News

May 27

Landcare grant for soil moisture education

Posted by Cindy Cassidy at Friday, May 27, 2016

Member for Riverina Michael McCormack and Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister Keith Pitt announced funding for two local applicants under the National Landcare Programme Sustainable Agriculture Small Grants Round 2015-16.
Mr McCormack said FarmLink at Temora and Bruie Plains Landcare Group had received grants which will support Australia’s vibrant, innovative and competitive agriculture sector.
“FarmLink will receive $55,000 to support their successful project helping local farmers understand soil moisture conditions to boost their productivity,” Mr McCormack said.
“This project will help share local knowledge and skills across the sector to boost farm productivity and protect the natural resources that our agricultural industries depend on.
“The Bruie Plains Landcare Group has been provided with $11,000 to deliver a holistic grazing management course for Central West farmers to help empower landholders and lift their production.
“The Small Grants Round is an important component of the National Landcare Programme which ultimately delivers on the Coalition Government’s commitment to support profitable returns at the farmgate.
“I congratulate both organisations and I look forward to seeing these projects deliver results for our local farmers.”
Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister Keith Pitt said the Nationals in Government were working closely with volunteer Landcare groups and farming organisations to strengthen the Landcare program and prioritise works where they can have greatest impact.
“The Coalition’s strong investment of $1 billion over four years in the National Landcare Programme demonstrates our great commitment to support Landcare in Australia and ensure our lands remain a solid foundation for our agricultural sector,” Mr Pitt said.
“Projects like FarmLink and Bruie Plains will contribute greatly to increasing the knowledge and skills sharing of local farmers, leading to higher productivity and yields, and boosting the local economy.”

Apr 27

Preparing for planting 2016

Posted by Cindy Cassidy at Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rain forecast for this weekend means Riverina farmers are in the middle of preparing for, and sowing, the 2016 winter crop, an integral part of Australia’s agricultural output. Riverina farmers produce $2.1 billion worth of total agricultural output annually (ABARES) with grain production alone worth $795 million annually.
As a part of the preparation for this year’s crop, farmers have been using stubble burning as an important tool in the management of their farming systems. But why do farmers burn?
There are lots of reasons why farmers burn crop residue, but the overriding issue is that this stubble residue will adversely affect their cropping program, which can be compromised if the stubble -
• causes blockages to seeding equipment
• causes uneven crop emergence
• perpetuates crop diseases
• provides habitat for crop pests
• affects the efficacy of weed control
• affects the uptake of nutrients by the new crop
Farmers retain their stubble for as long as possible to provide grazing for sheep, to reduce erosion risk and to retain moisture.
Southern NSW produces some of the highest crop yields and best quality grain in Australia. Average wheat yields of 3-4 tonnes/ha are common, and could be double that in a good year. A direct result of that is that there is large amounts of stubble to deal with before the next crop can be sown. Typically stubble residue can be 1.5 x the grain yield. Research has shown that if the amount of stubble exceeds 3 tonne/ha then many seeders will have difficulties in sowing crops evenly and there will be blockages as the stubble tends to clump up. Getting crops sown to emerge within the correct time period for each variety is so important for the end result. Agronomists spend a lot of time planning crop rotations with farmers and selecting varieties suitable for each paddock to avoid frost and heat stress in critical times in spring, and this depends on the sowing operation going smoothly.
Many crop diseases and pests are harboured in the old stubble residue, so depending on the crop rotation the stubble may need to be removed to prevent the problems. Fungal leaf diseases such as Yellow Leaf Spot in cereals and Blackleg in canola are carried over in stubble residue. Stubble burning reduces these risks in the paddock so that crop seedlings are not exposed to the disease at emergence. Pests such as earwigs, millipedes and slugs rely on stubble cover to improve their habitat in cropping paddocks and can damage emerging seedlings, especially fragile canola seedlings. Removing the stubble by burning can help prevent these from causing a problem.
Weed competition is the greatest threat to crop productivity worldwide, so early control is essential for ensuring that crop yields are not compromised, and the emerging crop can become competitive itself. Stubble can interfere with efficient application of herbicides. Soil active pre-emergent herbicides will not be effective if stubble cover absorbs the spray, preventing even application. Post emergent weed control may also be compromised if standing stubble is shading seedling weeds so that spray droplets do not reach the target so burning stubble before herbicide application will give better results.
The technique of windrow burning as a way of destroying resistant weed seeds is also becoming an important part of the integrated weed management package. Instead of spreading harvested weeds seeds across the paddock, stubble residues are simply dropped via a shute at the back of the header so they can be burnt in late summer or early autumn in a hot burn that destroys all the weed seeds. This allows the majority of the stubble to be conserved, but herbicide resistant weed seeds are destroyed.
Stubble residues can also affect the uptake of nutrients to crops in some circumstances. Cereal stubble from high yielding crops can have a carbon : nitrogen ratio of 80 : 1. When this residue is incorporated into soil it will provide a feedstock for soil microbes. Carbon from crop residues is the primary driver of soil microbial activity and this in turn leads to the release of plant nutrients. The problem here is that the microbes (bacteria and fungi) need other nutrients, particularly nitrogen to digest this carbon. Nitrogen is stripped from soil reserves to do this, hence there will be a short term tie-up of nutrients that are not available to the emerging crop. Farmers have the choice of adding more nutrient for the crop, having the stubble residue in contact with soil for a longer fallow period, or removing the stubble by burning to avoid these nutrient problems. Local research showed that grazing stubbles over summer helped to avoid this nutrient tie-up and redistribute the nutrients across the paddock. Care needs to be taken to not over graze the stubble and increase the risk of soil erosion by wind and water.
Farmers do their best to avoid any impact of smoke on nearby communities by observing some basic principles when conducting stubble burning, including -
• checking with the Bureau of Meteorology and local Rural Fire Authorities when weather conditions will be suitable for burning
• avoiding calm weather conditions that are associated with temperature inversions where smoke will hang in the air for long periods and can drift into local towns.
• burning stubble in the heat of the day with a good cross breeze to give a quick, hot burn.
• awareness of when winds will take smoke into neighbouring towns.
Burning stubble can be done at various strategic times for many reasons, but there is a need to be aware of the “big picture” how it fits into the farming system and how it can be done to minimise the effects on the community.
FarmLink is continuing its work in the GRDC Stubble Initiative to ensure farmers have the support of their local communities thanks to improved stewardship of stubble burning and ongoing sustainable farm management practices.

