The variable seasonal conditions and diverse cropping challenges being experienced by grain growers in the southern region were front and centre during the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Southern Region Panel’s annual spring tour.
The tour traversed South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula (EP) where Southern Panel members – joined by GRDC staff and representatives from the Northern and Western Region Panels and the GRDC Board – met with growers, researchers, advisers, farming systems groups, agribusiness and other grains industry specialists.
Panel Chair John Bennett said the tour to growers’ properties, research facilities, trial sites and downstream enterprises highlighted a range of issues within local farming systems, but also potential opportunities to address constraints for improved grower profitability.
“The tour was invaluable in terms of engaging with growers in their paddocks where we discussed the obstacles they are facing and saw first-hand the impact of those issues,” Mr Bennett said.
“From those discussions, we have identified opportunities where GRDC investments in new research, development and extension could offer solutions and make a difference.
“At the same time, it was encouraging to see that existing research investments are well on the way to delivering outcomes to underpin positive practice change by growers.”
Mr Bennett said the lack of rainfall this season was particularly evident in upper parts of the EP, which were experiencing extremely dry conditions for the second consecutive year.
“Yet, growers are still managing to make the most out of the little moisture they have available, which is testament to their tenacity, skills and willingness to adopt the latest technologies and recommendations from research.”
Of the issues raised and dissected during the tour, calcareous soils were very much to the fore.
Calcareous soils – high in pH and containing free lime – dominate the landscape on the Upper EP where they affect water use efficiency and nutrient availability and promote root diseases, impacting on crop establishment, yield and returns to growers.
“Other major concerns for growers on the EP are barley grass which is becoming increasingly problematic, establishing crops under dry or marginal conditions, limited options in the cropping rotation, sandy soil constraints, frost, and diseases including rhizoctonia, septoria and blackleg,” said Mr Bennett, a grower from Lawloit in Victoria’s West Wimmera.
Panel members and staff were exposed to profitability barriers and opportunities that not only affected growers on EP, but have broader relevance across the entire southern cropping region (South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania).
The Panel’s spring tour is centred on a different part of the southern cropping region each year. This year’s tour was focused solely on EP.
Starting in Ceduna on the West Coast, locations visited during the tour included Mudamuckla, Cungena, Minnipa, Kimba, Lucky Bay, Murlong, Tooligie Hill and Yeelanna, before concluding in Port Lincoln.
The GRDC Southern Panel comprises: Chair John Bennett, Lawloit (Victoria); deputy chair Mike McLaughlin, Adelaide (SA); Peter Kuhlmann, Mudamuckla (SA); Michael Chilvers, Nile (Tasmania); Andrew Russell, Rutherglen (Victoria); Fiona Marshall, Mulwala (NSW); Richard Murdoch, Warooka (SA); Kate Wilson, Hopetoun (Victoria); Jon Midwood, Inverleigh (Victoria); Lou Flohr (new member), Lameroo (SA); and Lucy Broad (GRDC general manager, grower communication and extension), Canberra (ACT).