New research programs to counter cropping constraints

Author: Sharon Watt | Date: 25 Sep 2015

Keith Pengilley

Constraints which limit cropping productivity in the southern cropping region (Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania) will be tackled through a suite of new projects to be funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Through its 2016-17 External Investment Plan, the GRDC is seeking research partners to undertake a range of programs aimed at providing grain growers with the technologies and practices they require for their businesses to remain profitable.

GRDC Southern Regional Panel chair Keith Pengilley says the projects proposed under the Plan are designed to address on-farm issues which impact on productivity, sustainability, costs and profits.

“The 2016-17 External Investment Plan will address identified gaps in research, development and extension, and it will complement the GRDC’s previous and existing investments in RD&E,” Mr Pengilley said.

He said some of the projects listed in the investment plan were specific to the southern cropping region while others were more broad but had relevance and application to southern farming systems.

Increasing production on sandy soils in low and medium rainfall areas is one of a number of southern region-specific projects proposed under the Plan.

“Almost five million hectares of land in South Australia and Victoria, as well as southern New South Wales, have sandy soils with constraints that limit crop yield,” Mr Pengilley said.

“The GRDC is aiming to deliver improved knowledge and tools to identify the main constraints as well as cost-effective methods to overcome these issues so we can close the gap between actual and water-limited potential yield on these sandy soils.

“Limited productivity on sandy soils was an issue raised by grain growers during the Southern Regional Panel’s recent annual spring tour, so I am sure growers will be encouraged to know that we are taking action to address this particular problem.”

Another project specific to the southern region is focused on the management of legume and fertiliser nitrogen.

“Nitrogen management has been identified by the Panel as a significant issue in the south,” Mr Pengilley said. “Nitrogen is a key driver of growers’ productivity and profitability, yet there is a certain lack of knowledge around nitrogen cycling, along with a limited appreciation of the benefits of legumes in farming systems, especially from an economic point of view.

“The project outlined in the External Investment Plan will seek to improve growers’ knowledge of the contribution of legume crops and pastures to nitrogen cycling and the fertiliser nitrogen requirements of subsequent cereal and canola crops.”

Subsoil constraints in the southern cropping region are also being targeted through the proposed new investments.

The application of amendments such as lime, gypsum and organic matter into the subsoil represents a significant opportunity to lift productivity of soils with poor structure, low and high pH, salinity, sodicity, low nutrient holding capacity, and nutrient toxicities and deficiencies.

As part of the GRDC’s National Soil Constraints Initiative, a program to be carried out over five years aims to provide growers with information to enable them to diagnose which subsoil constraints limit their yields, tools for mapping constraints and the most effective subsoil amelioration techniques on a paddock scale.

Growers in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia are expected to benefit from a project to determine if there are gaps in macro-nutrient response data for the southern and northern regions and to fill those gaps and provide updated nutrient response curves to be used by growers and their advisers for improved management of costly inputs.

The GRDC is also seeking to facilitate the development and release of at least four new pasture/fodder/forage legume options for the low and medium rainfall zones in the southern and western regions.

Other projects which will have relevance to the southern cropping region include:

  • Control of snails and slugs through new products. Snails and slugs represent annual estimated losses of $17.67 million and $25.93 million. This project will narrow down existing investments and potential new ideas to a suite of investments that are geared towards success.
  • Building capacity in the fundamental understanding of the processes underlying heat tolerance. Heat damage is the most common and most limiting production constraint in Australian grain crops, resulting in average economic losses of $1.1 billion a year in wheat crops.
  • Maintenance of grain plumpness and transfer of heat tolerance into Australian barley germplasm. The GRDC is seeking to make available to growers barley cultivars with better tolerance to heat shock events.
  • Improving the ability to predict flowering time of flowering cultivars. This project will develop a web-based model for estimating heat risk, allowing growers to manage cultivar choice in relation to sowing time and to tactically manage inputs to reduce the impact of heat on grain yield.
  • Locally important weeds. The GRDC is aiming to provide growers with access to increased knowledge of the ecology and biology of locally important weeds and the different tactics for their management.

Tenders close at 2pm AEDT on Thursday, November 5. More information about the Investment Plan is available via

For Interviews

Keith Pengilley, GRDC Southern Panel
0448 015 539


Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
0409 675 100

Caption: GRDC Southern Regional Panel chair Keith Pengilley says the projects proposed under the GRDC’s 2016-17 External Investment Plan are designed to address on-farm issues which impact on productivity, sustainability, costs and profits.

Region South