News

Sep 10

FarmLink Fridays

Posted by Kylie Dunstan at Thursday, September 10, 2020

The farm at TAIC plays host to a range of trials and right now, in Spring 2020, it has never looked better.
The team at Temora is keen to show FarmLink members – or anyone with an interest – around the TAIC farm, and to this end, is introducing ‘FarmLink Fridays’. Matt, James or Hayden will give visitors a tour of the trial sites and discuss FarmLink’s various projects.
Projects hosted at TAIC include:
• Disc seeding / zero tillage
• Lime incorporation + acidity
• Breeding trials
• Weather station / moisture sensors
• Dung beetles
• Rhizoctonia demo
• Feathertop Rhodes grass herbicide plant-back demo
Bookings are essential. Contact Matt Kelly on 0407 968 081 or matt@farmlink.com.au

Aug 07

COVID-19 causes Open Day cancellation

Posted by Kylie Dunstan at Friday, August 07, 2020

After much deliberation, FarmLink has taken the difficult decision to cancel the face-to-face FarmLink Annual Open Day.
The risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty around organising the event for September left management with little choice. We will continue to present project outcomes, research and workshops to producers via different platforms and approaches.

Jul 27

Major FarmLink announcement

Posted by Kylie Dunstan at Monday, July 27, 2020

FarmLink is entering a phase of change with the announcement this week that Chief Executive Office, Cindy Cassidy, will leave the organisation later in the year to take up an opportunity with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). Cindy will become the General Manager of the Agriculture Program at BOM, starting in the role in November.
Cindy has thoroughly enjoyed her time with FarmLink, and her excitement about the opportunity this new role presents, is tinged with sadness to be leaving and great organisation and team.
“This is a really good time for FarmLink to introduce a new CEO,” she said.
“FarmLink has grown over time to be in a really solid position. We have a broad project portfolio which is continuing to grow with research and extension being conducted by our excellent FarmLink team.
“Our skills-based board will continue to provide its expert leadership and advice, and will meet soon to begin the recruiting process for the new CEO.”
As this process is undertaken, it will be business as usual at FarmLink, with staff delivering on projects, managing Temora Ag Innovation Centre and continuing the strong relationships with members, partners and industry peers.

May 21

Money and the Mind - the webinar series

Posted by Kylie Dunstan at Thursday, May 21, 2020

A new approach to presenting learning opportunities to FarmLink members under COVID-19 restrictions will see the Money and the Mind workshop now hosted as a webinar series, beginning June 10.
After canvassing those interested in the original workshop, we've landed on 10.30am to 11.30 on Wednesday mornings as the best time to run the webinars. They will be held over June 10, 17, 24 and July 1.
Carmen Quade and Esther Petrie will present the series which will focus on Finance and People Management for Successful Farming Businesses. Carmen partnered with FarmLink last year to run the highly successful Farm Budget Masterclass series in 2019, including a session at the FarmLink Open Day.
Carmen and Esther will guide you through a range of topics in the webinar series including –
• How and why to prepare an annual report for your business
• How to structure finance
• Negotiating interest rate reductions
• Alternatives to bank finance
• Identifying if drought assistance suits your business
• Building great relationships with staff and contractors
• Understanding and diffusing tense meeting situations
• Respond to conflict or tension within your business or family group
• Managing challenging interactions professionally
• How to protect your own mental health and wellbeing during tough times
Individual resgistrations are welcomed, while farm partners are also encouraged to attend, to share the learning and ability to introduce the knowledge into the farm business.
FarmLink gratefully acknowledges the financial support from Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network through the Australian Government’s PHN Program and Empowering Communities program. Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW Southern Region is also supporting the sessions.
If you would like to participate, contact FarmLink’s Lisa Matthews on lisam@farmlink.com.au or 0428 789 605. Spaces will be limited, to allow for an interactive webinar experience.
NB - For anyone concerned about joining a webinar, Carmen and Esther will run a tech check on Tuesday, June 9 at 10.30am to make sure you are ready to go for the first session.

Mar 16

Event cancellations due to COVID-19

Posted by Kylie Dunstan at Monday, March 16, 2020

As we enter an unprecedented phase in world health due to the COVID-19 virus, FarmLink has cancelled planned events for the near future.
This will include the Pulse Check pre-season meetings scheduled for West Wyalong and Marrar and the Money and the Mind Workshops set down for TAIC.
We are currently investigating potential future dates or change of delivery method, such as webinars.
We thank you for your understanding as we prioritise the health and well-being of staff, participants and the community as a whole.

