Cropping issues front and centre during Panel tour

Author: | Date: 25 Sep 2018

image of John Bennett and Jack Gall
GRDC Southern Region Panel Chair John Bennett (right) met up with grower Jack Gall and other local growers on the Galls’ property near Dookie during the Panel’s tour of north eastern Victoria. Photo: GRDC

Immediate seasonal constraints such as frost and moisture-stressed crops, as well as ongoing challenges around subsoil acidity and capacity within the grains industry, were among growers’ issues front and centre for the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Southern Region Panel during its recent annual spring tour.

The need for a profitable and reliable legume for north east Victorian farming systems, limitations to optimising yields in irrigated crops, weed, stubble and nutrient management, waterlogging in the high rainfall zone and opportunities for improved canola production were other issues raised by growers during the tour through north central, north eastern and south west Victoria.

Panel members and GRDC staff met with growers, researchers, advisers, farming systems groups, agribusiness and other grains industry specialists during their visits to growers’ properties, research facilities and education institutions, trial sites and downstream enterprises.

Southern Region Panel Chair John Bennett said the tour provided Panel and staff with a unique and valuable opportunity to discuss growers’ priority issues at the coalface.

“Being in paddocks and seeing first-hand the impact of seasonal conditions and longer-term challenges confronting our growers gives us an intimate understanding of those issues, within a local context, to assist in informing discussions and decisions around appropriate GRDC investments in research, development and extension (RD&E),” Mr Bennett said.

“The tour exposed Panel members and staff to this year’s variable seasonal conditions throughout the southern region – while conditions in south west Victoria have been largely favourable, growers in the north east have been dealing with well below average rainfall and frost.

“Growers have been assessing their options for stressed crops and we saw many crops being cut for hay and silage.”

Mr Bennett, the GRDC and other organisations encourage growers to seek advice and utilise the tools, resources and support mechanisms available to assist with informed crop management decision making. The GRDC has developed a “Dealing With The Dry” web portal which contains links to useful information, available at

The tour this year was split into two groups: one travelled through Victoria’s north eastern regions where locations visited included Congupna, Numurkah, Mulwala, Yarrawonga, Rutherglen and Dookie. The north central and south west tour included visits to Bridgewater, Ballarat, Tatyoon, Lake Bolac, Skipton, Derrinallum, Inverleigh and Geelong.

image of Kate Wilson, Mike McLaughlin and Roger Armstrong
GRDC Southern Region Panel member Kate Wilson and Deputy Chair Mike McLaughlin discuss subsoil amelioration trials with Agriculture Victoria’s Roger Armstrong (right) at Tatyoon. Photo: GRDC

The Panel and staff will now consider addressing gaps in RD&E identified during the spring tour, as well as opportunities for creating enduring profitability for growers. The GRDC’s new five-year RD&E strategic plan will guide any investment responses.

“The tour confirmed that subsoil acidity is a widespread and increasingly prevalent constraint holding back growers’ efforts to bridge the gap between actual and potential yield – it’s an issue that requires further attention,” Mr Bennett said.

“Although the GRDC has already invested significantly into research aimed at combating acidity and many growers are in fact spreading lime, treating acidity at depth (10 to 30 centimetres) where crop roots grow is not being readily practiced.”

“Capacity in the grains industry remains a major concern for growers, businesses and organisations which often struggle to source and retain skilled labour. It’s a problem that was repeatedly raised during our tour and one the GRDC and the broader industry must continue to address.”

Mr Bennett said discussions with growers of irrigated crops underlined their often unique challenges in nitrogen management, lodging of winter crops, heat tolerance and residue management.

Common to irrigators and dryland growers in north-east Victoria was the desire for regionally-adapted pulse varieties for agronomic, crop rotation, risk management and profit advantages, while crop establishment, nutrition and waterlogging were among barriers to profitability canvassed through the high rainfall zone.

Mr Bennett said many of the issues raised on the tour not only affected growers across a range of rainfall zones in Victoria, but had broader relevance across the entire southern cropping region which also includes South Australia and Tasmania.

“The tour delivered new insights and intelligence in terms of cropping challenges and opportunities, and also highlighted the many positive undertakings and achievements occurring in the southern cropping region.

“It was encouraging to see that existing GRDC investments in RD&E are generating beneficial on-farm impacts, our research partners are committed to improving grower profitability and sustainability, and our growers are demonstrating incredible resilience, drive, innovation and adaptability in the face of adverse conditions and ever-present constraints.”

The annual spring tour is just one of a number of mechanisms that give the Panel and the GRDC an enhanced appreciation of growers’ RD&E investment priorities.

The GRDC Southern Region Panel comprises Panel Chair John Bennett of Lawloit (Victoria); Deputy Chair Mike McLaughlin of Adelaide (SA); Michael Chilvers of Nile (Tasmania); Peter Kuhlmann of Mudamuckla (SA); Fiona Marshall of Mulwala (NSW), Jon Midwood of Inverleigh (Victoria); Rohan Mott of Turriff (Victoria); Richard Murdoch of Warooka (SA); Andrew Russell of Browns Plains (Victoria); Kate Wilson of Hopetoun (Victoria); and Brondwen MacLean (GRDC general manager representative).

Contact Details

For Interviews

John Bennett, GRDC Southern Panel Chair
Phone 0429 919 223


Sharon Watt, GRDC
Phone 0409 675 100