News in brief
BCG celebrates 20 years
BCG members and associates celebrated the organisation’s 20th anniversary at Birchip, Victoria, in February.
The anniversary event paid tribute to grower-led research dating back to 1993, when a group of Birchip growers established the Birchip Cropping Demonstration Sites, which later became BCG.
The not-for-profit organisation was set up to test the performance of grain varieties, pulse crops and farm products under local conditions and consequently to facilitate farm management.
BCG has since grown to comprise more than 400 members and 20 staff, and has built a national reputation in field research and extension activities. In 2012, BCG conducted 100 research trials at 20 sites across the Wimmera and Mallee examining a range of issues – agronomy, farming systems, climate, plant nutrition, and management for disease, weeds and pests.
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China makes grains history
The US Grains Council has reported that China is on track to produce more corn than rice for the first time in history. This fundamental shift in Chinese grain production is seen as a measure of the growing affluence of the Chinese middle class and their increasing demand for a more protein-rich diet. In its December World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) upwardly revised its projection of Chinese corn production from 200 million tonnes to 208 million tonnes. The USDA is also projecting a Chinese rice production of slightly more than 204 million tonnes.
Wheat research award
Crop scientist Dr Garry O’Leary from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has been awarded the 2012 Victorian Wheat Research Foundation Award. The award recognises Dr O’Leary’s contribution to wheat production as one of Australia’s leading crop modellers.
Dr O’Leary’s models showing how wheat responds to climate variability are part of the GRDC-supported Australian Grains Free Air CO2 Enrichment (AGFACE) project at Horsham.
Dr O’Leary has contributed to the AGFACE research since the program started in 2007 and leads the modelling, which exposes crops to elevated carbon dioxide levels in a range of agronomic conditions.
Victorian DPI Future Farming Research Systems executive director Dr Ron Prestidge says Dr O’Leary’s modelling is recognised internationally. He contributes to the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) coordinated by NASA and the US Department of Agriculture. Dr Prestidge says international scientists at a recent meeting in Japan voted Dr O’Leary’s models the most advanced in the world.
“Dr O’Leary uses a method that enables climate change impacts on crops to be modelled across the landscape, taking into account different soils, temperatures and rainfall.”
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has a new iPhone app that provides information about chemicals registered for use on Australian farms. The APVMA app can search a database of 10,500 agricultural and veterinary chemicals approved for use, and helps identify chemicals registered for treating specific pests. It also includes information about active constituents, withholding periods, product labels and pack sizes, and products that have been suspended, cancelled, stopped or archived.
The APVMA plans to also make the app available for Android devices.
State of the farm
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released the Agricultural Census 2011. The following are the 10 key changes between Census 2006 and 2011:
- Farming has grown by $8.5 billion (18 per cent)
- Corporate farms increased by 791 (44 per cent)
- Lending increased by $16.8 billion (39 per cent)
- Interest paid increased by $1.8 billion (55 per cent)
- Insurance increased by $151 million (24 per cent)
- Fuel sales increased by $35 million (2 per cent)
- Farm numbers declined by 19,025 (–12 per cent)
- Chemical sales declined by $295 million (–17 per cent)
- Forestry income declined by $780 million (–17 per cent)
- Fishing income declined by $190 million (6 per cent)
In this period farm consolidation also increased. There are now 2601 corporate (non-family) enterprises representing 39 per cent of agricultural income.
Off-farm, the Agribusiness Value Chain revenue now exceeds $400 billion.
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