Workshops supporting growers after drought years

Author: Sharon Watt | Date: 17 Mar 2016

Portrait of John Bennett

GRDC Southern Regional Panel member John Bennett, of Lawloit.

Grain growers in Victoria’s Wimmera and Mallee regions are being offered specialised support as they grapple with the difficulties of consecutive years of drought.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has commissioned Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) to deliver a series of on-farm decision-making workshops, entitled Farming After The Drought.

The workshops this month are providing local growers and their advisers with the information and tools they need to plan and implement strategies that will enable them to capitalise on opportunities and manage the production and financial risks for the 2016 season.

GRDC Southern Regional Panel member John Bennett, of Lawloit, says drought conditions over the past two years have had a significant impact on farm businesses, especially in the Wimmera, southern Mallee and north central Victoria.

“The GRDC has recognised a need to support growers in these regions as lack of rainfall over consecutive years has a major bearing on all aspects of a grain-growing enterprise,” Mr Bennett said.

“There are many things growers can do at little expense to minimise risk and reduce costs going into the coming cropping season and these will be a focus of the workshops.

“For example, testing cropping soils to determine nutrient levels will help in deciding whether opportunities exist to cut back on fertiliser inputs, and PreDictaTMB diagnostic testing for root diseases will inform growers as to which paddocks carry less disease risk.

“Reviewing and changing the time of sowing of some crops can also produce a positive return from little, if any, extra investment.

“And of course, eliminating summer weeds from paddocks as early as possible will deliver significant stored moisture and soil nutrient benefits to crops this coming season.

“Putting some thought into cropping rotations – the right crops for the right paddocks – will be imperative for many growers this year, along with knowing herbicide residue levels.”

Mr Bennett said mixed farmers could consider running livestock in containment areas – a strategy that generates feed and management efficiencies and allows paddocks to recover from drought.

“And by having stock in contained areas, it means you can get on with your cropping program,” he said.

“There are certainly simple, cost-effective ways to maximise production in drought-stressed areas, and the workshops being delivered by BCG on behalf of the GRDC aim to detail these.”

Each workshop is being led by either Harm van Rees of Cropfacts or Kate Burke from Think Agri.

These two industry professionals will be sharing agronomic and financial information to assist growers with their decision-making this year.

The workshops will be co-presented by a local agronomist to provide input and perspective to each farming region.

BCG research manager Claire Brown and extension officer Alli Elliott will incorporate recent findings from the GRDC-funded southern Stubble Initiative and the More Profit From Crop Nutrition initiative. 

Workshops have already been held at Donald, Woomelang and Nhill, while upcoming workshops will be at Quambatook on March 29, Berriwillock on March 30 and Sheep Hills on March 31.

Each workshop will run from 8.30am to 12.30pm and lunch will be provided.

For more information or to register, contact BCG by phoning 03 5492 2787, emailing or visiting

In the meantime, Mr Bennett encourages growers and their advisers to visit the GRDC website for the latest agronomic information and resources to help them with this year’s cropping programs. Papers from the most recent GRDC Grains Research and Farm Business Updates are available at the GRDC Update Papers page. 

 For Interviews

John Bennett,
GRDC Southern Panel

0429 919 223


Sharon Watt,

Porter Novelli

0409 675 100

Region South