The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) will embark on a five-year research project to help grain growers achieve higher yields and profits from problematic ‘forest gravel’ soils in Western Australia.
It is just one of a number of new projects announced in the GRDC External Investment Plan 2016-17.
Through the plan, the GRDC is seeking research partners to undertake longer-term programs aimed at providing growers with technologies and practices they need to remain competitive in global grain markets.
“While the forest gravels project is specific to WA, a number of projects outlined in the plan are broader investments but highly relevant to western cropping systems,” GRDC western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts said.
Forest gravel soils are the dominant soil type in WA’s high rainfall cropping area, accounting for about 3 million hectares of farming land.
“In recent years, there has been a shift away from pastures to cropping on these soil types, but despite the relatively high rainfall, yields and profits are often poor due to soil constraints and other issues,” Mr Roberts said.
“Gravel contained in the soil can negatively affect soil water holding capacity, acidity, organic matter dynamics, root growth, nutrient supply, fertiliser responses and the activity of soil-applied herbicides.
“The top layer is often sandy with limited ability to supply nutrients, there is a high tendency for these soils to become water repellent and phosphorus deficiency is a common problem.
“Starting in July, 2016, the new GRDC project aims to provide growers, advisers and researchers with information about how the properties of forest gravel soils affect crop production and help growers use cost-effective practices to overcome constraints associated with these soils.”
The project is expected to be part of the collaborative research effort Soil Constraints – West.
Mr Roberts said that in addition to forest gravels, other issues addressed in the GRDC External Investment Plan 2016-17 relevant to WA included heat tolerance research; locally important weeds; slugs and snails; legume options for low and medium rainfall zones; education resources; biosecurity preparedness; karnal bunt; and soil water and nutrient measurement.
Mr Roberts said the plan was developed as a result of industry consultation, taking into consideration currently funded investments and identified priorities.
“The GRDC western panel, along with other GRDC regional panels and the national panel, play an important role in advising the GRDC and helping it determine investment priorities,” he said.
“Growers and other representatives of WA’s grain industry comprise the GRDC western panel, which regularly consults with growers and receives input on investment priorities at a local level from the GRDC’s Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSNs).”
Mr Roberts said that in addition to longer-term investments such as those contained in the GRDC External Investment Plan 2016-17, the GRDC also invested in many ‘fast-tracked’ one to three-year projects driven by the WA GRDC RCSNs.
Tenders for projects outlined in the plan close at 2 pm AEDT on November 5, 2015.
Peter Roberts, GRDC
0428 389 060
Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827