Ground Cover North : Ground Cover 051 August-September 2004 - North
This issue of Ground Cover includes a special eight-page liftout on precision agriculture. With most graingrowers adopting a wait-and-see approach to precision agriculture, the GDRC has initiated a five-year, $6.25 million national program to evaluate the various methods and provide education and training. Nine research projects are underway across Australia to develop and demonstrate precision agriculture methods, including GPS positioning and guidance, yield monitors and variable rate applicators. Although these methods can boost yields and economic returns, they are rarely used in Australia. The obstacles are many and varied, including growers not having the appropriate skills or the time to learn them, high set-up costs and a dearth of trained people to support growers. It is hoped that by the end of the program in 2007-08 the research results will be widely reported and many more growers will be familiar with these technologies and methods. The GRDC's capacity to accurately target grains industry research needs and to take an informed leadership position has been strengthened by growers who took part in our recent performance survey. Growers' perspectives on the GRDC's performance and funding priorities were sought in a national telephone survey -- the 'GRDC Organisational Performance Indicator Survey'. Surveys like this a crucial for providing the GRDC with a clear picture of trends and changes in growers' attitudes and practises. They help the GRDC determine future research priorities, plus provide feedback on how the GRDC is perceived by growers and how the corporation is meeting grower's expectations. The time and effort that growers put into providing us with this information is important and very much appreciated. This year's survey, conducted in May, showed that GRDC-backed research is making a difference to individual farm performances as well as to the grains industry as a whole. The survey indicated that most growers (93 percent) are aware of the GRDC, but only half felt they understand how the organisation sets its research priorities. This is an area we will look at, and address. However, while some of our internal processes might not be widely understood, most growers indicated a good understanding of the GRDC's role in funding the development of better quality grain, new crop varieties, disease resistance, new cropping technologies and other research areas. In terms of knowledge of the GRDC and its research efforts, a sizeable majority of growers nominated Ground Cover as their "major source of awareness". The research showed that the biggest influence on decisions to actually make on-farm changes is grower groups, and the influence of leading growers, farm advisers and agronomists. It was also pleasing to see that 82 percent of growers nationally believe they have benefited directly from grains research and development over the past five years -- and of these, the majority acknowledge the role of the GRDC. Importantly, areas where growers feel there is not enough attention or funding are GM crops, sustainable cropping and marketing. The survey showed that in the past two years significant numbers of growers (up to 29 percent) have adopted new or improved practices, in particular reduced tillage -- ranging from less ploughing to direct-drilling and stubble retention, and all the way to no-till. A clear sign that Australian growers are professional and proactive in their determination to stay at the forefront of grains production internationally is the fact that three-quarters of growers surveyed said they had taken direct action in the past three years to improve production and quality. This is underlined by other background data collected in the survey, showing more than 80 percent of growers now use computers, 74 percent are connected to the internet, more than 60 percent employ professional consultants and almost 60 percent have attended grains- related learning programs in the past 12 months. Farm advisers and agronomists are playing an increasingly important role in growers' decisions about on-farm change and the adoption of technology. For the GRDC, this opens up opportunities to further explore new linkages and relationships with off-farm professionals. 2 GRDC NEWS & VIEWS AUGUST 2004 EDITORIAL OPINION By PETER READING, Managing Director, Grains Research and Development Corporation Disclaimer: This publication has been prepared in good faith by the Grains Research and Development Corporation on the basis of the information available to us at the date of publication, without any independent verification. Neither the Corporation and its editors nor any contributor to this publication represent that the contents of this publication are accurate or complete; nor do we accept any responsibility for any errors or omissions in the contents, however they may arise. Readers who act on information from Ground Cover do so at their own risk. The Corporation and contributors to Ground Cover may identify products by proprietary or trade names to help readers identify particular types of products. We do not endorse or recommend the products of any manufacturer referred to. Other products may perform as well as or better than those specifically referred to. Ground Cover is brought to you by growers and the Federal Government through the publisher, the Grains Research and Development Corporation. 