Western Australian growers had the opportunity to talk about their key cropping issues during three recent spring tours by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) western regional panel.
Separate tours were conducted by the panel in WA’s Northern Agricultural Region (NAR), Great Southern cropping districts and Esperance region, allowing the GRDC to meet with a large number of growers and industry representatives including advisers.
GRDC western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts said feedback received would help shape GRDC investments in research, development and extension (RD&E).
“The annual western regional panel spring tours are crucial in helping to ensure that the GRDC’s investments are squarely targeted at addressing the issues of most concern to growers,” he said.
“They also provide an opportunity for panellists, staff and board members to answer grower questions, such those relating to the scope of the GRDC’s investments and the role that the GRDC plays in the Australian grains industry.
“Given that GRDC research projects are delivered by research partners, and not the GRDC itself, growers are sometimes unaware of the breadth of projects they are funding through their grower levy.
“In the area of weeds research, for example, the GRDC funds projects ranging from long-term molecular research through to in-season tactical responses designed to help prolong the life of existing chemistries.
“Growers we spoke with were interested to find out more about the GRDC’s new ‘Herbicide Innovation Partnership’ with Bayer CropScience that aims to increase the probability of a locally-relevant new mode of action/herbicide becoming available in the next 10 to 15 years.
“Growers were also keen to find out more about changes to the GRDC’s structure, including a new regional model designed to enable the GRDC to be even more responsive to grower needs.”
Mr Roberts said many of the agronomic issues raised by growers during the tours were reflected in the GRDC’s current RD&E portfolio of short, medium and long-term investments.
“However, continued and frequent grower consultation is vital in order to ensure that any research ‘gaps’ are addressed and that the GRDCs investments continue to accurately reflect grower priorities, whether they be new, ongoing or evolving issues,” he said.
Mr Roberts said some of the agronomic topics raised by growers during the tour included ongoing issues with herbicide resistance in weeds; a desire for crops better able to withstand frost; nematodes and root diseases such as crown rot and rhizoctonia; a need for more viable break crop options; locally adapted soils research; non-wetting soils/tillage; and heat stress.
Pictured during the spring tour of the Esperance region are, from left, Holly and Chris Meiklejohn, of Wittenoom Hills, Adrian Perks, of Condingup, GRDC western regional panel member Julie Alvaro and GRDC western region systems and agronomy general manager Darren Hughes.
“Unseasonably hot weather has reduced the yield potential of crops in recent seasons, and the GRDC has responded to this by making heat tolerance a strong focus of new research as outlined in the GRDC External Investment Plan 2016-17,” he said.
“Other issues frequently raised by growers we met with included industry capacity for ongoing on-farm research in WA, and the need for continued access to new open pollinated canola varieties.”
The GRDC western regional panel includes three new members - most of whom were able to participate in the spring tours - including Merredin grower Julie Alvaro; Ravensthorpe grower Andrew Duncan and wheat geneticist Greg Rebetzke from CSIRO. GRDC executive manager Stuart Kearns is now on the western panel in an executive role and took part in the Esperance tour.
Other continuing panellists on the 11-person panel include Mr Roberts (Dunn Rock grower and chairman); agronomy and farming systems specialist, Mike Ewing (deputy chairman); Mingenew grain growers Paul Kelly and Darrin Lee; agricultural consultant Bill Ryan; Munglinup grower Gemma Walker; and well known WA agronomic and agribusiness advisor Chris Wilkins.
Peter Roberts, GRDC
0428 389 060
Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827