Herbicide resistance, crop nutrition and maximising water use efficiency were key challenges discussed by researchers at the recent GRDC research updates in Goondiwindi, Coonabarabran, and Talwood.
The annual updates are an opportunity for advisors and growers of the region to get together in one location and hear presentations from researchers on a broad range of topics.
“That’s what keeps them coming back year after year,” says Loretta Serafin, research and development leader for northern dryland cropping systems, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), and Deputy Chair of the GRDC Northern Panel.
“The attendance has been excellent again this year, and the quality of the speakers and their presentations continues to be high,” she says.
“The open sessions are particularly useful, and allow agronomists and growers to have one-on-one time with the researchers, and really understand the questions they want answered,” she says.
Heading into this season, managing the increasing problem of herbicide resistance is at the forefront of many attendees’ minds, including northern NSW grain grower Andrew Yates.
“We’re having problems with resistant weeds, so I’m keen to use information I learnt from some of the talks to help manage the problem,” Mr Yates says.
Geoff Fosbery, an agronomist from ConsultAg WA speaking at the Goondiwindi update, said the northern region can learn from the experiences of others who have already had to deal with the resistance issue.
“In Western Australia, growers focussed a lot on harvest weed-seed management, but this has only proven successful for about 60% of the herbicide-resistance problem,” he says. “Other seeds fall out, and they’re missed. We have to remember that weeds can be pretty clever, and even physical removal can fail.”
GRDC projects improving water use efficiency
Ms Serafin stressed that growers also need to also carefully consider other important farming issues, particularly water use and how to increase potential yields with the water available to them.
“We know that some regions have been doing it exceptionally hard for quite some time now, so we are hopeful that those regions will get significant rainfall between now and their sowing window,” she says.
Research undertaken as part of the GRDC Water Use Efficiency (WUE) Initiative has shown that more can still be done to improve both the efficiency of rainfall capture and the management of soil water to optimise its use in dryland cropping systems.
A combination of ‘best’ practices on-farm—such as zero or strategic tillage, crop rotation, controlled traffic farming, opportunity cropping, knowing your plant available water (PAW) and PAW capacity—will contribute to the more efficient storage and use of soil water.
Underpinning the push to improve WUE is the need for farmers and their advisors to have a good understanding of how soils work in relation to water capture and storage and why some soils have the ability to hold more water for crop use than others.
Such baseline information, in conjunction with the seasonal monitoring of soil water, allows the setting of realistic decisions/goals on crop choice and inputs and yield potential.
Growers and advisors informing research
For Steven Simphendorfer, Senior Cereal Plant Pathologist at the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, the Updates provide an equally rewarding and insightful experience for researchers as they do for growers and advisors.
“The Updates offer a great forum for us to interact with agronomists and growers,” he says. “As researchers we get a lot of feedback on the work we are doing.
“A lot of ideas come out of these updates. It’s great being able to take these ideas and experiment and test them.”
The GRDC Updates were well attended, and feedback from researchers, growers and agronomists alike was positive. Many more topics of relevance to growers and advisors were covered over the three days, including breeding better wheat, nutrition, management, and practices. New investments for GRDC announced for this year include tactical sorghum and maize agronomy, and research into sunflowers.
GRDC Manager Regional Grower Services - North
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