A broad network of grower and grains industry representatives is helping to inform investment in grains research, development and extension to address cropping issues of most concern in the southern region.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation’s Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSN) initiative, launched in 2012, has enhanced the corporation’s appreciation of region-specific challenges faced by growers and its ability to respond in a timely and appropriate manner.
GRDC Southern Regional Panel chair Keith Pengilley says the four cropping solutions networks which were established to provide advice to the GRDC Southern Regional Panel have been a real success story.
“In addition to the 11 Panel members, we now 42 RCSNs members spread right across the southern cropping region. The GRDC footprint of engagement with industry is the largest it ever has been,” Mr Pengilley said.
“This gives the Panel a much greater insight into the issues affecting growers. It allows us to develop a better understanding so we can make the right investments that will end up having the desired outcome of practice change on-farm.”
The networks consist of growers, farming systems groups representatives, consultants and other grains industry stakeholders and are led by five facilitators and supported by the Panel and Andrew Rice, GRDC Manager Regional Grower Services – South.
Each network is focused on farming systems in a particular production zone – low rainfall, medium rainfall, high rainfall and irrigation – and members liaise with the wider grower community in their respective zone.
The networks identify and discuss local issues and then feed this information into the Panel which then assesses each issue and makes recommendations to the GRDC about potential activities to be addressed by investments, on behalf of growers and the Australian Government.
Some issues identified by the RCSNs have been addressed through the GRDC’s new “fast track” funding process in which small scale, short time-frame and relatively small budget projects involving in-season responses are quickly activated. The RCSNs have so far been responsible for instigating 10 completed fast-track projects in the southern region.
“The fast-track projects have been very successful in developing a quick response to localised issues affecting growers,” Mr Pengilley said during a recent combined meeting of the RCSNs in Melbourne.
“These projects have looked at issues such as slug control and snail baiting, and have enabled herbicide resistance surveys to be carried out. Some of the data from the fast-track projects is also forming the foundation of information being used in larger GRDC investments.
“For instance, herbicide resistance data from a one-year in-crop study in the low rainfall zone – where you normally wouldn’t expect to see a large amount of herbicide resistance – has highlighted to the Southern Panel and the GRDC that resistance is in fact an issue for the whole southern region, including the LRZ, and for Australia in general.”
Other issues identified by the RCSNs have been and are being addressed through the GRDC’s traditional investment processes. In 2013, 15 new investments resulted in direct response to identification of issues by the networks, while identification of another 16 issues informed broader GRDC investments.
This year, 29 issues identified by the RCSNs have been included in the 61 southern region issues prioritised by the Panel and put to the GRDC for proposed funding. The GRDC’s External Investment Plan will be released on September 17 this year and funding for projects will commence in July 2015.
Among the issues identified by the RCSNs this year for inclusion in the upcoming investment plan are subsoil constraints in the high rainfall zone, management of invertebrate pests, improving production on sandy soils in the low rainfall zone, more break crop options, increased inclusion of legumes in farming systems, durum wheat for irrigation, nitrogen management, correct crop sequences after rice under irrigation and management of foliar diseases in high potential canola crops in the HRZ.
Mr Pengilley said it was rewarding for RCSN members to now be seeing their efforts resulting in funded projects that have on-farm impact. Members will monitor and evaluate the progress and outputs from these projects.
The RCSNs had initially been particularly focused on aspects of crop protection and profitable farming systems but now their role is evolving and their attention is also turning to areas such as skills and capacity in the grains industry, according to Mr Pengilley.
“They are keen to see funding continue to be directed at fostering the knowledge and expertise of our researchers and our agronomists, as well as our growers.”
Opportunities to join the RCSNs will arise in two years when applications will be sought from anyone interested in becoming a member of one of the four networks. Current members will be entitled to re-apply for a position.
More information about the RCSN initiative and contact details for facilitators can be found at www.grdc.com.au/RCSN.
To view a video interview with Keith Pengilley about the RCSNs, go to http://youtu.be/z-3EoIlR0M4.
Keith Pengilley, GRDC Southern Panel
0448 015 539
Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
Caption: At a combined meeting of the RCSNs in Melbourne are GRDC Southern Regional Panel member Susan Findlay Tickner (left) of Horsham (Victoria); low rainfall zone RCSN member Barry Mudge, Port Germein (SA); and high rainfall zone RCSN co-facilitator Jen Lillecrapp of Struan (SA).