Farmer group seeks quality advice

WA visitors inspecting northern NSW wheat sown at 35kg/ha. From left, Mark Biven, David Reichstein, and Ben Curtis.

Western Australian graingrowers and researchers travelled to New South Wales and Victoria recently on the trail of wheat quality. They want to know why wheat quality is a problem for the Esperance port zone.

The South East Premium Wheat growers' Association (SEPWA) travelled with Agriculture WA wheat quality researcher Rebecca Evans to study the marketing successes and challenges facing eastern States wheatgrowers.

SEPWA president, Chris Roberts, said the tour was partly funded by the GRDC to help growers gather information about the quality of wheat produced on their farms. "Esperance has suffered a bad reputation for wheat quality in the past, for no apparent reason," he said.

"Wheat exported from the Esperance port zone is not accepted by some markets because of this perceived reputation, but the SEPWA group is heartened by news that plant breeders are developing new varieties for the area to suit higher quality markets."The GRDC is supporting South Australian breeder Gill Hollamby to breed new high-yielding wheat varieties to meet the needs of more demanding markets. Mr Roberts said the new varieties developed in South Australia will be trialed in Esperance this year for their suitability to south coast growing conditions.

SEPWA is a grower-based organisation formed to tackle the complex issue of wheat quality in the south-east of WA

Mr Roberts said the group visited a number of wheat breeding centres, the Academy of Grain Technology in Victoria, the Australian Wheat Board and the Manildra Group's flour mill in Gunnedah. NSW. "As a direct result of our visit we have invited a number of breeders and researchers to conduct variety tests in our area, and we believe this will help sort out some of the quality problems of wheat produced in the Esperance region."