02 6272 5525 Fax 02 6271 6430 Write to: The Editor -- Ground Cover PO Box 5367 Kingston ACT 2064 Executive Editor: Ms Maureen Cribb Managing Editor: Brad Collis, Coretext Pty Ltd. 03 9318 9362, fax 03 9318 9364 Design and production: Coretext, www.coretext.com.au Advertising sales: Max Hyde, Hyde Media Pty Ltd. 03 9870 4161; fax 03 9870 4161, firstname.lastname@example.org Printing: Capital Fine Print, Canberra Circulation: Ms Maureen Cribb, Publications Manager, GRDC, 02 6272 5525 ISSN 1039-6217 Registered by Australia Post Publication No. NAD 3994 Growers continue to innovate, survey shows A This symbol denotes that the variety is protected by Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR). Growers from around Nile, Evandale, Longford and Cressy -- forming the Nile TOPCROP group -- have joined a group of 23 growers from Kaniva, in Victoria, in emerging as top graingrowers in their states. The Nile group, comprising 25 growers, formed in 1995 to discuss cropping strategies with Tasmania's Department of Agriculture and to look at plant nutrient uptake. Group leader Peter Lindsay said that following the release of the wheat varieties Lawson and Patterson, several trials were held to investigate plant densities, fertiliser applications, nitrogen uptake, soil fertility and disease control. "Since then, more information on trial work nation-wide has helped farmers achieve a better understanding of practices in cereal production," Mr Lindsay said. In 2002, the Nile TOPCROP group ran its own wheat variety trial to determine the best commercially available varieties for sowing, choosing seven different cultivars to sow into black cracking clay soil at Evandale. For their efforts, they won the Grains Research and Development Corporation's $4000 Tasmanian grain grower group award for 2003. The Kaniva TOPCROP group won the same award for Victorian growers. This group has been involved with researchers from Victoria's Department of Primary Industries for more than four years and also plays an active role in the state's budworm watch program, said group spokesman Wallis Meyer. The growers had embraced trial work in both ryegrass control and nitrogen demonstrations. "We're keen to develop positive ways of tackling problems," Mr Meyer said. "Members of our group went on a GRDC-funded trip to South Australia in 2002 and came back with the knowledge and access to resources to set up their own trials." Members were hosting on-farm demonstrations for integrated herbicide- resistant ryegrass management for up to five years, aiming to create management guideline packages for crop rotations specific to Kaniva's climate and soil types. "The threat of ryegrass as a herbicide-resistant weed is looming as a major issue in the Wimmera, so our members see the urgency of learning about cause, control and management," he said. Vic Dobos, executive manager of the GRDC's Product and Services Delivery program, said the GRDC recognised the pivotal role that organisations such as the Nile and Kaniva TOPCROP groups played in rural communities. "They provide an important way for grain growers to share ideas, access new technology and help initiate the practice change required to boost yields and improve sustainability," Mr Dobos said. He said Australia's $9 billion grains industry was served by more than 400 grower groups. "Some exchange technical information, others act as marketing vehicles, some facilitate trials and some meet as part of a planned professional development program. Some have grown to become significant regional grower or farming systems groups, while others have retained their original intent of being a cropping discussion group." Mr Dobos said the GRDC's support for grower groups had extended from the TOPCROP and crop monitoring era to its current support for coordinators to provide linkages that enable growers to meet with other groups, join professional development opportunities or engage in farm-based research and development activities. GRDC RESEARCH CODE PSD 32, program 6 For more information: Vic Dobos, GRDC, 02 6272 5525, www.grdc.com.au, Peter Lindsay, 03 6391 8549, Wallis Meyer, 0428 925 547. Nile and Kaniva groups win state TOPCROP awards The regional forums being run across the country to explain the Australian Grains Industry Strategy 2005-2025, and to gather grower input, are now underway. The following are the locations and dates for August and September: Western Australia 9 August, Mingenew 11 August, Quairading 12 August, Lake Grace 13 August, Esperance New South