From the Ground Up: Western Region RCSN 2013-14 Annual Report

From the Ground Up: Western Region | Annual Report, Regional Cropping Solutions Networks 2013-14

This report outlines some of the local research, development and extension (RD&E) priorities identified by the grain grower, adviser and researcher members of the GRDC Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSN), operating across the western grain-growing region of Australia.

Executive Summary

The past 12 months has seen the Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSNs) mature and evolve into a strong and vital part of the GRDC issues-identification process for the western grain-growing region.

Since the inception of the RCSN initiative in 2011, the five networks in Western Australia have provided the GRDC with information about the highest-ranking issues that each network believes are affecting the profitability and sustainability of farmers within its zone. Each year, the networks assess the issues raised and, following a structured process, prepare information about what change in practices could address the issues, what barriers to change exist and what research, development or extension (RD&E) activity could overcome the barriers. The information resulting from this process is given to the GRDC for consideration in the investment planning cycle.

The priority issues identified by the RCSNs for 2013–14 were similar to those identified in the 2012–13 year, showing that the assessment process is a strong and rigorous approach. However, of note is the increasing importance of crop rotations, farm business profitability and precision agriculture/variable rate technology.

Following is the list of priority issues in the GRDC western region for 2013–14:

  • weed management (5 zones); „„ 
  • rotations (5 zones); „„ frost (4 zones);
  • non-wetting soils (4 zones); „„ 
  • soil acidity and/or sodicity (4 zones); „„ 
  • farm business profitability (4 zones); „„ 
  • lack of decision-support tools that combine economic, physical and technical data (4 zones); „„ 
  • precision agriculture and variable rate technology (4 zones); and „„ 
  • water use efficiency (3 zones).

The release of the GRDC External Investment Plan 2014–15 proved to be a milestone for the RCSNs. The plan proposed numerous large projects, requiring significant investment, which clearly address high-priority issues identified by the RCSNs. The initiation of these projects is a major outcome of RCSN efforts so far, and provides overwhelming evidence that the GRDC is making significant investments as a result of what growers and professionals ‘on the ground’ are saying.

The GRDC also invests in fast track projects—short-term projects that have been identified by the RCSNs as necessary to deliver a practice change on priority issues within 12 months. The fast track projects have been a successful way to address local issues and have seen substantial co-investment from grower groups, consultants and research organisations.

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Region West