Farming in a highly regulated environment: insights from UK

Sara Grafenauer
The GRDC Grains Research Update in Bendigo will feature a presentation on food and diet trends affecting the grains industry by Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council general manager, Sara Grafenauer. Photo: GRDC

The realities of producing grain in a highly regulated environment will be one of the broader industry topics to be discussed and dissected at Victoria’s premier grains research forum in February.

Leading international agricultural consultant Keith Norman, from the United Kingdom, will address the subject as one of the keynote speakers at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Update in Bendigo on February 25-26.

Mr Norman is an independent consultant who previously worked as Velcourt’s technical director. He supported the leading farming company’s UK team of 45 farm managers in crop production technology, and managed its in-house research and development activity for 30 years.

Awarded Farm Adviser of the Year in the UK’s Farmers Weekly awards in 2013, he has worked on various overseas farming activities in Spain, France, Germany, Zambia, Russia and the Ukraine.

GRDC Grower Relations Manager – South, Courtney Ramsey, says Mr Norman will provide a critical insight into how grain producers’ freedom to operate in modern farming systems can be maintained under increasing regulatory control.

“Given the UK farming sector is subject to some of the world’s strictest pesticide use regulations and environmental controls, it will be of great interest to hear what Keith has to say in terms of how growers and advisers in the UK have adapted to regulatory constraints,” Ms Ramsey says.

Mr Norman will also provide insight into potential versus actual grower yields being achieved in the UK, and comment on the magnitude of this ‘yield gap’, key constraints causing it and how these constraints are being tackled as part of a high rainfall zone panel discussion.

Ms Ramsey says the Bendigo Grains Research Update will also feature a line-up of experts from throughout Australia who will extend new knowledge and understandings from GRDC investments in research, development and extension.

“The latest research findings, advice and recommendations to be delivered over the two days will inform Victorian growers’ decision-making – not only over the coming production year but well beyond,” Ms Ramsey says.

“The Update will help shape the course ahead for growers, advisers and other industry personnel. It will cover likely future industry challenges and opportunities along with more immediate, regional agronomic and tactical approaches – underpinned by outcomes from rigorous scientific research.”

In addition to Mr Norman’s presentation, day one of the Update will feature an address by Mary Raynes from the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre who will provide a look into the future of barley market opportunities arising in India, Vietnam and China.

Understanding pre-emergent herbicide availability, selectivity and persistence to predict the behaviour of new chemistries will be the focus of a presentation by Mark Congreve from Independent Consultants Australia Network (ICAN).

Other day one topics include assessing the value of soil and plant testing; the risks and rewards of growing pulses in the low rainfall zone; improving the outcomes of oaten hay in the rotation; the continuing evolution of harvest weed seed control options; stubble and nutrient management to build soil carbon; integrated pest management; canola disease control strategies; best management of pastures in a mixed farming system; a cereal disease update; and a new sentinel pest surveillance system.

Minimising the impact of problem weeds; boosting canola and lentil establishment success rates; management of aphids in oilseed and pulse crops; the biology of nitrogen release from pulses; the latest snail management research; and emerging research from La Trobe University students will round out day one topics.

An ‘early risers’ session involving a GRDC Communities of Practice crop disease panel session will kick-start the program for day two, which will include two plenary presentations – one of which will focus on food and diet trends affecting the grains industry, to be led by Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council general manager, Sara Grafenauer.

The second plenary presentation will be by La Trobe University’s associate professor in crop agronomy, James Hunt, who will discuss potential opportunities to overcome major yield constraints in wheat and other crops over the coming decade.

Other topics on day two include the ongoing effects from deep-rooted canola types; the benefits or otherwise of deep ripping in different situations, including sandy soils; a spotlight on pulse breeding and agronomy; soil acidity; integrating new chemistries in the field; estimating in-crop soil nitrogen mineralisation; and a pulse disease update.

Completing the day two program will be sessions on the true impact of European earwigs; rapid post-event frost damage assessment; a dedicated high rainfall zone research forum; and export market requirements around chemical residues.

The GRDC Grains Research Update at Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo will be attended by hundreds of agronomists, consultants, researchers, growers and other grains industry personnel.

For a detailed program and to register for the Update, please visit

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