Tours highlight RD&E priorities

Five members of the GRDC Southern Panel standing outside

Panel members on the road.

Panel members on the road
GRDC Southern Panel members Richard Konzag (right) and Bill Long (second from right) met with Robert Hart (middle) from Hart Bros Seeds, Junee, New South Wales, and CSIRO researchers Mark Peoples (left) and James Hunt (second from left) during the Southern Panel’s spring tour of the region’s medium-rainfall areas. GRDC panel members and staff met
with growers and researchers across the country to discuss issues they face as part of annual spring panel tours in the southern, western and northern grain-growing regions. 

North

Northern New South Wales growers recently highlighted the main production constraints in their farming systems to GRDC Northern Panel members as part of an annual spring tour.

The tour identified weeds, diseases, storage, transport infrastructure, herbicide resistance and nutrient management among the priorities for GRDC’s investment in RD&E in the northern grain-growing region.

GRDC Northern Panel chair, James Clark, says the tour of growers’ properties, trial sites and research facilities aimed to overcome obstacles to productivity and profitability at a grassroots level.

“There are many ways the GRDC consults with growers and researchers, but standing in crops discussing local production constraints and priorities for GRDC funding gives the panel a clear picture of what needs to be tackled,” Mr Clark says.

He says research into crown rot disease was a major focus of the tour that led the panel to inspect trials at Bellata and Narrabri, which are respectively run by Crown Analytical Services and the University of Sydney’s Plant Breeding Institute.

These research sites compare new lines developed using GRDC funding with current varieties known to perform under crown rot pressure.

“By the end of the year, growers will know what progress has been made by putting these varieties head to head in the battle against crown rot.”

The touring panel members also looked at the GRDC’s investment in on-farm National Variety Trials and research into crown rot, stripe rust and winter cereals.

South

Two people standing in a field, holding grasses

Kathryn Bechaz (left) from the NSW
Department of Primary Industries and
GRDC Southern Panel chair David
Shannon examine production
constraints in southern farming
systems as part of a recent spring tour.

GRDC Southern Panel spring tours recently highlighted the main production constraints facing growers, researchers and farming systems groups from South Australia, Victoria and southern New South Wales.

The week-long tour of growers’ properties, trial sites and research facilities identified weeds, disease and pests among the main priorities for the GRDC’s investment in research, development and extension across the southern grain-growing region.

GRDC Southern Panel chair, David Shannon, says the annual tour is an important mechanism for determining which issues are most affecting the productivity and profitability of southern farming systems.

Mr Shannon says weed control and management to help overcome the increasing resistance to herbicides was seen as one of the most pressing concerns.

“Brome grass is a particularly serious problem that appears to be resisting current control methods in many areas,” Mr Shannon says.

He added that wild radish and feathertop Rhodes grass had more recently been added to the list of problem weeds, including fleabane, ryegrass and barley grass.

The increase in weed pressure reinforces the importance of integrated management strategies, especially those targeting summer weeds, Mr Shannon says.

Panel members noted the need for RD&E investment to reduce damage caused by pests such as snails and slugs, which are particularly active in high-rainfall areas.

“Recent wet seasons have seen an escalation in snail and slug populations, resulting in damaged crops, expensive control measures and grain contamination at harvest.”

Panel members further found that skylarks have become a pest in western Victoria, where they have caused damage in emerging crops.

Blackleg in canola, yellow leaf spot, cereal rust diseases and Rhizoctonia were also identified as major problems for growers and the wider industry as part of the spring tours. “These issues will be earmarked for ongoing R&D attention,” Mr Shannon says.

He says a desire to learn more about soil and crop nutrition, and optimising productivity from nutrient inputs were other areas found to be high on the agenda for southern growers.

“In addition, the timing and rate of sowing seed, and the timing of herbicide and fungicide applications have become key considerations for growers.”

Other priorities for RD&E investment are break crops, new varieties, water use efficiency, soil management, strategic use of livestock and the application of new technologies.

West

Three people pose in a field of canola

(From left) GRDC western regional panelist Shauna
Stone, Facey Group executive officer Felicity Astbury
and Cuballing grower Scott Young at Cuballing as
part of a GRDC spring tour in WA.

Four GRDC Western Panel spring tours in the Geraldton, Kwinana, Albany and Esperance port zones focused on key production contraints – non-wetting soils, frost, herbicide resistance, lack of profitable legumes and the need for skilled people. GRDC managing director, John Harvey, who visited the Esperance region, says the tours help to make investment in RD&E more relevant to growers locally.

“The GRDC is committed to ensuring its links with growers are direct and effective in finding out exactly what is happening at the grassroots level,” Mr Harvey says.

GRDC Western Panel chair Peter Roberts says the effect of non-wetting soils on crop performance is an ongoing issue.

“In some areas, such as the northern sandplain, mouldboard ploughing has provided good results, but non-wetting soils are more difficult to manage further south,” Mr Roberts says.

He says the spring tours showed many cropping areas previously seeded to legumes had been replaced with canola as a more lucrative alternative.

“The GRDC is continuing to look at options for making pulses more profitable and to increase diversity in cropping rotations,” he says.

“We are concerned about the effects of monoculture cropping systems that rely on the same chemicals and the consequent potential for increased disease pressure.”

Mr Roberts says herbicide resistance in wild radish and annual ryegrass has emerged as another problem for WA growers.

“The GRDC is taking a multi-pronged approach to managing weeds and herbicide resistance by funding research into use of alternative chemicals, crop rotations, the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative and the Harrington Seed Destructor.”

He says growers participating in the spring tours showed interest in using Yield Prophet® to adjust their inputs to seasonal conditions and paddock-specific soil, crop and climate data.

Growers identified research to reduce yield losses resulting from frost as another investment priority. To further strengthen the link between the GRDC and western growers, Darren Hughes has been appointed as a WA-based regional program manager and Regional Cropping Solutions Networks have been introduced to correspond with each of the Port Zones.

More information North:

James Clark
0428 545 212
colane@bigpond.com

 More information South:

David Shannon
0419 830 700
davidrshannon@bigpond.com