Crop management practices key for SA grain growers in 2012

Date: 02 Mar 2012

David Shannon

Crop management practices key for SA grain growers in 2012

Suppression of crop diseases, pests and weeds will be critical for South Australian grain growers looking to maximise productivity from their plantings in 2012.

Relatively low grain prices are underpinning the need for growers to produce high-yielding crops to boost returns, magnifying the requirement for careful crop management.

Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Southern Regional Panel chair David Shannon says keeping diseases, pests and weeds in check, as well as ensuring nutrient and water use efficiency, will be at the forefront of growers’ strategies as the embark on this year’s cropping programs.

“More than ever before, South Australian grain growers are having to pro-actively address and combat those factors that can mean the difference between a decent yield and a poor one,” Mr Shannon said.

“We have no control over the weather, or the prices for what we produce, but we can influence on-farm production through our management practices.”

Recommended management practices were to the fore at the recent GRDC grains research Update in Adelaide where around 360 grains industry consultants, advisers, researchers, growers and other industry professionals from throughout the State gathered in preparation for the season ahead.

Mr Shannon said the two-day Update was designed to equip advisers and consultants with the latest agronomic information and resources – delivered by industry experts from throughout Australia and around the globe – to guide and support grain growers over the coming year.

Those attending the Update were told that volatility within global grain markets required greater flexibility within local farming systems to enable growers to grasp market opportunities as they arose.

Mr Shannon said it was evident that commodity prices were becoming a more direct trigger for growers’ crop selection decision-making, with many SA growers expected to again opt for large canola plantings this year based on oilseed prices being more attractive than those for wheat and barley.

“Expectations of another big canola crop going in this year has generated widespread concern among industry authorities about the potential for a high risk of blackleg disease,” Mr Shannon said.

“Experts at the Update warned that planting canola into or next to last year’s canola stubbles should be avoided to reduce the likelihood of blackleg infecting crops and causing yield losses.”
The threat of blackleg was one of the agronomic issues addressed at the grains research forum where other key points of advice included:

• The critical need for growers to manage and reduce grain and weed seed residues on farms to limit food sources and habitat for mice which are expected to be an ongoing problem in cropping regions.

• Decisions to manage invertebrate pests that pose a risk at crop establishment should be made well before sowing when there are far more control options available.

• The importance of an integrated approach to weed management to avoid reliance on chemical control and subsequent herbicide tolerance in problem weeds.

• Soil testing can play a direct role in increasing the profitability of fertiliser management decisions.

• Crop rotations have a bigger impact on reducing Rhizoctonia disease in cereals than previously thought, and summer weed control is influential in reducing Rhizoctonia inoculum.

• Pulse growers are urged to use quality seed in 2012 and test any suspect seed for germination and viability percentage prior to sowing.

• Cereal growers must minimise or avoid sowing rust-susceptible varieties which do not meet minimum disease standards, unless a vigilant and successful disease control strategy is in place.

“The grains research Update has armed the grains sector consulting community with an arsenal of advice and information resulting from GRDC-funded cutting-edge research,” Mr Shannon said.
“And with a suite of new digital technology now available to the grains industry, consultants and advisers are very well-placed to pass on these insights to growers as they try to balance productivity and risk mitigation.” 

Caption: GRDC Southern Regional Panel chair David Shannon addressing the grains research forum in Adelaide.

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