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Open Forums give growers a say in WA

Almost 500 growers attended 16 GRDC Open Forum meetings across all port zones in WA last year, including Dunn Rock.
Photo: GRDC

Almost 500 growers attended 16 GRDC Open Forums across all port zones in WA last year, giving direct input on high priority production issues and shaping investments in the west.

The meetings unearthed emerging issues, such as the potential of drones, and cemented others, such as herbicide resistance, on GRDCs funding agenda, says GRDC Western Region Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN) manager Julianne Hill.

We now have a clear vision about what is impacting on profitability on the ground in each port zone and have captured priorities, such as protecting glyphosate for the long term which affects the whole Western Region, Ms Hill says.

A survey is open to growers and advisors wishing to give feedback on the purpose, objectives and facilitation of the western region RCSN.

A break-down of zone meeting summaries and examples of projects initiated as part of feedback from the groups is outlined below.

We now have a clear vision about what is impacting on profitability on the ground in each port zone and have captured priorities - RCSN western region manager Julianne Hill

Esperance Port Zone

Open Forums

About 100 growers attended forums at Dunn Rock, Munglinup and Condingup. Key issues raised included:

  • Attracting and retaining quality staff to the farm business
  • Best practice nitrogen timing and balancing returns in difficult seasons
  • More effective in-season crop nutrition management tactics
  • Soil constraint impacts on nutrient uptake
  • More accurate weather forecasting
  • Research into open pollinated canola varieties with blackleg resistance
  • Breeding efforts into short-season barley varieties
  • Data connectivity to better use on-farm monitoring technologies
  • Stubble management and system diversity.

GRDC has invested in RD&E to address many of these challenges.

Project: Chaff lining

Members are keen to see how effective this harvest weed seed control (HWSC) technique has been. Chaff lining involves making a narrow windrow of chaff only in the middle of the harvester, with weed seeds being concentrated in that zone and straw spread as usual. There will be a review of the grazing value of chaff lines, and what happens to the viability of weed seeds in chaff lines.

Kwinana West Port Zone

Open Forums

In February 2018, group members visited Cervantes, where key WA lime and soil researchers joined in a brainstorming session about managing this constraint.

Forums were also organised at Goomalling, Brookton and Kondinin and about 75 delegates attended to hear about GRDC investments into weeds, soils, nutrition, digital agriculture and enabling technologies on-farm and the potential costs and benefits of using drones in the farm business.

Projects in this zone include:

  • Fighting weeds using a focus farm approach
  • Legumes crop demonstrations
  • Seeding systems to improve crop establishment on heavy-textured soils.

Project: Seeding technologies

Investigations into ways to improve crop emergence through seeding technologies are under way by the West Midlands Group (WMG), with GRDC investment.

WMG is interested in the use of paired row seeding configurations. It is trialling paired and single seeding configurations and seeding depths across several soil types at demonstration sites in the central and northern agricultural areas of WA.

Crop emergence is being measured 14 days after seeding to assess the effectiveness of the seeding configuration in improving plant establishment and the project will compare harvest grain yield results .

Project: Lupins in the spotlight

The RCSN has commissioned a case study project through GRDC to highlight key seeding technology innovations that are working well in local conditions.

Geraldton Port Zone

Open Forums

The group held meetings in Eneabba, Morawa and Geraldton last year, where about 100 delegates heard from GRDC staff and researchers about existing levy fund investments into WA farming systems and agronomy; developing better synergies between crop and livestock enterprises; managing and measuring potassium; and tactics for improving crop rooting depth and grain yield on sodic soils.

Project: Delving into rooting depth research

Sodic soils that reduce water infiltration and availability to crops by impeding plant rooting depth and growth are commonly found in eastern parts of the zone.

A three-year research project  by the Mingenew Irwin Group (MIG), with GRDC investment, is looking at how to boost grain production and returns from these areas.

The focus is on gypsum, with trials set up on confirmed sodic soils to assess application rates and economics and boost grower confidence in using this ameliorant.

Albany Port Zone

Open Forums

More than 100 growers at meetings at Cranbrook, Jerramungup and Kukerin in 2018 identified issues including optimal water use efficiency; close potential yield gaps and find the most economic break crops and rotations.

Projects include:

  • Case studies of growers successfully managing snails and slugs
  • Deep ripper use
  • Optimising timing and rate of nitrogen application
  • Halving canola harvest losses
  • 'Yardstick comparisons of crop varieties
  • Eye in the sky on crop growth.

Project: Drones

Growers watched with interest a project monitoring crops with drones in 2018. The drones recorded crop condition at various growth stages and Farmanco will analyse the costs and benefits of monitoring paddocks one, two and three times during the season.

Project: Checking out disease and pest science

Members visited the GRDC- and Curtin University-supported Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) in 2018. They heard from researchers including Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) senior nematologist Dr Sarah Collins who spoke to the group about nematodes.

She says correct identification of species with soil testing is vital for managing root lesion nematode (RLN) as different species have different crop hosts.

She says use of more canola in rotations and a run of drier seasons were underpinning high RLN populations in the Albany port zone region. Using crop sequences as a management tool can be risky and serradella was emerging as a good break crop option for paddocks with severe RLN burdens, she said.

Kwinana East Port Zone

Open Forums

Herbicide resistance, profitable break crop options, ameliorating soils, closing the yield gap and controlling summer weeds were identified at 2018 Open Forums in this region as having a big impact on profitability.

Meetings were held in Bruce Rock, Westonia and Bencubbin, attracting about 65 people.

GRDC staff and researchers talked about investments into WA agronomy and farming systems RD  low rainfall zone crop breeding; and harvest weed seed management in a low biomass year.

Many shorter-term projects include:

  • Tactics to improve crop establishment in a drying soil profile
  • Yardstick crop variety comparisons
  • Assessment of financial decision-making tools
  • Identifying on-farm lime sources
  • Legume crop demonstrations for rotation options
  • Seeding system technology to boost crop establishment
  • Deep ripping demonstrations.

Project: Capitalising on R&D

Members travelled to Canberra in February last year to visit key grains R&D centres and catch up with GRDC program managers, including National Variety Trials (NVT) manager Tom Giles.

At the CSIRO,research geneticist and GRDC Western Regional Panel member, Dr Greg Rebetzke, co-ordinated 12 researchers to provide summaries of relevant applied research.

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