Listening tour helps guide future GRDC research
Author: Toni Somes | Date: 25 Sep 2018
Managing heat and frost risks with sorghum and chickpea, more accurate weather forecasting, herbicide resistance and grain and livestock integration, and the need for long coleoptile wheat varieties were key topics raised by grain growers during a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) listening tour through western Queensland recently.
The three-day ‘listening’ tour by GRDC Northern Panel members and staff included visits to grain operations in the Mungindi, Thallon, Nindigully, Surat, Inglestone, Chinchilla, Warra and Dalby regions to hear growers’ most pressing profitability challenges.
The Panel tours different New South Wales and Queensland cropping regions twice a year to engage directly with growers, grower groups, advisers, researchers and community members to help understand future grains research needs and priorities.
GRDC Northern Panel Chair John Minogue said regular industry consultation was invaluable and ensured grain grower levies were directed into research, development and extension (RD&E) that had a meaningful, lasting and profitable impact on-farm.
“The Northern Panel, which comprises a mix of growers, senior agronomists, advisers and researchers, is dedicated to ensuring that grower levies are directed into research and development activities that are regionally relevant,” Mr Minogue said.
“The spring tour is an ideal opportunity for us to travel into key production areas and source feedback from growers and industry personnel about the major agronomic and production challenges they are facing.
“Investigating these challenges and finding cost-effective, long term solutions is the key to the enduring profitability of the grains industry.”
Mr Minogue said this year’s tour visited regions seriously impacted by drought, so high on the list of priorities for growers was the need for crops with greater heat and drought tolerance, and a better understanding of how to measure soil moisture and soil nutrient levels.
“We also repeatedly heard requests from growers and advisers for extended research into time of sowing for sorghum, heat at flowering and issues like row spacing in semi-arid environments, chickpea seed set at lower temperatures, feathertop Rhodes grass control, and herbicide resistance,” Mr Minogue said.
“Other issues raised included declining soil organic carbon; how best to apply nitrogen and the cost given the vast areas and low rainfall environments; and the gap between crop potential and yields being achieved locally; and non-chemical options for weed control.”
Grain growers in Mungindi were also interested in the accuracy of current weather forecasting sites and apps for both short and long-term predictions.
Inglestone mixed farming operator Philip Coggan from ‘Enarra’ talked about the need for more research into integrated livestock and grain systems, with producers increasingly opting for a combined approach to spread risk and maximise return.
In areas of western Queensland, the use of exclusion fencing has enabled livestock to re-enter the farming system as a viable option. Faba beans are being currently grown for sheep at Surat, while areas of forage oats have been planted for fattening lambs. While in the Nindigully region some traditional cropping country is being put back to pasture (Mitchell grass) to regenerate soil.
Mr Minogue said growers were now keen to see more research into how profitability could be maximised in livestock and cropping systems, as well as the impact of re-introducing deep tillage after running livestock on cultivation paddocks.
Growers and advisers also attended a barbeque dinner with the GRDC in Chinchilla where issues like irrigation from coal seam gas; fleabane control; and crop varieties and agronomy packages suited to the western downs were raised.
In the Dalby region, landholder Wade Bidstrup said his peers were keen to hear the latest research results and were committed to changing paddock practices to achieve on-farm profit gains.
More than 60 grain growers and advisers attended a breakfast with Panel members and GRDC staff, held as part of the tour on the Bidstrup family’s property at Warra.
Mr Bidstrup said the large attendance reflected on-going industry interest in research and growers’ commitment to being part of the conversation when it came to helping the GRDC identify RD&E needs and priorities.
“Understanding the concerns and challenges facing growers across the region is vital so we can fulfil our responsibility of ensuring levy investments deliver paddock-ready solutions to production constraints, help reduce production costs and importantly increase farm profitability,” Mr Minogue said.
“The panel system is one of the enduring strengths of the GRDC as it helps ensure that GRDC investments into research are regionally relevant and guided by the needs and issues of growers.
“However, consultation during the tour is a two-way street – these tours also allow the GRDC to explain its investments into new projects relating to issues such as farming systems agronomy, disease and pest management, herbicide resistance, and crop and soil nutrition.”
Mr Minogue said the GRDC Northern Panel was grateful to growers and advisers for putting time aside to meet with the panel, for showcasing their properties as part of the tour, and for attending the organised events to share their concerns and issues in what had been a trying season for the region.
“We can’t emphasis enough how much we value and appreciate the time and effort growers and advisers give us as part of this tour to ensure we have a more in depth understanding and appreciation of their challenges and opportunities on-farm,” he said.
GRDC Northern Panel members are John Minogue (Panel Chair), Arthur Gearon (Deputy Chair), Roger Bolte, Roy Hamilton, Dr Tony Hamilton, Andrew McFadyen, Peter McKenzie, Graham Spackman, Bruce Watson, Dr Jo White and Lucy Broad (GRDC General Manager Grower Extension and Communication).
Toni Somes, GRDC
0436 622 645
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