News in brief

Soil Biology Initiative II

New tests to measure soil health are being developed to help with planning and managing cropping programs. Research funded by the GRDC through its Soil Biology Initiative II is aiming to produce a testing system that uses free-living nematodes as an indicator of a soil’s health. South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) researchers have developed DNA tests that can detect and quantify the major free-living nematode groups in Australian cereal-growing soils.

These nematode DNA tests will ultimately become part of SARDI’s PreDicta B® DNA-based soil testing service for growers and agronomists.The PreDicta B® service currently offers tests to identify soil-borne pathogens (both fungal and nematode) that pose a risk to broadacre crops in southern Australia prior to seeding.

More information:

Dr Katherine Linsell, SARDI,

08 8303 9459

Rural Women’s Award

Pip Job’s passion for identifying and breaking down barriers to progress for farming families dealing with social challenges inspired the judges of the 2014 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) National Rural Women’s Award.

Image of Barnaby Joyce and NSW grower Pip Job.

NSW grower Pip Job receives the 2014 RIRDC National Rural Women’s Award from Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, at Parliament House in Canberra.

PHOTO: Irene Lorbergs

Grazier, environmental advocate and chief executive officer of her local Landcare group, Ms Job, from Cumnock, New South Wales, says social isolation is a problem for farming people because it does not expose them to new thinking.

“Solitude, succession planning, mental health, business literacy and family communication are often aspects that contribute to a lack of engagement with innovative practices,” she says.

Ms Job has expanded the way Landcare operates to include the community’s social needs.

“I have been involved in Landcare for many years and have realised that when we struggle to get people to adopt new ideas it is often because there are underlying social issues that are not being addressed,” she says.

She has also worked with other Landcare groups across NSW to help them improve governance and has provided planning and advice on policies, procedures, strategy and staffing. As the national winner, Ms Job received $10,000 to enable her to undertake further study in this area of interest. She also received $10,000 as state winner.

RIRDC managing director Craig Burns says Ms Job’s desire to upskill rural women, foster learning and generally make things better for rural people and the environment has been deservedly recognised.

Jackie Jarvis, a primary producer from Western Australia, was named national runner-up. In 2013,

Ms Jarvis developed a Regional Migrant Employment Support pilot program that assisted resettled humanitarian refugees find employment in WA agriculture.

More information:

Damon Whittock,
02 6271 4175,
damon.whittock@rirdc.gov.au

Stubble burning

A Charles Sturt University study shows stubble burning is still a preferred option for many growers. Study author Associate Professor Vaughan Higgins, from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, found that while growers are aware of the benefits associated with stubble retention, they reported technical, biophysical and biological challenges when retaining crop stubble.

Associate Professor Higgins says growers reported fewer problems with disease, weeds, pests and machinery when they burnt stubble, and they used less chemicals and pesticides. He says this has led to more partial stubble retention and selective burning in recent years.

More information:

Associate Professor Vaughan Higgins,
0417 123 685,
vhiggins@csu.edu.au


Weeds research award

The Weed Science Society of America has awarded the 2014 Outstanding Paper on Weed Technology to a paper co-authored by Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) researcher Dr Michael Walsh and director Professor Stephen Powles.

Dr Walsh says the GRDC-supported research showed that a high level of weed seeds is retained at harvest. These have to be destroyed to stop the weed seedbank from being replenished.

The research showed the four dominant annual weeds of Australian cropping systems – annual ryegrass, wild radish, brome grass and wild oats – retain 77 to 95 per cent of their seeds above a harvest cut height of 15 centimetres at wheat crop maturity.

More information:

AHRI,
www.ahri.uwa.edu.au
;

WeedSmart,
www.weedsmart.org.au;

Integrated Weed Management Hub,
www.grdc.com.au/Resources/IWMhub

Advocate remembered

South Australian grain grower Jeff Arney, who served on the GRDC Southern Panel, passed away in December, aged 65, after a long battle with cancer.

Jeff, who farmed near Bordertown, was a passionate advocate for agriculture. He served 20 years on the South Australian Farmers Federation Grains Council and the executive of the Grains Council of Australia. He believed research and development was essential for maintaining farm productivity; a view that led to a three-year term on the GRDC Southern Panel.

As chair of the GRDC research sub-program for varieties, member of the pulses and oilseed subcommittee and as a board member for the Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre, Jeff was keen to ensure plant breeders had the resources and support to develop new varieties that met future agronomic and market demands.

GRDC board member David Shannon, who farms at Kapunda, SA, says Jeff was a likeable, intelligent and quietly spoken man who had a clear understanding of grains industry issues: “He was a true gentleman and was prepared to speak out on behalf of others when necessary,” David says.

Mallala, SA, grain grower John Lush says Jeff sacrificed a lot of time away from his farm to lobby for the advancement of agriculture and to ensure grains research reflected growers’ priorities.

One of Jeff’s many achievements was helping to set up the wheat breeding company Australian Grain Technologies.

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Post-claying nutrition explored

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