WANTFA seeks a Central Wheatbelt group

31 Jul, 2012 02:00 AM
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NUNGARIN local Ron Creagh was a founding member of the Ninghan Farm Focus Group based at Mukinbudin in 2003.
NUNGARIN local Ron Creagh was a founding member of the Ninghan Farm Focus Group based at Mukinbudin in 2003.

THE WA No-Tillage Farming Association (WANTFA) is calling on growers to help kick-start a grower group in the Central Wheatbelt region.

The push is in response to what WANTFA executive director David Minkey called a growing research and grower networking gap in the region.

After a failed attempt by a number of grains industry bodies to get a comparable group off the ground 12 months ago, WANTFA believed the need for such a group was stronger than ever.

"The main reason for the group's formation would be to have more two-way communication and interaction between researchers, agronomists and farmers in the region," Mr Minkey said.

"Through a group like this, growers can have direct links to the Department of Agriculture and Food, WANTFA staff, the Grower Group Alliance, the CSIRO and other research groups.

"A targeted grower group will provide the opportunity for farmers to have a direct say in what crop research happens in the Central Wheatbelt region."

Mr Minkey said WANTFA operated differently to a large number of other grower groups.

He said while WANTFA and its research trials had been a very strong presence in the Cunderdin region for about 12 years, it was time for the organisation to revisit its strategic direction and take a step back from its Cunderdin and Meckering-based projects.

"WANTFA is very different from a normal grower group in that it's based State-wide and we can't always offer one-on-one interaction between the research and the farmer, who may or may not benefit from it," Mr Minkey said.

"While WANTFA will still have a presence in the area, the formation of a grower group will alleviate some of those pressures and free up WANTFA resources which can then be focused on other growing regions neglected by the association's work in the last 10 years.

"WANTFA won't give up its work in Cunderdin but there is a huge geographical research development and extension (RD&E) gap between the Facey Group at Wickepin and the Liebe Group in the north, which needs to be filled."

Mr Minkey said he had considered the serious challenges associated with the formation of such a group including physical distance, manpower and a potential lack of willingness on growers' behalf to step into an RD&E role, which had previously been undertaken by WANTFA staff.

"The exact structure models of the potential group are still on paper at the moment," he said.

"Some models consider whether Central Wheatbelt growers need one big grower group which tries to cover the whole region or whether they need two or three smaller ones to evolve over time."

Apart from grower targeted plant research, Mr Minkey said the potential group would also serve another valuable role in attracting funding for region-specific crop research.

"There was a national RD&E strategy formed last year and in that there was a strong focus on extension," he said.

"Lots of new funding is released by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Grains Research and Development Corporation each year.

"These kind of groups always look to support a grower group in their extension and Central Wheatbelt farmers need to be involved in order to get that money working for their region."

It costs WANTFA about $100,000 to maintain its Cunderdin research site annually and when WANTFA takes a step back in upcoming years in order to better service the rest of the State there will be a void in the Central Wheatbelt research space.

The Central Wheatbelt grower group is aimed at farmers in the Cunderdin, Meckering, Dowerin, Tammin, Kellerberrin, Wyalkatchem, Trayning, Merredin, Goomalling, York, Quairading, Bruce Rock, Narembeen, Northam, Nungarin, Bencubbin, Beacon, Kalannie and Wongan Hills areas.

p More information: www.wantfa.com.au

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