Generation X shapes

24 Apr, 2002 10:00 PM

CORRIGIN Farm Improvement Group president David Thomas, vice president Greg Evans and secretary Paul McBeath all agree that any future direction for WA agriculture will have to be profit driven.

And in a world of increasing technology (read increasing complexity and higher costs), blueprints for farming will have to be established district by district.

"We've got our own unique problems and potential which is why it is hard to share a lot of trial results with other farming groups," David said. "It's basically the reason why the group was started up in the first place ‹ to deal with local issues.

"In our district, sheep still play a major role in rotations and weed control, and naturally there is a bigger focus on pastures and the potential for some ley farming."

According to Greg, with a restriction to basic rotations ("we can't grow faba beans or chick peas"), there is a great need for a new soft wheat variety, the predominant wheat grown in the Corrigin district.

"It again boils down to achieving better returns with a variety that would have a larger grain size for less screenings, better disease resistance and reliable quality to make set grades," he said.

Taking a big picture approach of the future of the Corrigin district, all three are happy to be fairly pragmatic.

"We're trying to integrate agronomy with land care so there's got to be a fair bit of flexibility in what you do," Paul said.

"We've seen the benefits of minimum till techniques and nobody wants to go back to the old days of working up and back.

"But minimum till has brought its own problems, particularly chemical resistance, so cultivation has to be an option.

"I think everybody realises that you can't discount anything in crop management and that goes for sensible cultivation.

"But nobody wants paddocks to blow away."

The fundamental shift in today's farming, ironically, has been away from the paddock and more to the farm office.

Modern machinery has meant increased productivity, speedier operations and an ability to cope with seemingly smaller windows of opportunity to spray and sow.

But it hasn't increased leisure time.

Today's young farmers are more likely to be interpreting data from palm-held computer recorders, analysing paddock maps and updating paddock data ‹ all the result of so-called GPS farming.

But there's a measured pace to it.

"GPS farming has yet to justify the expense," David said. "We're hoping to evaluate it further to see whether it's financially viable.

"For example, variable rate applications of product needs stacks more research and we're hoping to involve the GRDC in the work we want to do.

"There's a lot of theory about GPS but we need to evaluate it in practice."

An increasing emphasis on quality assurance will also mean more time at the computer inputting, for example, spraying operations with details of product, rate and timing.

Then there's the input into running the local farmer group.

"We're in desperate need of a coordinator for the group," David said. "We are looking at ways to fund a person to coordinate our trials and associated research and collate information to distribute to members.

"This would take the work load off our committee.

"At present, the workload is concentrated on the committee and the need is becoming more demanding as we take on a greater research commitment, given that we all have the burden of our own farms to consider."

The latter comment should put a smile on the faces of old timers. Things haven't changed that much in agriculture after all.



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