What goes with what? Matching advice to the variety and the place by Eammon Conaghan

A new focus on environmental management is a drawing card in the Mid West, luring young people back to farm and community. Tracy Gillam is one of the younger generation who spoke to Ground Cover about the sense of being at the forefront of modern farming with the Mingenew-Irwin Grower Grou - more p18

WHEN THE phrase "you can't fit a square peg in a round hole" was coined, it probably was not intended as a lesson to growers trying to plant CarnamahPBR logo wheat on a sodic, boron-de ficient, potassium-rich, fast-draining duplex soil sitting under a sky yielding 300 mm of winter-dominant rain in the central wheatbelt of WA.

However, a new five-year $2.5 million GRDC-supported search has begun in WA to find round pegs for the central wheatbelt, as well as home for the square peg and generally match plants with places across the State.

GRDC-supported studies in the mid-1990s started investigating agronomy in the western region to help arrest slipping protein levels. "We recognised that g 'owers were only striking premium prices for hard wheat on less than a third of their deliveries and for soft wheat on less than half," sa id project supervi sor, Wal Anderson of the WA Department of Agriculture.

"Varying protein levels and excessive small grain sievings were among the main obstacles."

These difficulties were attributed to the intensity of continuous cropping, which was pressuring nutrient cycling. To arm growers with the agronomic expertise necessary to overcome these problems, a new project began renewing agronomic advice and identifying its role in meeting market specifications.

A related project discovered the struggle to drive protein levels was perhaps greatest on the south coast, with a quarter of grain shipped out of Albany qualifying for general purpose use only.

Wavering protein levels across the region undermined grower confidence in planting noodle wheat varieties.

"At the time of the project, less than 30 per cent of production from noodle varieties was delivered into the high-premium ASWN grade because growers didn't want to commit large areas to those varieties and then get knocked out on protein:' Dr Anderson explained.

Region-specific agronomic packages

The new direction is for regionspecific agronomic packages able to support top-quality grain production and to give growers the confidence to pursue AWB premiums.

Four related initiatives target agronomy in the north, central, Great Southern and south coast areas and will also study grain protein management in the Esperance Port Zone.

"Besides variety management trials, we'll measure for sprouting tolerance, susceptibility to disease and black point, threshability and their performance against the screenings standard," Dr Anderson explained.

"We hope to compile a comprehensive dossier on most varieties and their performance in numerous categories across WA."

Program 1 Contact: Dr Wal Anderson 0898928412

Please turn to p18 for some preliminary findings from these projects.

Region North, South, West