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Southern Growers Consulted on Research Priorities

21 September 2011

AUSTRALIA - Frost is one of the main concerns for growers in Western Australia's southern grain growing areas, along with crop disease and the need for better break crops.

Growers are also seeking more detailed information about crop varieties, and those in drier areas want research into issues associated with early crop sowing, particularly dry sowing.

GRDC western panel members Ralph Burnett, left, Bill Ryan and Mike Ewing (deputy chairman) speak with growers and consultants at the property of Borden grower Wayne Davis.

These were some of the take-home messages for Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) western panellists Mike Ewing (deputy chairman), Ralph Burnett and Bill Ryan after their week-long southern spring tour last week.

Districts visited by the panellists, joined for part of the tour by GRDC crop protection manager Rohan Rainbow, included Woogenilup, Borden, Jerramungup, Lake King, Holt Rock, Ravensthorpe, Jerdacuttup, Esperance, Salmon Gums, Cascades, Coomalbidgup, Wittenoom Hills and Munglinup.

The panel members and Dr Rainbow met grower groups and attended field days during the tour - one of three separate spring tours conducted by the GRDC western panel this year.

The other spring tours took place in WA's northern grainbelt and central grain growing areas.

Improving two-way communication to help achieve grower-focussed grains research was the aim of the expanded tours.

Professor Ewing said farmers from all areas visited during the southern spring tour, except those on the coastal fringe, identified frost as their major constraint to profitability and system development.

"Growers' desire to sow crops early to maximise yield potential is compromised by the reality of frost risk," he said.

"While growers understand that frost is a difficult research issue, they want the GRDC to maintain a major focus in this area and look for even small areas of improvement."

Professor Ewing said the primary concern for growers in coastal areas was crop disease, particularly powdery mildew in the popular malting barley variety Baudin.

"The message is pretty clear â€" they need barley varieties which combine improved malting quality with improved yield and disease resistance," he said.

"The emergence of fungicide resistance in powdery mildew populations has emphasised the long-term risk that if we don't have a genetic component to controlling the disease, we run the medium-term risk of running out of effective fungicides."

Professor Ewing said the need for better break crops was raised by southern growers, who were concerned about the lack of profitability of their most important legume - field peas.

Pastures for livestock also remained an important rotational component for many growers in the region.

"Mixed enterprise farmers emphasised the need to maintain technological advances in pastures for livestock, which help them manage risk in their enterprise," he said.

"These farmers want the GRDC to continue research which does not just focus on crop-only systems, and were pleased about GRDC funded crop grazing research taking place in the region.

"Crop grazing has opened up a new level of profitability to south coastal growers with mixed enterprises.

"These farmers see crop grazing as a major step forward and are interested in finetuning the crop grazing system so that it has the best effect on livestock and the least negative effect on crops."

Professor Ewing said growers were interested in accessing information about crop varieties through GRDC-supported National Variety Trials (NVT) and more detailed cultivar by environment by management trials.

"Growers value NVT trials but are also looking for crop variety information at the next level â€" for example GRDC-supported trials conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA)."

Professor Ewing said growers in drier grain growing areas they visited were interested in technology surrounding early crop sowing, in particular dry sowing.

"Weed management leading up to the year of crop sowing is a vital component of that," he said.

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