When the going gets tough, grower groups get going

Ground Cover has featured a range of farming systems approaches in recent issues. Here, Denys Slee describes a new publication provide you with heaps of details on how groups develop and grow, and takes a look at the farming systems approach

VIABILITY FOR many graingrowers may rest with an overhaul of their farming systems, not just planting a new variety or a new crop, or increasing fertiliser rates.

Such major change is not without risk. To temper this, the GRDC has become a significant investor in farming systems research, supporting more than 30 projects focusing on a group approach to solving local challenges, be they environmental or economic. Human resources, farm safety and financial planning are also concerns of farming systems groups. (This effort was recently recognised with the Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in Public Sector Management — see p2.)

Examples include the introduction of graingrowing into high-rainfall areas; research leading to a major overhaul of farming practices in low-rainfall districts; and comparisons of the economic performance of various farming systems.

There is strong ownership by farmers and researchers of the processes and outcomes; there are clear goals and directions; there is a determination to produce real economic and environmental gains; and communication strategies are comprehensive and effective.

Grain producers now have available a documentary record of existing groups and projects in a new 40-page, full-colour GRDC publication, Farming Systems Groups' Productive Solutions to Complex Problems.

Readers will also learn: how the groups formed, their structures and funding sources, their targets for reform and the discoveries they have made.

Copies can be obtained by contacting GRDC Publications Manager, Maureen Cribb 02 6272 5525 email m.cribb@grdc.com.au