15 September 2022, AU: Insights gained from Victorian grain growers will be used by the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Southern Panel to advise how GRDC invests in research, development and extension (RD&E) following a listening tour of the state last week.
The tour started in Mildura and travelled via Swan Hill, Horsham and Ballarat, finishing in Geelong.
Key topics identified included the difficulties of nitrogen application decision-making, especially with the current high cost of urea, management of early stripe rust infections, and the desire for smarter weed management strategies that minimise reliance on herbicides – such as robotics.
GRDC Southern Panel Chair and Rutherglen grain grower Andrew Russell says it was a privilege to participate in the tour to meet and hear from growers.
“As my first official engagement as Southern Panel Chair, I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and the people I met and worked with,” says Mr Russell.
“It’s essential we hear from growers so we can advise GRDC on its investments into RD&E for the future.”
Poor connectivity was discussed at many sites because it affects farm business management, precision agriculture and safety.
Finding more profitable ways to incorporate pulses into rotations and addressing barriers to adoption of technologies like precision agriculture were also raised.
“After the tour, we spent time debriefing and capturing all the key issues,” says Mr Russell
“This information has now been given to GRDC investment managers to consider incorporating into new and existing investments.”
The tour was led and organised by newly announced Deputy Chair of the GRDC Southern Panel and extension consultant based in Dimboola, Victoria, Ms Pru Cook.
“We started in the Mallee, went right through the Wimmera and ended up in the Victorian High Rainfall Zone which allowed us to see a huge range of challenges and opportunities,” says Ms Cook.
“We were really mindful of tapping into areas and groups where the panel hadn’t been before.
“A highlight for me was meeting the Woorak Community and Land Management Group – a fabulous group of growers that are self-run, draw a great crowd, and really support each other in their learnings.”
The group has improved internet access at the Woorak Hall and plans to run webinars with guest speakers dialling in, while the group discuss the local implications in-person.
She added that meeting students about to enter the agricultural workforce was also a priority with the tour vising Longerenong College and Marcus Oldham.
“It’s so important that we understand what information new entrants to ag need and the way they want to receive it,” says Ms Cook.
“There were strong student concerns regarding how sustainability and emissions targets could impact their farm businesses in future.”
The tour also included a ‘Women in Agriculture’ dinner where women working in farming businesses in the Horsham district were invited to meet the panel.
Women work in diverse roles in farming, influencing the success of the businesses in which they work and the sector at large. An inclusive approach to engaging women helps to capture their expertise.
“The dinner was a highlight of the tour,” says Mr Russell.
“Women look at their farm business from a different angle to their partners and it was very powerful to get their perspectives on emerging and existing issues in the cropping sector.”
While the tour this year focussed on Victoria, input and ideas from growers in the other states that comprise the GRDC southern region – Tasmania and South Australia – are equally considered when investment advice is provided by the panel.
Southern Panel meetings with local engagement across all southern states are planned for 2023.
GRDC also holds National Grower Network (NGN) forums across the year and the region – providing all regional growers a chance to share their ideas and feedback.
Four new members of the GRDC Southern Panel have also been announced: Tim McClelland, Birchip grower and former agricultural advisor; Simon Burgess, farmer and operating partner of a mixed farming business in Tasmania; Ruth Summerville, agro-ecologist based in Burra, SA; and Ron Osmond, GRDC General Manager – Strategy and Business Development.
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