There was plenty of grains news making headlines across the national industry last week. We take a look back at some of our most popular stories from Sunday 2 February to Saturday 8 February.
These included trials underway in Western Australia into alternative crop options, such as linseed, which may have potential to improve system diversity and open new local markets.
Can linseed make a comeback in the western region?
Increased consumer demand for health and wellness products could be an opportunity for Western Australian grain growers to introduce alternative break crops into their rotations.
Linseed (Linum usitatissimum) trials in WA's Great Southern region are analysing the value of the oilseed as an alternative break crop to canola.
Linseed is now known for being one of the richest sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids and is a common health food substitute for fish oil, particularly for vegetarians.
Agronomically, the linseed plant has similar requirements to both canola and cereals and can be planted and harvested with the same machinery. Annual rainfall of 450 millimetres or above is required for optimal plant growth, while the crop is suitable for acidic soils and has a mild salinity tolerance.
Kojonup-based grower group Southern Dirt is undertaking a major project to not only ascertain the opportunities to grow linseed, but also to package and sell the product to local retail outlets.
With GRDC investment, researcher Dr Bronwyn Copestake trialled linseed on properties in Darkan, Wagin and Kojonup throughout 2019 and early results suggest the oilseed could be a good fit for all three growing regions. Read the full story here.
Protecting soils is the primary aim of controlled-traffic farming
Soil is a fundamental farm asset that underpins agricultural production and sustainability. As farm sizes have increased in recent decades, the need for greater efficiency drove growers to invest in larger farms and ever-larger equipment. Growers soon realised that this efficiency was coming at a cost for soil structure.
Soil compaction became particularly evident in the highly responsive clay soils of central Queensland, where controlled-traffic farming (CTF) took off in the 1990s.
The uptake of CTF has spread across Australia and, while it is still more common in Queensland and high-rainfall areas, a growing understanding of compaction - even in sandy soils - is driving adoption across a wider area.
In the early days, getting the system to work was quite a challenge. But CTF has become far more accessible with the advent and widespread uptake of two-centimetre real-time kinematic (RTK) guidance systems for machinery. Read the full story here, with tips for getting the best from CTF systems.
Market understanding a foundation for mungbean operation
During a busy season at Central Queensland's Australian Mungbean Company (AMC), managing director Damien White might be found on the office floor in his swag catching up on some well-earned rest. Peak processing time sees the company operate 24 hours a day, six days a week - and can last up to five months.
Damien and his wife Jonnie began setting up the AMC in 2006, when the opportunity arose to purchase a pulse grading and packing facility in Biloela.
"From the perspective of growing them - the agronomy, processing, logistics, international market intelligence and end customer requirements - we have first-hand experience in all those things," Damien says.
Like many growers across the northern region, the Whites are making decisions on whether and when to plant their usually more predictable summer mungbean crop.
In central Queensland, mungbeans can be planted twice a year. The typically smaller and riskier spring crop is planted in September and October and harvested in late December. The more predictable summer crop is normally planted from January up until late February. It is harvested in March or April.
In 2018-19, Central Queensland missed out on both crops - the only time this has occurred since the Whites formed the ACM. Although average annual rainfall is 680mm, in 2019 they received 223mm at their home block near Biloela and 275mm at a grazing block at Calliope, 100 kilometres closer to the coast. They use an irrigation allocation of 400 megalitres and access to alluvial water to supplement rainfall, not fully irrigate. Read the full story here.
Grain storage expert urges growers to stay alert for changing grain conditions
Stored grain expert Philip Burrill would like to see more growers regularly monitoring storage and keeping up-to-date records.
"If you do anything this year with storage, do this," he says.
Mr Burrill, a senior development agronomist at the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF), says January and February are the worst months for incidence of storage pests.
"It is when we get a lot of calls. But by regular monitoring and recording for both bulk grain and stored planting seed, growers can get on top of this," he says.
Mr Burrill suggests checking quality by looking at and smelling the grain.
"If there is a problem, you can often smell it or see it when looking in from the top of the silo," he says.
The tools needed to monitor insects and grain temperature include:
- an insect sieve with two-millimetre mesh (costing about $250);
- insect probe traps for silos and grain sheds (about $20);
- a grain temperature probe, about 1.4 metres long (about $180); and
- a book, spreadsheet or app to keep storage records.
A new R&D innovation challenge for the grains industry is to develop an effective, robust method for monitoring grain stored in large flat-bottomed silos - those that store 600 to 1500 tonnes-plus of grain. Read the full story here.
Australian researchers set new Crown rot resistance record
The moderate level of Crown rot resistance currently available in Australian wheat varieties has been superseded by pre-breeding lines, following efforts to genetically map new sources of resistance.
At the 2019 Plant Breeding Assembly, CSIRO's Dr Jonathan Powell reported a 30 per cent gain in resistance compared to current best varieties, such as Sunguard (PBR) - with the improved resistance translating into higher yields in the paddock.
Already, the newly developed germplasm is making its way to wheat breeding companies thanks to CSIRO's accelerated pre-breeding technique, with more resistant material due in coming years.
DNA-based markers are also being developed for the new sources of resistance. This will enable Australian wheat breeding companies to routinely select for and enrich genetic regions that encode for resistance and increase Crown rot resistance levels within their breeding programs.
The enhanced level of resistance is the product of work undertaken by CSIRO Agriculture & Food and was made possible with GRDC investment. Read the full story here.
GRDC southern Grains Research Update to discuss wide-ranging industry issues
This year's premier Victorian GRDC Grains Research Update event - scheduled to be held in Bendigo on February 25-26 - will feature plenary presentations that include a focus on food and diet trends affecting the grains industry. This will be led by Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC) general manager, Sara Grafenauer.
A keynote speaker at the event - Keith Norman - will also outline the realities of producing grain in a highly regulated environment. This is just one of many broader industry topics on the agenda.