Jan 29

Improving Crop Productivity

Posted by Cindy Cassidy at Friday, January 29, 2016

 FarmLink-hosted workshops get into full swing in February with the Improving Crop Productivity ... practical steps workshop on February 11.

The day will be a combination of presentations and field activities focussed on enabling farmers to establish their own field trials and teaching them about soil sampling. Learn a little bit of the science and then take it out into the paddock to put it into action.

Jul 02

Soil Biology Workshop Barmedman

Posted by Cindy Cassidy at Tuesday, July 02, 2013

An opportunity to understand how soil organisms contribute to soil health and how to measure their activities. 

 What will you learn?

• How to determine a biologically healthy soil; 

• Ability to distinguish key groups of soil organisms in practice; 

• Ability to describe benefits contributed by soil organisms to ecosystem functions; 

• Ability to identify appropriate management strategies for maintaining and increasing soil biological health; and 

• Ability to develop and use a monitoring plan to measure presence of soil organisms. 

Where? 

Barmedman Bowling Club, Queen St Barmedman Wednesday 24th July, 9am to 4pm. 

To secure your place at this workshop please contact Adelle Dunn on 0429 851 018 adelle.dunn@cma.nsw.gov.au by Monday 22nd July, 2013. Places are limited so don’t delay!

Jun 05

FarmLink Successful in Community Landcare Grant

Posted by Cindy Cassidy at Wednesday, June 05, 2013

FarmLink Research is pleased to announce it has been successful in acquiring funding from DAFF Community Landcare Grant for a 12 month project 'To Burn or Not to Burn - Barellan Farmers Tackling Stubble'.

The project will explore the impact of varietal choice, stubble management, (stubble retention vs burnt stubble vs cultivation) and pre-emergent herbicides on grain yield and quality.

May 23

Scientists edge closer to unlocking cropping soil secrets

Posted by Cindy Cassidy at Thursday, May 23, 2013

Scientists across Australia are making inroads into unlocking the biological secrets held within the nation’s cropping soils which could hold the key to higher yielding crops.

Through a pioneering initiative funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), considerable progress is being made in mapping the biological make-up of the nation’s arable soils and exploring their hidden potential to increase cropping profitability and sustainability.

Scientists and researchers involved in the GRDC’s Soil Biology Initiative will come together in Perth, Western Australia, next week (May 27 and 28) to discuss the advances they have achieved and expected future research outcomes.

 Principal research scientist and Soil Biology Initiative co-ordinator, Associate Professor Pauline Mele, says theworkshop in Perth will provide a snapshot of the insights already gained through the world-leading research, development and extension program.

 “The workshop will also be an opportunity to consider the findings to date so we can develop clear and consistent messages that are of relevance and use to grain producers,” Assoc Prof Mele said. “It is important that we take what we now know out to the farming community so growers can gain a better understanding of how soils respond to management practices.”

 Until recent times, little has been known about the composition of the living fraction of soils which support crop production across the nation, according to Assoc Prof Mele.

 “Our living soils are the engine room of grain production systems so it is essential that we have a greater appreciation of what they’re made of and how they function, and we use that knowledge to harness the biological potential of our soils in improving crop yields.”

For further details, or go to www.grdc.com.au/media-news

 

May 20

Rules of thumb for nitrogen management in crops

Posted by Cindy Cassidy at Monday, May 20, 2013

Interaction between soil moisture and nitrogen (N) levels plays a major role in determining wheat yield, according to a crop nutrition expert.

Dr Glenn McDonald, Associate Professor at the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, says having an understanding of the soil’s moisture holding capacity and information about changes in plant-available soil water during the growing season are important aspects of N management.

 “The supplies of water and N are the major drivers of growth and yield of crops, and the two interact to determine crop yield,” said Dr McDonald, when addressing a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) grains research Update in Adelaide (SA) on nitrogen application “rules of thumb”.

 “While availability of moisture is recognised widely as an important factor limiting responses to N, it is also important to realise that lack of N can be an important limitation to soil water use and particularly use of subsoil moisture.”

While much of N management focuses on improving post-anthesis growth and grain filling, it is more than likely that the effects of N and its interaction with soil moisture are influencing yield earlier by affecting grain number as well as grain size, according to Dr McDonald.

He said applying N fertiliser at the optimum rate for the anticipated yield or applying it strategically during the growing season could improve yield and grain protein.

 “Applications of N up to mid-stem elongation build the foundation for yield and have relatively little effect on protein, while later applications of N can be used to maintain or increase protein, but have little or no effect on yield. Applying N between the flag leaf emergence and flowering stages of crop growth can result in greater increases in grain protein concentration.”

Dr McDonald said the demand for N was driven by crop growth rate and the pattern of N uptake would reflect the changes in growth rates during the growing season.

For further details go to www.grdc.com.au/media-news