Feb 27

Gleaning lessons for profitability

Posted by Kylie Dunstan at Thursday, February 27, 2020

UPDATE: Sorry everyone - the workshops have been cancelled due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus. We are hoping to reschedule and will keep you updated once we have some news. We thank you for your understanding as we prioritise the health and wellbeing of staff, participants and the community as a whole.

FarmLink partner, Rabobank, is bringing expert analysts to Temora Ag Innovation Centre (TAIC) on March 19 to host an event where they will discuss commonalities between Australia and the US and share their views on how Australian grain farmers can set themselves up for profitability.
RaboResearch US Grains & Oilseed Analyst, Steve Nicholson, will join Cheryl Kalisch Gordon (Senior Grains & Oilseed Analyst, RaboResearch, Australia) at the March 19 event at TAIC's Trefle Shed.
According to Ms Kalisch Gordon, Rabobank baseline projections show that US grain growers will face sustained margin pressure over the coming decade, primarily as a result of sluggish commodity prices and high input costs.
In particular flat US demand growth - US grain (wheat and corn) demand is forecast to grow at less than one per cent per annum for the next decade – together with increased grain production is expected to result in higher US grain stocks and lower US prices over the next 10 years.
In Australia we expect local cereal grain demand to rise by 2.3 per cent per year and above yield increases over the next decade, with feed grain demand leading the way. However, the outlook for challenging conditions for US farmers and further strong grain production growth in the Black Sea region that will underpin increased global production means that the Australian grains industry also faces a prevailing low margin outlook.
Individual farmers can however relieve margin pressure through the adoption of new technology to manage costs, risk management tools to deliver improved pricing and strategic review of longer term operational premises – such as should land be leased or owned, should quality or yield be the key aim and will on farm storage enhance long term margins?
Contact the FarmLink office on 02 6980 1333 for event details.

Feb 27

Money and the Mind workshops

Posted by Kylie Dunstan at Thursday, February 27, 2020

UPDATED UPDATE:  the workshop will now be presented as a webinar series. Find out more about Money and the Mind - webinar series

UPDATE: Sorry everyone - the workshops have been cancelled due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus. We are hoping to reschedule and will keep you updated once we have some news.
We thank you for your understanding as we prioritise the health and wellbeing of staff, participants and the community as a whole.

Finance and People Management for Successful Farming Businesses is the focus of a half-day workshop - Money and The Mind - to be hosted by FarmLink at TAIC and featuring the return of the ever-popular Carmen Quade, accompanied by Esther Petrie. 
Carmen partnered with FarmLink last year to run the highly successful Farm Budget Masterclass series in 2019, including a session at the FarmLink Open Day.
The Money and the Mind workshops will run twice on Wednesday, March 25, with Carmen and Esther guiding you through a range of topics including –
How and why to prepare an annual report for your business
How to structure finance 
Negotiating interest rate reductions
Alternatives to bank finance
Identifying if drought assistance suits your business
Building great relationships with staff and contractors
Understanding and diffusing tense meeting situations
Respond to conflict or tension within your business or family group
Managing challenging interactions professionally
How to protect your own mental health and wellbeing during tough times
Participants can choose to attend either the 9.30am-12noon session, or 1pm-3.30pm. A combined lunch for all participants will be held from 12-12.45pm. Individual enrolments are welcomed, while farm partners are also encouraged to attend, to share the learning and ability to take the information back to the business.
FarmLink gratefully acknowledges the financial support from Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network through the Australian Government’s PHN Program and Empowering Communities program. Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW Southern Region is also supporting the sessions.
If you would like to participate, contact FarmLink’s Lisa Matthews on lisam@farmlink.com.au or (02) 6980-1333.


Feb 13

Crop to Croissant

Posted by Kylie Dunstan at Thursday, February 13, 2020

What happens to your wheat when it leaves the farm after all that hard work you've put into it?
A FarmLink tour to Sydney on March 3 and 4 will take travellers on a tour of Allied Pinnacle's mill at Picton and Aryzta Bakery at Liverpool, with all travel, accommodation and meals covered by the FarmLink-Allied Pinnacle-Aryzta partnership.
The group will be taken through the processes involved at both the mill and bakery and be treated to lots of samples along the way, all made from wheat grown right here in the FarmLink region.
There's limited seats available on the bus, so if you want to come along, email farmlink@farmlink.com.au or call us on (02) 6980 1333 by February 14.

