Ground Cover North : Ground Cover 051 August-September 2004 - North
FARMERS SYSTEMS GROUP EXAMPLE YEAR 0.35 0.30 0.25 0.20 0.15 0.10 0.05 0.00 1998/99 2003/4 2008/9 2013/14 2018/19 2023/24 $ MILLION BENEFITS WITHOUT GRDC SUPPORT BENEFITS WITH GRDC SUPPORT NET BENEFIT By DAVID HORWOOD Areview by Hassall & Associates of the GRDC's $5.4 million annual investment in farming systems projects and groups reports widespread support from participating growers and a range of financial, social and environmental benefits. Growers appreciate having research done on their properties or in their regions, and interacting with researchers, other growers and the GRDC system. Hassall & Associates evaluated nine farming systems projects, representing all GRDC geographic zones. In addition, the coordinators of all 23 active projects were surveyed. The GRDC supports many kinds of farming systems projects and groups --- from grower-initiated and run groups that charge membership fees, to agency-run projects that engage existing or newly established groups of farmers across a specified region. Some groups are informal, while others are fully incorporated and may even have subsidiary operations run for profit. Some projects have up to 18 groups of collaborating farmers. Group membership averages 270, ranging from fewer than 100 up to 1400. The review found that farming systems projects collectively provide a satisfactory financial return on investment, particularly in more marginal areas, or where there is breakthrough technology available to overcome constraints to crop production. In the regions where they are conducted, projects have increased the profitability of cropping systems by an average of about 10 percent (range 3 to 25 percent). The total net present value over 25 years of on-farm benefits arising from GRDC investment in farming systems projects is about $153 million, with a benefit--cost ratio of almost 5. Important social benefits include grower involvement in R&D, increased learning opportunities, and new or enhanced partnerships. Most participants rate farming system projects as 7 to 8 out of 10 for impact on their personal skills and competencies. Environmental benefits are less apparent. The review found "probable" benefits arising from significant reductions in the number of cultivations and from improved crop rotations. The review says environmental sustainability should be addressed in a more meaningful way in future projects, stating that explicit attention to environmental benefits is "sadly lacking" in most projects. Graingrower claims of improved sustainability on their farms were difficult to substantiate. The review expressed concern about increased chemical use, herbicide resistance and dryland salinity in most cropping regions. There may be opportunities to form closer links between farming systems projects and Landcare and conservation farmer groups at regional levels, and for linking R&D with catchment and sub-catchment natural resource management priorities. A key recommendation is for the GRDC to manage future projects under a dedicated program devoted to farming systems. Currently, farming systems projects are managed under the GRDC Sustainable Farming Systems Program, where they represent only about 20 percent of the program budget. The review recommends setting up a single national coordination project to draw together results and maximise the benefits of the entire farming systems program. The GRDC has already responded in part to this recommendation by appointing Dr Ann Hamblin as coordinator for farming systems projects. One of Dr Hamblin's roles is to streamline administration --- particularly funding applications, which are often regarded as slow and cumbersome. Another proposal is that livestock enterprises should be included in projects, recognising the role of livestock in farming systems. After analysing what makes projects effective, the review's overall recommendation is that GRDC investment only be made when certain conditions are satisfied: n involvement of energetic people ("champions") with vision, inspiration, creativity and drive n social and information networks well established in the region n good project management -- such as formal planning and priority- setting processes, allocation of roles and responsibilities. The review questioned the value of long-term core trial sites, after receiving feedback about their inflexibility and inability to maintain the interest of leading growers. Grain producers need to fit research into their seasonal activity cycles, and the projects need to be able to evolve to adapt to new technologies. GRDC RESEARCH CODE HAS 00002, program 4 For more information: Ian Rogan, 02 6884 6250 firstname.lastname@example.org The full report is available from the GRDC website at www.grdc.com.au/growers/res_ summ/HAS00002/contents.htm FARMING SYSTEMS/ VARIETY TESTING 12 AUGUST 2004 GRDC support does make a difference. This example shows what would happen with and without GRDC support for a typical project. The curve for net benefit is the difference attributable to the GRDC. Strong support for farming systems projects WHAT THE GROWERS SAY What growers said about their experience with farming systems projects and groups: "There is lots of learning from being involved, gaining skills ... but (it is a) huge amount of time spent away from the farm ... 30 hrs/week." "The information I get is worth about $3000 a year, and I'm a quick adopter so what I do with it makes $30,000. It probably costs me about $10,000 a year, so I am still $20,000 better off." "I want a knowledge broker who will look at all the projects (research) and put them into perspective so that we are not reinventing the wheel ... to make it accessible to people." "Droughts are not as bad as they used to be because of farming systems ... the rain is the same but we can do more with it." "They are good people to be involved with ... seeing farmers from other districts ... it's been satisfying ... I like the extra challenge ... I've learnt more (from growers in other states)." By BERNIE REPPEL Every mungbean ever brought into the country is undergoing comprehensive evaluation for yield potential, seed quality, disease resistance and agronomic traits, to make sure Australian growers can maintain the highest-quality product in an increasingly competitive export market. Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (QDPI&F) plant breeder Dr Merrill Fordyce had 1000 mungbean lines in replicated trials at the Hermitage Research Station, Warwick, over the 2003-2004 summer season. The lines came from the GRDC- supported mungbean breeding program begun by the CSIRO in the 1960s, and from the Tropical Forage Crops Germplasm Collection Centre in Biloela in Central Queensland. The mungbean varieties released in Australia in recent years by CSIRO have been selections from the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre in Taiwan, chosen for their physiological adaptation to Australian production areas. Dr Fordyce says the wealth of germplasm already in the Australian mungbean collection had never been subject to comprehensive morphological evaluation and characterisation as a complete set before the QDPI&F project began. An example of what researchers hope to discover is the associated work by Kingaroy QDPI&F pathologist Michael Fuhlbohm, who has tested about 200 lines in the glasshouse. He has found 14 lines with better resistance to tan spot than all current commercial mungbean varieties. Similarly, in-field evaluation of the germplasm lines has found the promise of a greater degree of powdery mildew resistance than found in commercial cultivars. Powdery mildew is endemic to northern NSW and Queensland mungbean production areas, and can generally be relied upon to infect late- planted trials. The Australian mungbean industry has had a chequered production history -- 20,000 tonnes in 1996, 50,000 tonnes in 1997, 35,000 tonnes in 2001 -- but the Australian Mungbean Association (AMA) believes markets can be found for 50,000 tonnes as long as production is consistent. Dr Fordyce says among the keys to consistent production are varieties with increased yield and height (for easier harvesting), improved disease resistance and grain quality that appeals to international markets that still use visual assessments when buying. "Many countries have increased mungbean production dramatically, and they're doing it much more cheaply than Australia, so our industry is only going to survive if we have quality," Dr Fordyce says. GRDC RESEARCH CODE DAQ 00060, program 2 For more information: Dr Merrill Fordyce, 07 4660 3666, Merrill.Fordyce@dpi.qld.gov.au Increased mungbean testing to keep market edge Looking good: plant breeder Dr Merrill Fordyce says mungbeans need to appeal visually to some international buyers.
Ground Cover 052 October-November 2004 - North
Ground Cover 050 June-July 2004 - North