Growers in research seat

30 Oct, 2013 01:00 AM

ONE of the main criticisms surrounding the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is the lack of transparency in its research and funding priorities.

However a new report developed by WA farmers may just be the turning point for some major changes.

The GRDC's Regional Cropping Solutions (RCSN) initiative has been underway for the past two years, linking together growers, farming systems groups, agribusiness and researchers.

During this time they have pinpointed the research, development and extension objectives for each of the main cropping zones and a final report was released this month.

Unlike other initiatives, growers are giving this process the tick of approval, according to Northampton farmer Carl Suckling.

"I think this report will be a lot of help and it is a great relief to know that GRDC are listening," Mr Suckling said.

"The biggest issue with these bureaucratic organisations is the process and how long it takes to get real work done on the ground on the important issues.

"I can see that the RCSN groups are a fantastic concept and in my opinion, after being a part of it for two years, it definitely will, in the years to come, fast-track work."

For each of the issues identified by the Zones, RCSN members prioritised practice changes using a group voting process.

The groups then decided on key activities in the areas of research, development and extension to help achieve the desired practice change.

The Geraldton Port Zone identified seasonal and soil variability, sub-soil pH, soil compaction and unwettable soil as major issues.

When the RCSN group was looking at how growers managed seasonal and soil variability it became clear that many were lacking in information technology skills and were unsure where to start.

Alternatively they had experienced problems with software and were dissuaded to continue.

Mr Suckling said he found seasonal variability to be one of the hardest things he had to deal with.

"It's so important to get a better understanding because there is an enormous opportunity to lose money when you get it wrong these days," he said

"As is the opportunity of making money when you get it right."

The top five priorities identified by growers in the Albany Zone were frost mitigation, weed seed management, non-wetting soils, soil fertility measurement and improving legumes in the rotation.

According to Albany Zone RCSN group, when it came to weed seed management, the overwhelming consensus was that chemicals still had some effect and are easy, so many farmers were reluctant to change their practices.

"The perception exists that non-chemical options will increase work load and that new chemicals will come, so they don't need to bother too much," the RCSN report stated.

The Esperance Port Zone RCSN group said there was a high demand for information on water use efficiency by soil type, technology to improve decision-making and precision agriculture.

The report stated that growers in the zone felt as though the information available to them was "overwhelming and distracting" and that better tools were required to help them make decisions.

Growers in the Kwinana East Port Zone said they wanted to better understand profitability constraints, how to manage stored soil moisture and frost.

They were also chasing information on profitable crop rotations.

The report said farmers saw break crops as a non-profit venture that caused short-term pain.

"They are resistant to change due to the poor financial position many businesses are in," the RCSN report stated.

Farmers in the area were wary, arguing that this was not the right time to be taking risks and trying new techniques.

Reliable 10-day weather forecasting was identified as the number one priority of the Kwinana West Port Zone.

According to the report, farmers were highly motivated to seek out this information but felt they had nothing to work with after developing a distrust of the information coming out of the Bureau of Meteorology.

Growers also identified frost, non-wetting soils and sands, poor soil health and structure, weed management as major investment priorities.

Mr Suckling said while the development of the RCSN priorities and outcomes had taken time as people settled into their roles, it would all be worth it in the long-run.

"The RCSN will play a major part in fast tracking important research," he said.

"GRDC got to the stage where they really didn't have enough people on the ground and they didn't have a lot of one-on-one farmer feedback.

"These groups are fantastic for that and I really believe we'll see much faster progress in research development."

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30/10/2013 11:59:28 AM, on Farm Weekly

The mandatory GRDC levy is nothing more than legalized plunder and those supporting its retention are weakening growers' balance sheets. Wake up WA Farmers!!
30/10/2013 2:00:49 PM, on Farm Weekly

GRDC instigated in 1989 as a Council to oversee R&D in the Aust. grains industry on the back of a compulsory levy and near matching taxpayer contribution. All these years later it is now an archaic,highly politicised,self serving monopoly indulging in constituent buying to protect its position.A truly proper independent , objective and forensic analysis will show the system is now failing.No productivity increases for a decade.The system needs changing.As usual WAFF is focusing its attention at the margins.No rigour and all subservient motherhood stuff from this new breakthrough report.
Unhappy cocky
1/11/2013 7:17:20 AM, on Farm Weekly

Toro, you are a fool. No amount of meaningless rhetoric will help you survive in farming. Most farmers recognise the importance of R&D. You and your two mates on PGA are irrelevant to most arguments but particularly this one
1/11/2013 7:05:22 PM, on Farm Weekly

As one directly involved with the South Coast RCSN I congratulate the GRDC for its"bottoms up " approach and believe they are directly addressing grower concerns. The 'Nay sayers" just need to travel a little and look at the deficiencies with some of our competitors in terms of R&D
2/11/2013 12:13:30 AM, on Farm Weekly

"Most farmers recognise the importance of R&D" yeah especially when it is with other peoples money eh cocky. GRDC is a waste of money.
Unhappy cocky
4/11/2013 7:35:40 AM, on Farm Weekly

why is it with other peoples money, mine is as good as yours hoegrass. Are you one of those that want a voluntary levy so you can be a free rider.
4/11/2013 2:06:00 PM, on Farm Weekly

I'm one of those that hates people wasting my money! Especially free riders ...


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