Plenty of grains industry R&D news made headlines during the past week, including key outcomes from projects featured at GRDC Update, workshop and webinar events held recently across the nation.
We take a look back at some of our most read stories from Sunday 15 March to Saturday 21 March, including a popular photo gallery of some of the grains industry stakeholders attending the annual GRDC Grains Research Update, Dubbo, in New South Wales.
See who was at the recent GRDC Grains Research Update in Dubbo, NSW
Dual purpose cropping systems, prolonging the impact of new herbicides, disease and pest considerations after dry years and how innovative technology could improve weed management were some of the key topics on the agenda at the recent GRDC Grains Research Update in Dubbo, NSW
Latest research findings, critical seasonal advice and information to support the grains industry through 2020 was delivered to more than 100 growers, agronomists, farm advisers and researchers at this two-day Update.
GRDC Crop Protection Manager - North, Vicki Green, says the annual grains RD&E forum at Dubbo plays a critical role in informing industry ahead of the coming winter growing season.
"The central western region of NSW has experienced some very tough seasons in recent years, so it was good to see some areas had received reasonable rain through February - but we are very aware that more is needed," Mrs Green says. Read the full story here.
Compass Agricultural Alliance grower group thrives in southern WA wheatbelt
Celebrating almost 60 years since its formation, Western Australian grower group Compass Agricultural Alliance (CAA) - formerly the Darkan Farm Advisory Service - has survived and thrived on the evolution of farming in the southern wheatbelt district, and now proudly represents third-generation farming members.
As one of Australia's oldest grower groups, CAA began life as part of a push by The University of Western Australia academic Dr Henry Schapper to form advisory groups throughout WA's agricultural region. CAA is now one of the only remaining groups from that era.
According to one of the group's early consultants, Bob Hall AM, these advisory groups were the genesis of the farm consultancy service throughout the state. He believes the success of CAA over such a long period has been its ability to respond to the needs of its member base.
"Prior to the collapse of the wool price in the early 1990s, only around 20 per cent of this country was cropped," Mr Hall says. "After that time, to make the budget work, many people would sell an aged group of wethers for cash flow, and they would substitute the wethers for crop."
Mr Hall says at the time of the group's formation, there wasn't a crop spraying machine owned by anyone in the shire. These days it is a very different story and the group has recently run a series of GRDC-invested sprayer calibration workshops to help growers maximise sprayer efficiency on broadacre crops. Read the full story here.
Crop variety data released to guide 2020 sowing programs
Important new data has been released to inform grain growers' crop variety choices for the 2020 season.
Harvesting of the extensive winter crop variety trials conducted through the GRDC's National Variety Trials (NVT) program is complete and data from those trials is now available to growers and advisers.
GRDC NVT Manager - South, Rob Wheeler, says single site results from successful trials in 2019 have been finalised and this data has been fed into multi-year, multi-environment trial (MET) variety performance analysis.
"These multi-year, rolling datasets for all crops and growing regions will provide growers with the most valuable information to support their decision-making around what to sow this year," Mr Wheeler says.
"Long-term MET results are the most accurate and reliable means of interpreting variety performance across sites and years, rather than results from a single year."
Results and analysis from the 224 NVT program trials harvested in 2019 across South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania can be viewed at www.nvtonline.com.au. Read the full story here.
Wheel-track renovation critical to controlled traffic success
Anywhere that gets a lot of traffic needs maintenance - as a quick trip down our rural roads will prove. The wheel tracks in paddocks where controlled-traffic farming (CTF) systems are used are no different.
Restricting heavy machinery to permanent wheel tracks has many benefits for the paddock overall. But with repeated passes the wheel tracks sink, increasing erosion risk and reducing the efficiency and effectiveness of paddock operations.
Maintaining good wheel tracks combines:
- well-planned design and orientation;
- careful usage of wheel tracks during operations; and
- a program of wheel-track renovation.
Well-designed layouts are less vulnerable to wind and water erosion and require less maintenance. Machinery usage patterns are also important. While one of the benefits of controlled traffic is improved trafficability in the wet, it is worth avoiding very wet conditions as these will increase the potential for damage to the wheel tracks.
Another strategy is to alternate the wheel tracks that are used for spraying so that the same tracks are not used all of the time. Read the full story here.
Record New Zealand crops provide lessons for WA growers
Hyper-yielding and record-breaking wheat and barley crops in New Zealand might deliver high rewards, but they also involve big investments in inputs, which translates into high-risk farming - all lessons learnt by a group of WA growers on a recent GRDC-invested tour across the Tasman.
GRDC's Regional Cropping Solutions Network coordinator Julianne Hill, who led the tour, says while the climate in New Zealand was vastly different to much of the WA wheatbelt, there were many take-home messages for the growers.
The group visited numerous farm businesses, including irrigated, partially irrigated and dryland properties.
"Obviously our group was very keen to see the businesses that held the world records for barley and wheat yields and to understand the drivers behind the profitability of those businesses," Ms Hill says.
In Australia, as part of research into hyper-yielding crops, GRDC has invested in the establishment of five centres of excellence and a network of focus farms in high yield-potential grain growing environments.
This GRDC five-year Hyper-Yielding Crops initiative will push the economically attainable yield boundaries in a range of winter grain crops.
It builds on the success of the GRDC's Hyper Yielding Cereals Project that has been conducted in Tasmania over the past five years. Read the full story here.
Better understanding knowledge gaps will underpin higher wheat yields
Insufficient nitrogen is one of the key reasons behind wheat crops not reaching their full yield potential - but a multi-layered approach is required to increase yields and reduce the size of the 'gap'.
This is one of the key messages from a nation-wide study investigating the yield gap in Australia, which CSIRO principal research scientist Dr Roger Lawes discussed at the GRDC Grains Research Update, Perth.
The GRDC National Paddock Survey project closely monitored 250 paddocks for four years (2015-2018) to quantify the gap between the yield potential based on rainfall and the actual grower yield, and to understand the cause of this gap.
A 'Yield gap calculator' was developed to indicate the key agronomic factors that contribute to the yield gap, including:
- weeds and diseases;
- previous crop;
- nitrogen; and
- other variables.
Dr Lawes says of the 13 different 'types' of yield gaps identified through the survey, four were evident in WA and addressing these were key to maximising crop potential. Read the full story here.