In-depth discussions held with Western Australian grain growers – in farm sheds, around tables and in the paddock – will help inform future investments into grains research, development and extension.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Western Region Panel has in 2018 toured two regions of the WA grainbelt – western areas of the Kwinana port zone from July 30 2018 to August 2 2018, and southern areas of the Albany port zone from September 17 to 20 2018.
Panel members taking part in the annual tours were joined by staff and key GRDC personnel – on the recent Albany port zone tour these included board member Roseanne Healy, Genetics and Enabling Technologies business group general manager Nicole Jensen, and Northern Region Panel chair John Minogue.
GRDC Western Region Panel chair Darrin Lee, who participated in the Albany port zone tour, said the tours provided the Panel with the opportunity to hear from growers, advisers and researchers about issues restricting profitability in different cropping areas.
“I appreciate the time taken by the many dozens of growers and industry people who hosted or met with us during both tours and shared their insights into high priority cropping issues,” Mr Lee said.
“Valuable two-way discussions were held on the recent Albany port zone tour, where we had the opportunity to explain the new five-year GRDC Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) Plan and its key investment targets, developed in consultation with researchers, growers and industry.
“I encourage growers to read this plan – a concise and well organised document that is available on the GRDC website.
“It was heartening to see there is good alignment between GRDC key investment targets and many of the issues raised on the tours – for example, waterlogging is a significant problem for many growers we met with on the Albany port zone tour, and this is squarely addressed in the RD&E Plan.”
Mr Lee said that while recent frosts had not caused major crop losses for the southern growers that the Panel met recently with on the Albany port zone tour, frosts had significantly affected other growers this season and frost RD&E would continue to be one of the GRDC’s highest priority areas for investment under its new five-year plan.
“The GRDC is very mindful of the severe impact frost can have on a farm business’ bottom line, and how devastating it can be to a grower to have frosts occur at the end of a cropping season after they have expended a huge amount of effort and resources,” he said.
“We know we need to strive to obtain new and improved tools for growers that help minimise the impact of frost on grain yield and profitability.
“The GRDC is creating a new frost investment strategy, and its development will involve consultation with a wide range of national and international experts to ensure that GRDC accesses all available knowledge to address the problem.”
As a grower from Mingenew in WA’s northern grainbelt, Mr Lee said he found great value on the Albany port zone Panel tour in observing firsthand some of the farming systems in the State’s most southerly cropping areas, and hearing directly about local issues.
“Conical snails were the over-arching issue raised at every meeting on the Albany port zone tour – from Manjimup through to Gairdner – with growers concerned at damage caused by the pests to grain crops and the threat they pose to grain meeting quality standards,” he said.
“Growers are asking ‘how do I improve my control of them?’ and are looking at management options including baiting, rollers and burning.
“Many growers are keen to see more local validation of snail management research already carried out in South Australia.”
Mr Lee said many growers in this higher rainfall area had tight canola-barley crop rotations and were keen to include a more profitable legume in their rotations.
Issues such as managing non-wetting soils and ‘forest gravel’ soils; disease management in barley; herbicide resistance in annual ryegrass; salinity; and improved weather forecasting were some of the other issues raised by growers during this tour.
During the earlier Panel tour in the Kwinana port zone, issues raised included barley disease management and fungicide resistance; herbicide resistance and weed management; the need for a more profitable legume; crop establishment problems; soil amelioration; frost; water use efficiency; attracting and retaining staff; salinity; summer weeds; soil acidity; non-wetting soils; and timing of nitrogen application.
The Panel and staff will now consider addressing gaps in research identified during the spring tours, as well as opportunities for creating enduring profitability for growers. The GRDC’s new five-year RD&E strategic plan will guide any investment responses.
The annual spring tour is just one of a number of mechanisms that give the Panel and the GRDC an enhanced appreciation of growers’ RD&E investment priorities.