Jan 10

FarmLink project portfolio growing

Posted by Kylie Dunstan at Friday, January 10, 2020

The following article appeared in the Summer 2019 edition of the FarmLink quarterly member-exclusive publication The Link (archives appear at http://www.farmlink.com.au/the-link).

FarmLink is developing, pursuing and managing projects covering a range of activities relevant to mixed farming in Southern NSW and beyond. Just like our industry, our project portfolio is ever changing in response to the needs of agriculture and its future sustainability. The following is a list of all ongoing FarmLink projects, those that are in the pipeline, and those that were recently completed.
Ongoing projects
Technology & Tools Connecting Farmers to their Soils
In this project, innovative soil moisture sensors linked to auto-weather stations will be installed on five farms and networked to transmit data over two cropping seasons. It will demonstrate how understanding the sensors and the data they produce can support on-farm decision-making, and assess the economics of adoption.
Funded through the National Landcare Program.
Utilising new technologies to optimise nitrogen use in broadacre cropping, protect the soil resource and minimise potential offsite impacts
This project seeks to quantify nitrogen variability within broadacre cropping in southern NSW using intensive grid deep N sampling. It will also examine existing and emerging technologies to inform Variable Rate (VR) N applications, to help with better N management, and improved profitability and sustainability.
Funded through the National Landcare Program.
Towards best practice site-specific mapping, prevention and treatment of subsurface acidity in southern NSW
Current liming practices are failing to prevent soil acidification through the profile and within-paddock variability of surface pH is high throughout the region.
By surveying a variety of soil types, rainfall regimes and management histories, this project will assess both the vertical and lateral variability of pH, to develop decision support methods for best-practice Variable Rate lime application.
Funded through the National Landcare Program.
Pulse Check – Local Extension and Communication for Profitable Pulse Production
Growers and advisors within the southern region will be trained in pulse agronomy, production risks and management strategies. The project aims to unlock the potential farming system and financial benefits of pulse crops through targeted expansion of lentils and chickpeas into new areas, and sustainable intensification of pulse crop production in existing areas.
Funded by GRDC.
Innovative Approaches to Managing Subsoil Acidity in the Southern Grain Region
This collaborative project will analyse aggressive amelioration options for soil acidity at depths of 10-30cm in high rainfall zones. The practice of surface liming will be compared to three intensive management options; deep ripping to 30cm, ripping plus lime at 10-30cm and ripping plus organic ameliorant at 10-30cm.
Funded by GRDC.
Exclusion Feeding for Lambs in Drought
This project investigates whether lambs with exclusive access to grain via an exclusion feeding system gain weight quicker than lambs sharing access to grain with ewes. It will also examine whether the exclusion-fed lambs have a more efficient conversion rate and whether grain consumption costs are reduced.
Funded by MLA.
Mechanistic Understanding of Mode of Action of Soil Re-Engineering Methods for Complex Soil Constraints
Soils often exhibit multiple constraints limiting their productivity. This collaborative project will examine soil re-engineering mechanisms to ameliorate complex soil constraints. FarmLink will identify problematic soils within our region and provide advice. Grower groups will also have a communication role.
Funded through the Soil CRC.
Impact of Nitrogen Application Timing on Bread Wheat Protein Composition, Quality and End Use Functionality
This project is a partnership between FarmLink, Allied-Pinnacle (milling, baking and ingredients) and Arytza (bakery and food-service company). It aims to increase grower knowledge around the end products of wheat production, and end-users’ knowledge around drivers for farmer decisions that influence wheat quality.
Funded by Allied Pinnacle and Aryzta.
Smelling Soil: Novel Electronic Noses for Mobile In-Field Determining of Microbial Health, Function and Resistance
Healthy soil microbial communities are essential for resilient soils, however there is a lack of rapid in-field testing techniques. This project aims to develop an ‘eNose’ tool to determine changes in the microbial profile. FarmLink will host workshops and provide input to inform to tool’s development.
Funded through the Soil CRC.
Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers – Enduring Benefits for Livestock Producers via Science and a New Community Partnerships Model
Australia’s native dung beetles are not adapted to European livestock dung. FarmLink is part of a national collaborative project to survey existing dung beetle populations, leading to the introduction of several new strains of dung beetles. This project will quantify the value of dung beetles on farms and develop a business model of dung beetle services.
Funded by MLA.
‘Smart’ Soil Sensors