Wales 16 August, West Wyalong 18 August, Gunnedah 20 August, Walgett Queensland 24 August, Emerald 25 August, Dalby 26 August, Goondiwindi Victoria 7 September, Wangaratta 8 September, Swan Hill 9 September, Horsham General times will be 12.30pm for a 1pm start, finishing by 3.30pm to 4pm. For further information, growers can contact their state farming organisation (AgForce, NSW Farmers, VFF, WAFF grains section), or GCA on 02 6273 3000, email@example.com, or go to the website www.singlevision.com.au for more information. The forums in South Australia were run in July. Stategy's grower forums underway Special feature on precision agriculture Information drives farming systems of the future 2 Wester n Plains project seeks to explain yield differences; Farming groups take scientific approach 3 Zoning in on disease; For efficiency and profitability, 'where' and 'when' are crucial 4-5 More than a fair-weather friend? 6 Looking into your soil from on high and down low 7 Grower survey: what do you know, and what needs tbd ? 8 By ROB KELLY, WAYNE STRONG, TROY JENSEN, DAVID BUTLER, NATASHA WELLS (QDPI&F) and ARMANDO APAN (USQ) Northern graingrowers, like those in other states, have long observed spatial variability within crops, prompting questions such as "Can I identify under-performing areas within my paddock and if so, can I manage parts of the paddock more cost-effectively?" Alternatively, some gro wers may have asked whether it is possible to identify areas of different grain quality before harvest, to help better segregate grain during har vest. The advent of yield-monitoring devices have further prompted growers to manage some paddocks according to spatial variation where the variation is consistent from crop to crop. Since 1999, three projects jointly funded by the GRDC and Queensland DPI&F have delved into the capture of spatial paddock information and its application to improve cost-effective land and/or crop management in the northern region. In the first project, our prime objective was to increase the value of yield mapping for future crop management. We discovered that when a map of grain protein variation is used with the yield map, the management of nitrogen (N) inputs for future cereal crops is more cost-effective. On-the-go protein measurement at har vest using a protein monitor is not yet fully commercially available. Nevertheless, coincidental monitoring of yield and protein would enable retrospective assessment of the crop's N nutritional status. Collective information gathered from the yield and protein maps enables "N supply" (kg/ha) available during the growth of that crop to be estimated. Factors learned from results of hundreds of multi-rate N fertiliser experiments in the past 30 years with wheat, barley or sorghum crops are used to estimate the quantities of available N needed to produce a grain N (kg/ha) offtake, for grain of a particular protein percentage. The major drawback to the use of this spatial ON OTHER PAGES SPECIAL EIGHT-PAGE SUPPLEMENT l AUGUST 2004 By PHIL PRICE The basic tools needed for Precision Agriculture (PA) -- GPS positioning and guidance, yield monitors, and variable rate applicators -- have been available in Australia for more than a decade. Early research into PA showed potential for significant cost savings and/or improved crop returns of around $10 to $50/ha. So why is it that only about three percent of graingrowers are using PA methods? There are several reasons. Getting the different components of a PA system to work together can be difficult and requires time and skill, especially if those components come from different manufacturers. The investment needed to buy and set up a PA system is quite high, and growers are not confident of getting a return on their money. For many growers, variable crop yields across the farm or within individual paddocks is not their first priority, either because this variability is naturally low, or because better management of weeds, diseases, nutrients, or matching crop inputs to season, are what is driving yield and profit. A final and important reason is that to turn PA data into useful knowledge, and to interpret it in a way that enables growers to make better decisions, requires a high degree of skill and experience, and so far there are not enough people trained in PA to support growers. We estimate that up to 1500 growers across Australia have some involvement in PA. A few have adopted full PA on-farm, using either their own skills or advisers or other external support to collate and interpret data to inform cropping decisions. Some have several years of paddock yield maps, but have not been able to progress further to understand the causes of the variable yield shown by those maps or to work out whether it is possible and financially sensible to do anything about it. Others are moving toward a PA capability through purchase of a GPS guidance system (perhaps with auto- steer) to help crop on a Controlled Traffic (tramline) system and/or