On-the-ground insights into northern rivers crop issues
Author: Toni Somes | Date: 06 Feb 2020
Charcoal rot, short season soybean varieties, herbicide resistance and marketing opportunities for niche food products were some of the hot topics voiced by grain growers, agronomists, farm consultants and end users in the New South Wales’ northern rivers region last week.
Challenges and opportunities facing the grains industry were raised in farm sheds, paddocks and during grower breakfasts when the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Northern Region Panel toured the Grafton, Casino, Pimlico and Condong areas.
The GRDC is one of the country’s leading research organisations and invests on behalf of Australian growers in research, development and extension (RD&E) that delivers improvements in grain production, sustainability and profitability.
Twice a year the organisation’s regional advisory panel, which comprises growers, agronomists, researchers and GRDC staff, visits cropping areas of NSW and Queensland to hear directly from growers and others involved in the industry.
GRDC Northern Panel Chair John Minogue, who led the three-day fact-finding tour to the northern rivers region, said engaging with industry was critical to help the GRDC identify and prioritise future RD&E investments.
“We organise these tours so we can hear directly from growers about the issues they are dealing with on the ground,” he said
“Understanding their concerns and challenges is vital so we can ensure growers’ levy-funded investments into research are comprehensive, practical and well-resourced, and delivers meaningful solutions to growers’ production challenges and importantly improves farm profitability.”
Mr Minogue said the panel had been impressed by the innovation of the northern rivers grains industry, as well as growers’ passion for the sector and their willingness to introduce different farming rotations and agronomic practices.
“Crop protection issues, particularly charcoal rot, was a recurring concern across the region as was the need for shorter or early season soybean varieties that could fit in a cane farming system and potentially give growers a wider planting window or the opportunity to plant two crops each summer,” he said.
“Growers and researchers at a meeting at the Grafton Primary Industries Institute also raised the issue of herbicide resistance and the implications for effective control of increasingly problematic weeds like feather top Rhodes grass, sowthistle and fleabane.
“While a visit to Mara Global Foods offered insights into the market opportunities for crops like soybean, as well as an understanding of processor and consumer requirements.”
Mr Minogue said the panel appreciated growers, farm consultants and end-users generously giving up their time to share their firsthand knowledge of the region’s issues and opportunities.
“Many of the northern panel members are growers and agronomists too and we are keenly aware of how difficult it is to find time away from the farm for meetings, so we are in debt to those people who met with us,” he said.
NSW Department of Primary Industries Grafton-based research agronomist Natalie Moore said growers, agronomists and researchers had valued the opportunity to have their concerns heard firsthand by the GRDC advisory panel.
“Like all cropping regions, we have production challenges and also see opportunities for our region that could positively impact farm profitability,” Dr Moore said.
“So it was invaluable to be able to have an open and frank discussion with the GRDC about what is working for us, what we would like to see more of, and how strategic on-going investment in certain areas, like soybean breeding programs, could be game-changers for our region.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Casino growers Paul and Joe Fleming, who hosted the advisory panel on-farm.
“Crop protection issues are one of our most significant concerns, so it was good to offer the GRDC an opportunity to get into the paddock and gain a real understanding of what it is like to farm this country,” Paul Fleming said.
“There are issues like waterlogging that we’ve been able to overcome by introducing practices like raised beds and controlled traffic, but there are other concerns like disease, weed control, nutrition and new varieties that need input from research at a higher level.
“There are also other topics, such as irrigation schedules and agronomy specifically for coastal areas that we would like more information on.”
See social photos from the three-day tour.
John Minogue, GRDC Northern Regional Panel Chair
0428 763 023
Toni Somes, GRDC Communications Manager – North
0436 622 645
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