This project will develop the next generation of field-based sensors that can measure, map, interpret, and communicate sensor data using new approaches that will help growers make on-farm decisions. FarmLink’s role is to identify grower participants and communicate progress and outcomes.
Funded through Soil CRC.
Graft India Ag-Tech Challenge
The project will select 12 Ag-Tech startups from India and Australia with proven broadacre dryland cropping technologies to tour the other country. It aims to help them to localise their product, gain insights into sales channels and meet potential customers. The Indian participants will spend three days in the FarmLink region with local growers.
Funded by FarmLink.
Increasing Productivity and Profitability of Pulse Production in Cereal Based Cropping Systems in Pakistan
CSU and ACIAR are working to improve pulse production in Pakistan. FarmLink is supporting this goal by leading ‘Farmers without fences’. In this sub-project, farmers and researchers from Pakistan visit Australia and vice-versa, to exchange information. Pakistani farmers benefit from a better understanding of Australian farming and the value chain, while Australian farmers and researchers learn more about the international pulse market.
Funded by ACIAR.
Recently approved projects
Extension of best practice principles for identifying and managing soil limitations in southern and central NSW
In this project, FarmLink and its partners will deliver a range of soils extension material and activities throughout southern and central NSW. Topics cover a range of soil limitations, interactions and management strategies.
Funded by GRDC.
Future proofing the soils of southern and central NSW from acidification and soil organic carbon decline
This project will develop a new, accurate acidification model using innovative machine learning methods. These tools will provide updated liming recommendations and scenario forecasting resulting in more sustainable soil management and productive farming enterprises.
Funded by National Landcare Program.
Improved Rhizobial Strains
The adaptation of high value pulse crops is restricted by the suitability of current rhizobial strains. This project will evaluate a range of elite rhizobial strains for high value pulse crops with the objective of releasing elite commercial strains.
Funded by GRDC.
Soilborne Pathogen Identification and Management Strategies for Winter Cereals
Soilborne pathogens are a widespread problem across Australian cereal growing regions. This investment will test localised soilborne disease management strategies.
FarmLink and other groups will work with cereal pathologists and other to deliver a coordinated set of 14 knowledge, identification and diagnosis workshops, which will inform subsequent non-replicated demonstration trials for pathogen management.
Funded by GRDC.
Projects in negotiation with funders
Facilitating adoption of integrated weed management strategies for feathertop Rhodes grass in the Northern Region, Prg 2. (Southern NSW)
Feathertop Rhodes grass is an aggressive weed that continues to increase in severity and incidence. This project will develop an integrated weed management strategy for FTR for growers and advisers in southern New South Wales. FarmLink will play a minor role in the overall project.
Regional harvester set-up workshops for the economic optimisation of harvest losses, efficiency and grain quality
This investment proposes a series of interactive harvester set-up days to inform growers, harvest contractors, advisors and machinery resellers on harvester set-up, front-to-back grain quality/ losses and harvest weed seed control. FarmLink will conduct 12 workshops over three years and three case studies.
Adoption of annual mixed species grazing crops to bridge the feed gap and increase annual feed production
Scarcity of feed in late autumn into winter limits the stocking potential and productivity of sheep enterprises. The aim of this project is to work with growers experimenting with mixed species annual pastures and grazing crops and to develop a small plot trial to showcase the productivity of these mixtures. 
Concluding projects
Climate and Weather Risk Guidelines
FarmLink supported CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology to deliver 57 Climate and Weather Risk Guidelines– one for each of the Australian natural resource management (NRM) regions. These will assist farmers to make decisions about crop planting and stocking levels by better understanding their local climate risks.
See: www.bom.gov.au/climate/climate-guides
Funded by the National Drought Response.
Managing Early Season Canola Establishment Pests in NSW – Establishment and Coordination of Grower/Advisor Groups
Early identification and control of insect pests has been identified as a key constraint to the successful crop establishment of canola in southern NSW in the GRDC Northern Region. FarmLink worked with CESAR to produce practical agronomy advice to increase the awareness, understanding and management of early season pests in canola in Central and Southern NSW.
Funded by GRDC.


Jan 10

Summer moisture preservation is critical

Posted by Kylie Dunstan at Friday, January 10, 2020

The following article appeared in the Summer 2019 edition of the FarmLink quarterly member-exclusive publication The Link (archives appear at http://www.farmlink.com.au/the-link).

