WA growers embrace key farming practices

Author: | Date: 07 Jan 2011

Western Australian grain growers are frontrunners in their adoption of farming practices including no-tillage farming, stubble retention and precision agriculture, according to a recently released report.

The 2010 Farm Practice Baseline Report, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the Federal Government’s Caring for our Country program, reveals adoption levels of 11 key practices by Australian growers.

Its results are based on a 2009 national survey of 1300 growers – representing 5 per cent of Australian grain farms - and based on the 2008 cropping year.

GRDC validation and integration manager Stuart Kearns said the survey helped to clarify how well research had paid off and where more investment was needed.

“Measuring the adoption of farming practices will help us track progress in productivity and environmental management,” he said.

“Many practices which improve crop yields also have environmental benefits.

“The survey will be followed by further surveys, including one planned for April, 2011, which will measure changes in adoption levels.

“Future surveys will also investigate grower attitudes to determine why they are using, or not using, these practices.”

Mr Kearns said that while no-tillage adoption was high throughout Australia, WA growers were leaders in their uptake of this practice, particularly in the State’s central and mallee/sandplain regions where more than 98 per cent of cropped hectares were planted using no-tillage methods.

“Reduced tillage systems bring major benefits in productivity and environmental management and have seen major reductions in soil erosion in Australia’s cropping areas,” he said.

“In line with their high uptake of no-tillage practices, a high proportion of WA growers are retaining crop residue – leaving it intact or on the soil surface, with very small areas burnt.”

Mr Kearns said adoption of precision agriculture practices including auto-steer technology and yield mapping was also high in WA.

“In WA’s mallee/sandplain region, 74 per cent of the crop was managed using auto-steer technology, compared with the national average of 58 per cent,” he said.

“In WA’s northern region, 30 per cent of the cropped hectares are yield mapped, compared with the national average of 21 per cent.”

Mr Kearns said the area of crop per farm had increased in WA in the past 10 years, and the proportion of wheat grown had also increased.

“But the proportion of pulses has decreased in almost all cropping areas of Australia, including WA,” he said.

Mr Kearns said the area of WA crop where soil tests were carried out was higher than the national average of 66 per cent.

The survey showed pre-seeding and in-crop moisture testing was relatively low in WA, but this was not surprising given growing season rainfall was the dominant factor for crop growth in the State.

The 2010 Farm Practice Baseline Report is available on the GRDC website at www.grdc.com.au/GRDCFarmPracticesSurvey

The survey was conducted by Solutions Market Research and the report was compiled by Alan Umbers of Umbers Rural Services.

Key farm management practices investigated in the survey included: Matching land use to land capabilities; reduced or no-tillage; stubble retention; crop rotation; controlled traffic and precision agriculture; integrated weed/pest/disease management; nutrient budgeting and soil testing; use of perennials; stocking rate and intensity; managing biodiversity; water budgeting.

GRDC project code : URS00002

GRDC Project Code URS00002

Region West