Growers across WA voice research priorities to GRDC
Hundreds of Western Australian grain growers have met with key Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) representatives in recent weeks to talk about their top production constraints.
Growers’ main priorities have included seasonal conditions, non-wetting soils, frost, herbicide resistance, more profitable legumes, and the need for attracting and retaining skilled people in agriculture.
Four separate GRDC western panel spring tours took place in the Geraldton, Kwinana, Albany and Esperance port zones.
GRDC managing director John Harvey, who participated in the Esperance region tour, said the western panel spring tours helped ensure research was relevant to growers locally and project outputs were adopted on-farm.
“GRDC is committed to ensuring its links with growers are direct and effective, and is keen to find out exactly what is happening at the grass roots level,” he said.
“The GRDC western regional panel is very important and valuable in terms of being an on-the-ground contact with growers, advisers and researchers.
“It also plays a vital role in being a conduit of information and intelligence to the GRDC.”
Mr Harvey said he, the western panel and other GRDC personnel appreciated the opportunity to talk with busy growers and other industry stakeholders during the spring tours.
GRDC western panel chairman Peter Roberts said the condition of the cropping areas on the tours ranged from very good in areas including the South Coast, to extremely dry.
Mr Roberts said the significant effect of non-wetting soils on crop performance continued to concern WA growers.
“In some areas such as the northern acid sandplains, tools such as mouldboard ploughing have produced good results, but farther south where there are different soil types, the issue is proving to be more difficult for growers to manage,” he said.
Mr Roberts said it was obvious that more profitable canola had replaced many hectares previously seeded to legume crops.
“The GRDC is continuing to look at the options for making pulses more profitable and to increase diversity in cropping rotations,” he said.
“We are concerned about the effects of monoculture cropping systems with their reliance on the same chemistries and potential for increased disease risk.”
Mr Roberts said herbicide resistance in wild radish and annual ryegrass in particular was causing a lot of problems for growers.
“Farmers know they can’t rely on just boomsprays and the same chemicals and instead need to tackle weeds and herbicide resistance using a number of approaches including harvest weed seed management, rotations and alternative chemistries,” he said.
“The GRDC is taking a multi-pronged approach to weed management and herbicide resistance, funding research into areas including alternative chemistries, crop rotation systems, the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) and the Harrington Seed Destructor.”
Mr Roberts said growers consulted during the spring tours were very interested in applying the Yield Prophet® tool to their farms to help them respond profitably to seasonal conditions by adjusting their inputs.
Yield Prophet® is a web interface which uses the computer simulation model APSIM (Agricultural Production Systems Simulator) and paddock specific soil, crop and climate data to generate information about the likely outcomes of farming decisions.
“The GRDC and research partners including the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) are trying to work out how growers can use Yield Prophet® so the values it generates are applicable for their particular area and soil types,” Mr Roberts said.
He said yield losses from frost were an ongoing area of concern to WA growers.
“GRDC-supported research is being targeted at frost – growers recognise that it is difficult to find the answers but are keen that we maintain our investment focus in this area,” Mr Roberts said.
He said the GRDC was trying to generate answers to growers’ questions and is making a large effort to be available to them.
“As well as the expanded spring tours, the appointment of WA-based GRDC regional program manager Darren Hughes and the establishment of Regional Cropping Solutions networks in WA are other recent initiatives aimed at strengthening the link between GRDC and growers,” he said.
PHOTO CAPTION: GRDC managing director John Harvey, left, and GRDC western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts, right, speak with growers Ron Longbottom, of Grass Patch, and Digby Graham, of Salmon Gums.
PHOTO CAPTION: Pingrup grower Paul Hicks speaks to, from left, GRDC western panellist Ralph Burnett, GRDC traits project manager Omid Ansari, panellists Mike Ewing and Kit Leake and his father John Hicks. Paul Hicks has developed new technology allowing seeders to seed in the previous year’s row for better crop establishment.
PHOTO CAPTION: GRDC western panel member Shauna Stone, left, with Facey Group executive officer Felicity Astbury and Cuballing grower Scott Young in a canola crop at Cuballing.
PHOTO CAPTION: From left, GRDC western panellists Narelle Moore, Paul Kelly, Susan Hall and GRDC director Richard Brimblecombe look on as Farmanco consultant David Cameron inspects a wheat crop at Buntine.
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