While it might be tempting to allow weeds and crops that have been cut for hay or windrowed to regrow as a source of livestock feed, the impact on following crop yields could be significant.
Riverina Independent Agronomy consultant Neil Durning says weedy canola crops are ideally sprayed before windrowing to reduce the addition of ryegrass to the seedbank and a loss of moisture and nutrients from the soil.
“As part of an integrated weed management plan, it is worth applying glyphosate to canola with ryegrass from early senescence at label rates,” he says. “One way or another you want the canola and the ryegrass dead. It doesn’t take much rain for ryegrass to stick a head out and add more seeds to the seedbank.”
Mr Durning says wheat following canola where glyphosate was applied before harvest appears to hang on for longer in dry finishes. Spraying before windrowing also reduces the likelihood of plant regrowth after rain.
3D-Ag consultant Peter McInerney advises his clients against grazing sheep on paddocks that have been cut for hay.
“Do not try to retrieve residual grazing from hay paddocks because there is none to be had,” he says. “All you will do is powder the soil and have it blow away, particularly paddocks that have been cut for hay for two consecutive years.
“A crop that would have produced 2.5t/ha of grain leaves 3 to 3.5t/ha of residue. That same paddock cut for hay will leave behind less than 1t/ha of residue.”
Where hay has been cut for two consecutive seasons, Mr McInerney encourages the application of manure to replace lost organic matter and nutrients.
Effective summer weed management is critical to reap the soil water conservation benefits of retained crop residues (Flower, Dang & Ward 2019).
Zeleke (2017) showed that summer weed control increased residual soil water and soil nitrogen by 64 millimetres and 60 kilograms per hectare respectively.
Lilley and Kirkegaard (2007) used modelling to show that summer weed control could increase subsequent wheat yield by up to 20 per cent.
According to NSW Department of Primary Industries researcher Colin McMaster (https://weedsmart.org.au/how-much-moisture-and-nitrogen-is-wasted-on-weeds-over-summer/) trials in Central New South Wales showed the economic benefit of every dollar per hectare spent on herbicides to control summer weeds was $8/ha.
Mr Durning says mixed farmers must treat weeds as if there are no livestock in the system, particularly if the paddock is earmarked for cropping.
“The minute you compromise on summer weed control by allowing weeds to grow large is when you start to reduce the yield potential of next year’s crop,” he says. “Preserving moisture over summer is the difference between having a crop that can be harvested and salvaging a failed crop in a dry finish.”
John Stevenson allows sheep to lightly graze stubbles on ‘Orange Park’ near Lockhart only after the first summer knockdown has been applied. His actions back research showing grazing sheep on crop residues at low stocking rates has no detrimental impact on following crop yield (Hunt et al. 2016, Allan et al. 2016).
Where paddocks are bare, Mr Durning says a strategic cultivation may be needed to curb erosion and maximise water infiltration, although this depends on slope and implement choice. Cultivation leaves the surface coarse and lumpy to slow run-off and reduce surface wind speed.
Mr Condon says one of his clients with discs on 16.5cm row spacings planted millet over summer as a cover crop.
“It was sprayed out at early tillering and we saw no yield loss in the following crop even in a dry season,” he says. “You have to be disciplined to avoid grazing and spray it out before the roots reach 15 to 20cm deep to prevent stored soil water loss.”
While two to three tonnes of wheat stubble per hectare (Kirkegaard & van Rees 2019) or 70 per cent soil cover are suggested to minimise erosion and maximise water infiltration, Mr Condon suggests keeping 100 per cent of cover if possible.
He and Mr McInerney agree that confinement lots are worthwhile to preserve soil cover. Confinement lots work on the theory that less topsoil is lost by concentrating sheep in a small area rather than a large area.
Mr McInerney suggests positioning a new confinement lot near an existing tree line where there is standing crop and to apply for grants for infrastructure needs.
Mr Condon says confinement lots allow sheep to be efficiently kept at target condition scores using grain and straw, while preserving soil cover.
“My clients with diverse rotations who kept stubble from 2016 have produced reasonable crops during the past two years,” he says. “The retained stubble allowed autumn rain to infiltrate rather than run off and enabled crops to be established on time.”
Mr Durning agrees, adding that he has noticed paddocks with less stubble cover failed two weeks earlier this year than paddocks with a higher percentage of cover.
Acknowledgements: Peter McInerney, Neil Durning, Greg Condon and John Stevenson.