Victorian grain growers get set for season 2016

Author: Sharon Watt | Date: 01 Mar 2016

3 men smiling at the camera while present at a conference

Catching up at the GRDC Update at Bendigo were Swan Hill trio Rob Sonogan (left), a GRDC Southern Regional Panel member and agronomist, Shaun Krahnert from Elders and OptiAg’s Mark Sargeant.

Victorian grain growers get set for season 2016 Victorian grain growers are well placed to make informed decisions to help them maximise yield and profit potential throughout the coming cropping season.

Growers and their advisers have been armed with the latest agronomic advice to assist in their preparations for sowing this year’s crops and their strategies to combat in-season issues such as weeds, pests, diseases and climate variability.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) two-day Grains Research Update in Bendigo has delivered critical research information to around 320 agronomists, consultants, researchers, growers and other grains industry personnel from across the State.

GRDC Southern Regional Panel member Rob Sonogan says the annual Update is recognised as Victoria’s premier grains research forum, playing a vital role in keeping advisers and growers up to date with cutting-edge research and development outcomes and insights.

Mr Sonogan said the Update was very much focused on supporting growers in generating profitability from their farming systems, especially after last year’s extremely dry season in many parts of the State.

“At the end of the day, it is important that our farmers are making a profit,” Mr Sonogan said. “The GRDC Updates are geared towards providing the information and resources needed to help them make that happen.”

Mr Sonogan said that after the dry of 2015, it was important to test soils for nutrient and moisture levels ahead of the 2016 sowing programs.

“That was a common theme in presentations from a number of speakers at the Update,” he said. Having a clear understanding of the soil base will enable growers to make sound judgements about input requirements and target yields.

“Also emphasised at the Update was the important role of soil moisture probes in critical management decision-making, especially in relation to in-crop nitrogen application.”

Mr Sonogan said keynote speaker Ed Hunt, a consultant and grain grower from South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, outlined his thoughts on managing profitability and risk in a grain-growing business, stating that to be both profitable and resilient businesses must these days be structured differently to how they were years ago.

“Mr Hunt told attendees that while a current move to high input farming systems may provide for increased profitability in average to high rainfall years, more attention needs to be given to the business’s ability to cope with successive poor performing years,” Mr Sonogan said.

Another keynote speaker was Ron Storey of Storey Marketing Services and NZX Agribusiness Australia, who detailed the global and domestic factors influencing growth of the Victorian pulse industry.

“Mr Storey painted a positive outlook for the pulse industry in this State and elsewhere. With 2016 being the International Year of Pulses, he believes it could trigger some fundamental shifts in the world’s approach to solving the increasing demand for protein, food security and environmental sustainability.”

Mr Sonogan said international guest speaker Robert Saik, from Agri-Trend in Canada, provided an interesting insight into the key drivers that he believes will shape agriculture over the next decade.

“Mr Saik is a professional agronomist and high profile agricultural consultant and he looked at the next quantum steps in emerging technology and how digital farm data can help lift productivity.

“To feed a growing world population, Mr Saik says there will need to be further integration into agriculture of technology such as robotics, artificial intelligence, sensor integration, bio synthesis (genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms), data systems and environmental sustainability.”

Other key messages delivered at the Bendigo Update included:

  • Plans to effectively manage cereal diseases need to be developed for 2016, even though disease levels were low in 2015. If diseases are not effectively controlled, and favourable climatic conditions occur, diseases can develop rapidly and cause yield loss.
  • Monitoring soil phosphorus, potassium and sulphur is important to ensure these nutrients are not potentially limiting to crop growth.
  • The high financial stakes involved in nitrogen management justifies a high level of critical thought and better understanding when making nitrogen management decisions;
  • Retaining stubble has been shown in many cases to assist earlier crop establishment in the high rainfall zone;
  • Pest activity in one year is generally a poor indicator of pest activity in the next;
  • Dry conditions in 2015 will mean residual herbicides are more likely to persist into 2016. Pulse growers may need to take this into consideration when selecting paddocks and varieties for 2016;
  • Grain legume break crops can add value to low rainfall farming systems;
  • For effective baiting of snails and slugs, bait needs to be applied when the pests are active and feeding;
  • Protecting pollinators (bees) through cautious use of insecticides will benefit canola and legume seed crop yields;
  • Overuse of fungicides with the same mode of action will speed up the development of resistance;
  • If dry seasons persist, hay will continue to be an option for grain growers;
  • Certain crop species and cultivars can consistently suppress weeds effectively.

For Interviews

Rob Sonogan, GRDC Southern Panel

Phone 0407 359 982


Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli

Phone 0409 675100

Region South