Fast-tracked research addresses local issues
Date: 07 Jun 2013
Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSNs) have now been up and running in Western Australia for more than 12 months.
So it’s timely to reflect on how this Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) initiative is delivering on its aims – of helping growers get the information they need, when they need it, so they can make good decisions about farming practices.
These networks ensure local issues are identified and managed locally, providing a rapid and targeted response outside the usual GRDC 18-month investment cycle.
As well as initiating smaller local projects, the five WA RCSNs – located in each port zone – also aim to feed issues into the standard GRDC investment process which leads to bigger projects.Each RCSN is made up of about 12 representatives comprising growers, researchers, consultants and others involved with the grains industry.
Recently, some of these representatives provided feedback to me on whether RCSNs are ‘hitting the spot’ in benefiting growers at a local level.
I was told that RCSNs are an extremely fast and effective method of getting money for research on current production constraints and ‘hot topics’.
However, some growers are still not aware of what RCSNs are or do.
Some of the comments were:
“The RCSNs are benefiting growers at a local level and exploring great ideas at a local level – it’s a great way to find things out quickly.”
“It is giving growers the resources to address port zone specific issues, and is effective at leveraging of existing and past investments.”
“Many growers are still not aware of what RCSNs are or do. This is to be expected as they are relatively new.”
“Growers that are aware of them and the trial work find them very beneficial as the trials are in their area so they can see them, and they are based on the things that affect them.”
“It is an extremely fast and effective method of getting money for research on current constraints (cuts out red tape).”
“It enables all growers to see some of their (GRDC) levies spent locally.”“We are feeding the ideas to GRDC successfully and grounding low cost works in local areas that prioritise these as major concerns.”
Some of the outcomes from 2011-12 RCSN projects are:
Wild radish herbicide trials - undertaken after the local RCSN identified the weed as the major priority for funding in 2012 – produced the unexpected outcome that timing, application and using different herbicide groups are more important than product choice for control of the problem weed wild radish.
Kwinana West RCSN:
Trials focusing on ameliorating non-wetting soils in the western part of the Kwinana port zone have delivered some valuable lessons to growers.
The Corrigin Farm Improvement Group (CFIG) conducted some of the region’s first trials of mouldboard ploughing and found the technique works on local soils, delivering impressive results including high crop yields and low weed numbers.
Kwinana East RCSN
Having endured a number of dry seasons, water use efficiency (the amount of grain produced from a given amount of rainfall) is a key priority for growers in the eastern part of the Kwinana port zone.
To help them make more informed decisions about inputs needed to optimise yields, the RCSN worked closely with the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) to establish Yield Prophet® sites in the region, to improve the accuracy of the model in the region.
With frost a major concern for growers in the Albany port zone, the local RCSN sought to better understand how crop grazing could be used to manipulate the crop flowering window to reduce yield losses from frost.
Results confirmed that if there is an early sowing opportunity, growers can sow crops early and then, if necessary, extend the flowering date beyond the main frost risk period, using grazing.
The Esperance RCSN helped to instigate a very well attended ‘Quick and Dirty Variable Rate Day’ at Hopetoun in February, 2013.
Run by the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA) and supported by the GRDC, DAFWA and the Ravensthorpe Agricultural Initiative Network (RAIN), the event introduced growers to new technologies which might have a fit in their enterprise.
More information about the RCSNs can be found at www.grdc.com.au/rcsn, or by contacting me (Kwinana west, Kwinana east, Albany and Esperance port zones) on 0407 261 607; or Cameron Weeks (Geraldton port zone) on 0427 006 944.
PHOTO CAPTION: GRDC RCSN coordinator Julianne Hill.
PHOTO CAPTION: The Albany port zone RCSN at a meeting in Lake Grace in 2012.