because there is an immediate pay- back in reduced spraying overlap/ underlap and in spraying at night. However, most graingrowers are waiting to see how PA develops. Against this background, in 2002-03 the GRDC established a new national research initiative in PA methods for growers, evaluating and demonstrating those methods in different cropping regions and systems, and providing education and training in the practical use of PA. The initiative, coded SIP09, was funded at $6.25 million over five years. The initiative comprises nine projects with different research organisations working with grower groups in different regions on different aspects of, and approaches to, PA. Details from each project are covered in this Ground Cover supplement. Within SIP09 we consider there are four broad stages in developing PA: n Stage 1 is recognising that significant variability in yield and profit is occurring within a paddock or across the farm, and determining whether the yield zones are stable or unstable between years (seasons) and different crops. This stage is generally achieved from growers' own knowledge of paddocks and from yield or gross margin maps based on processed data from the header. n Stage 2 is about identifying the underlying causes of yield variability. These could include soil depth, soil type (water-holding capacity, nutrients), elevation, acidity, sub- surface salinity or compaction, presence of soil pests and diseases, or the influence of past management (old fencelines, windrows, previous crop type). This stage requires the comparison of yield zone maps with other mapped data for the paddock, for example from soil tests, electro magnetic or gamma- radiometric survey, disease testing, aerial photographs, or contour data, followed by field inspection and trials. Where there are several likely causes it is important to get a sense of their relative impact on yield and profit. By the end of this stage, growers should know what the main underlying causes of yield variability are, and whether it is practical to do anything about them, either by direct amelioration (ripping, correcting nutrient deficiency, liming) or by changing management (use of tolerant crop, reducing fertiliser inputs on non-responsive areas and increasing them where there is a good yield response). n Stage 3 is about asking, "Does it matter?" In other words, knowing the scale of variation in yield (stage 1) and the underlying causes and possible solutions (stage 2), is it worth doing anything about it? In this stage we can use grower/adviser experience and crop models to help assess the seasonal conditions and between different crops. By combining the results with financial analysis, growers can work out whether it is economically sensible to tackle yield variability using PA, and if so what its relative priority should be in the farm or cropping budget. n Stage 4 is where we can ''roll out'' PA within a cropping district. Having gained experience by going through stages 1 to 3 on several paddocks or farms within the district, growers, advisers, farm consultants or extension officers should be able to go to a new paddock or farm and quickly identify, with some confidence, the likely underlying causes of yield variation, and advise on whether and how that variation can be managed to improve overall yield and return. All the SIP09 projects are tackling the different stages in PA in different ways. It is our intention that by the end of the initiative in 2007-08, a grower groups will have used and tested PA methods through all four stages, with the results reported widely throughout the grains industry. At this point of the initiative, the research teams are focused mainly on working with their grower groups in development, testing and demonstration of PA methods. However, later this year we will also begin the development of further PA education and training materials. At the end of this supplement, there is a questionnaire about growers' knowledge and use of PA, with space for your views about what needs to be done to make PA more useful. A reply paid envelope is also included for returning the questionnaire to GRDC. Your answers will help us to focus the SIP09 outputs so that they are of most use. For more information: Phil Price, consultant to GRDC Sustainable Farming Systems Program, 02 6251 4669, Les Zeller and Troy Jensen launching their balloon platform to capture infra- red imagery of a wheat- fertiliser trial. This long-term Incitec trial provides a wide range of N, S and P supplies as a result of multiple applications of these fertilisers over the past 19 years. Example of imagery captured from the balloon platform. Plots shown are in true colour (left) and infra-red (right). Spreading the PA message Continued next page Managing paddocks more effectively GRDC managing director Peter Reading, urging growers to become involved in the regional forums.
Ground Cover 052 October-November 2004 - North
Ground Cover 050 June-July 2004 - North