Three from WA join Nuffield band

22 Nov, 2000 03:19 PM

A TRIO of WA producers will soon be winging their way across the globe after winning prestigious Nuffield farming scholarships. Merredin graingrower Neil Smith and Jerramungup farmer Sandra Forbes have won Grains Research and Development Corporation-sponsored Nuffield scholarships for graingrowers, providing them with a tremendous opportunity to increase their knowledge of practical farming and the broader issues of agricultural production and marketing. Wickepin stud breeder John Foss won the Australian Primary Producer scholarship, sponsored by Wesfarmers Dalgety, and will study agricultural marketing systems. Valued at $18,000 each, the trio will spend four months travelling overseas, along with five other winners from across the country, exploring areas of particular interest to them and forming networks with producers and processors around the world. WA's first female scholar, Sandra farms 2600 hectares (6425 acres) with her husband at Jerramungup, concentrating on grain, wool, and sheep meat production. She will concentrate her studies on landcare and increasing GMO technology. Holding a Bachelor of Business (Agriculture) from Muresk Institute, Sandra's primary study will be the effect of the GMO debate and its public perception in the UK. Her other fields of study will include no-till farming practices in both Canada and North America, the use of summer or warm season crops in rotations with winter crop production to better utilise annual rainfall and increase production diversity, as well as grain drying technology across America. "With Australian agriculture at the crossroads of making major decisions on GMO technology, I believe it is vital to learn from the European, Canadian and North American experience to understand the challenges and opportunities this technology presents us with," she said. In the eastern Wheatbelt, Neil Smith is a partner in the family farming business Spring Vale and will focus his overseas studies on new crops and cropping techniques. The main emphasis on his 5400ha (13,343ac) property is grain production, including wheat, barley, canola and lupins, however wool and prime lambs are produced, as are pistachio nuts. Neil, who holds a Diploma of Agriculture from Muresk Institute, will base his studies on the multiple uses of saline water. He will also use his scholarship to study high value grain production systems with a view to identifying and adopting cropping techniques and new crops ideally suited to low rainfall climates. "At present, we have saline groundwater in plentiful supply. Community thinking is that saline water is a liability whereas I see it as a potential asset. Crops that have potential include coriander, garlic, canary seed and jojoba, of which some can be irrigated with saline water," he said.


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