Growers shed light on cropping challenges

Author: Natalie Lee | Date: 18 Sep 2014

Challenges posed by local soil types, crop damage from frost, oat production, weed management and mixed farming systems are some of the agronomic priority issues for growers in Western Australia’s southern cropping districts.

Grain growers raised these and other production matters with key Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) personnel during last week’s GRDC western regional panel spring tour of districts including Wandering, West Arthur, Kojonup and South Stirling.

Darkan growers Matt Buckland and Clinton Harrington, left, and Steven Hulse flank GRDC western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts and panellist Shauna Stone during the GRDC western regional panel southern WA spring tour

The tour was one of three being held in WA this year. The GRDC western regional panel will also tour the eastern grainbelt from September 22 to 24, and the northern grainbelt from October 1 to 3.

GRDC western regional panel deputy chairman Mike Ewing said many of the issues raised by growers during the southern tour had already been identified as areas for investment by the GRDC, with new research projects hitting the ground now or soon.

 “Regular spring tour visits to growers and feedback from the GRDC’s Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSNs) are proving effective in providing the GRDC western regional panel with information about grower priorities for research, development and extension (RD&E),” he said.

Dr Ewing said growers in the high rainfall, southern cropping areas visited highlighted the need for cohesive research into issues relating to ‘forest gravel’ soils – a dominant soil type in the area.

“Non-wetting soils, acidity, phosphorus deficiency and subsoil constraints are common problems on these forest gravels, and will be among the issues addressed by research conducted under ‘Soil Constraints - West’, supported by the GRDC,” he said.

“However, growers emphasised the importance of treating all the constraints as part of a farming systems package, and of recognising that regional differences mean it is important to have local demonstration of what success looks like.”

Dr Ewing said frost damage to crops was a commonly cited issue during the tour, as was the important role being played by oats crops in mitigating this risk.

“Oats, which have superior frost tolerance and can be grown for grain or cut for the export hay market, have become a serious option for frost mitigation, bolstered by good prospects for further market growth,” he said.

“Growers want researchers to adopt an integrated approach to oats research, particularly in the areas of herbicide and disease management.

“Farmers want genetic work maintained into breeding oat varieties with superior disease resistance, and in the short-term need effective fungicidal treatments and appropriate herbicide strategies, particularly for grass control.”

Dr Ewing said growers told panellists that weeds continued to be a major influence on how they set up their crop rotations and farming systems.

Wandering growers Paul Treasure, left, and David Parsons, caught up with GRDC western regional panel deputy chairman Mike Ewing during the GRDC western regional panel's southern WA spring tour.

Many growers also reported that mixed farming systems continued to provide them with whole farm benefits, and supported continued research in this area – such as that conducted under the GRDC-supported Grain & Graze 3 initiative.

In addition, many growers wanted quantitative information about nitrogen provided by legumes to cropping systems.

“Growers want to know what might be causing inefficiencies in nitrogen fixation and require information about how legume crops influence the need for applied nitrogen fertiliser,” he said.

Dr Ewing said other feedback was that growers were seeking agronomic information in diverse ways and there was a big opportunity for them to obtain knowledge from the GRDC website.

“Many growers find the GRDC website challenging to navigate in its current form and encouraged the GRDC in its efforts to make improvements to it,” he said.

“Many growers are also keen to ensure that information relating to grains RD&E is collected, documented and archived so that information is easily recoverable, and not lost.”

Contact Details

For Interviews

Mike Ewing, GRDC

0409 116 750


Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications

08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827

Region West