Grain & Graze builds a new farm paradigm

Picture of John Harvey

John Harvey, managing director, Grains Research and Development Corporation

One of the overarching achievements of the program is it has strengthened the resilience of mixed enterprises by integrating advances in cropping with advances in improved pastures.

The measure of the effectiveness and value of grains research and extension is how it drives profitable practice change: how it equips our industry and growers to respond to opportunities and challenges.

No more striking example of this is the long-running Grain & Graze program: a comprehensive GRDC-driven RD&E effort to lift the productivity of Australia’s mixed enterprises – the backbone of our broadacre farming.

The program began in 2005 in Queensland in response to the need for a range of research providers to be brought together to tackle mixed-farming issues that did not fall into single research areas such as cropping, meat production or wool growing.

When the first Grain & Graze program finished in 2008 it had raised as many questions as it had answered, prompting the GRDC to fund Grain & Graze 2.

It has been one of the most enthusiastically supported research programs by growers and in the past four years an estimated 20,000 producers across seven growing regions and five states have been involved in the $12 million program.

Almost three-quarters of these growers have reported changing their practice in some way as a consequence of the research outputs. The analysis of Grain & Graze 2 showed it had delivered a cumulative net farm profit to growers of $100.2 million through better management of stubbles, increased stocking rates and adoption of new rotations and fodders.

One of the overarching achievements of the program is that it has strengthened the resilience of mixed enterprises by integrating advances in cropping with advances in improved pastures. Many growers destocked in the early 1990s, attracted to the advances in cropping systems, but it was always going to be a case of needing to broaden the income base – to bring livestock back but in a way that enhanced the farm business and did not undermine the gains made in cropping. This profitable and agronomically sound integration has been at the core of Grain & Graze projects.

Growers participating in Grain & Graze 2 reported sowing an additional 680,000 hectares of perennial legumes to increase fodder, control erosion, improve soil condition and manage pests.

These legumes are a source of soil nitrogen, and the strategic use of livestock has in many areas become a valuable part of integrated weed management.

In response to grower interest, and the opportunities the research has revealed for further mixed-farm productivity gains, Grain & Graze 3 set course in July 2014 for a further three years.

This is an achievement of which everyone involved is proud and it demonstrates the lift in viability, sustainability and competitiveness that can be achieved – seasonal weather variability notwithstanding – when growers and researchers work towards common objectives.

As Grain & Graze 3 charts new water so too is the GRDC, the industry’s overarching research provider.

New board members have recently joined us (see New GRDC board appointments) and in welcoming them I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the outgoing directors for their support and diligence.


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