138, EXF00001, ORM00010

Region National, North, South, West