Driving better farm practice

Dr John Kirkegaard speaking to farmers at the the Farming Systems Field Walk.
Dr John Kirkegaard speaking to farmers at the the Farming Systems Field Walk.

More than 40 of the region's farmers gathered at Iandra Castle last Thursday to take part in a Farming Systems Field Walk aimed at maximising profits from water use.

The walk took farmers through one of the systems' experimental trial sites to see the how the previous year's treatments were affecting the current year's crop.

Leading researcher Dr John Kirkegaard said they had 400 people visit the trial throughout the year and were receiving positive feedback.

"Leading into this we did have some evidence that the way you put crops together in a sequence can increase your profit anywhere from anywhere from $150 to $400 per hectare per year," he said.

"Even if you grow each of the crops well, the agronomy on each one is fine, the way you sequence them by thinking about how much water is left, how much nitrogen is left and designing your sequences according to that or changing a few of your crop choices or sowing date choices can affect profits.

"Our last visitors were the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) northern panel, they were really happy with what they saw. They've gotten a lot of good feedback from the growers that came and talked to them about whether or not this research is valuable.

"It will gain in value as we keep it going, we've had two dry years in a row so we know a lot about what happens in them. But we need to know if we return to an average or above average rainfall year do all the same rules of thumb apply or do you need to change our decisions?" he said.

Dr Kirekgaard said he hoped the trial would help give farmers informed decisions on what to do with their crops.

"A lot of the stress farmers have is trying to make a decision, once that's made, it releases a lot of stress," he said.

"So if they can make that decision on really sound information and data it helps them cope with these difficult seasons and this research is trying to provide that information over a number of seasons.

"We've been able to provide information on how much water is left and how much bio-mass is in the crops.

"We've been amazed at how well the crops look given the small amount of rain we have had. That just underlines the value of good management and how the treatments last year are affecting what we see this year.

"Any treatments that left water in the soil or had a lot of ground cover over the summer so that any rain that fell was kept in the soil are very obvious in the crops now," he said.

Dr Kirekgaard thanked the GRDC and the NSW Department of Primary Industries for their support of the CSIRO. He also thanked Tim Condon from Delta Agribusiness and Peter Watt from Elders for their assistance.