Growers gain insights into grain research

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Sarah Houston and Madison George of Grower Group Alliance with Manjusha Thorpe and Grant Taylor of Careers in Grain.
Camera IconSarah Houston and Madison George of Grower Group Alliance with Manjusha Thorpe and Grant Taylor of Careers in Grain. Credit: Pictures: Cally Dupe

Wait for surface and subsurface moisture to dry before sowing wheat crops, keep a keen eye on changing appetites overseas and seek out new land use opportunities.

These pearls of wisdom formed just a micron of information on offer to growers at this year’s Grains Research Development Corporation grains research updates.

More than 600 people flocked to the State’s premier grains research forum at Crown Perth on Monday and Tuesday, attending a range of seminars, workshops and social events.

In opening the forum, GRDC western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts recommended growers take steps to manage their soil ahead of the winter cropping season.

He said recent rainfall had created good subsoil moisture levels, but farmers needed to carefully manage weeds, soil nutrients, diseases, pests, nutrition and frost to boost 2017 yields.

Results of the latest research seeking solutions to water repellent soil was unveiled by CSIRO plant biologist Phil Ward on Monday.

He discussed the impact of no-till and residue retention systems, wet versus dry seeding and the use of deep ripping on water-repellent soils. He said trials had shown no-till and stubble retention systems worked best but needed to be “practised for several years” before improvements to soil water, crop establishment and yield became evident.

“What we found at field trials at Munglinup and Pingrup was that rainfall can soak into the ground more effectively in no-till and stubble retention systems, ensuring better crop emergence,” he said.

“The combination of no-till and residue retention was found to preserve root pathways in the soil, allowing water to enter despite the repellent soil layer.”

From a local to a global perspective, the update also hosted international speaker David Hughes, an expert in the food and drink sector based at the Imperial College in London.

He discussed world consumer trends and focused on what he said was an increased demand for plant-protein.

WA No Tillage Farmers Association executive officer David Minkey detailed his results from a two-year project on herbicides at Cunderdin.

He told growers the recent, early rainfall meant it could be more effective to wait until surface and subsurface moisture has dried before sowing wheat crops.

His project, which focused on herbicides, found sowing early resulted in better weed control and encouraged farmers to use a longer residual herbicide, dry seed in late April or early May and use a low-weed seed bank and weed-modelling systems.

Mr Minkey said three of the most popular pre-emergent herbicides used by WA growers were found to decay slowly during a six-week period in dry soil conditions.

“This backed previous WA experiments that found pre-emergent herbicides could be applied months in advance of sowing under perfectly dry conditions and not decay,” he said.

“But in wet conditions, our 2014 and 2015 trials found decay was rapid — regardless of soil type — and this was further exacerbated when temperatures were warm.

“This highlights the risks of using these herbicides very early before the season break.”

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