Asking the right questions

Trin SucklingThe West Australian
GRDC Southern Regional Panel member Chris Blanchard and GRDC research programs executive manager Brondwen MacLean inspect the GRDC-sponsored Agriculture College of WA Morawa's soil pit with College board member Jim Cook (behind) and GRDC Chairman Richard Clark and GRDC Western Panel Chairman Peter Roberts (above).
Camera IconGRDC Southern Regional Panel member Chris Blanchard and GRDC research programs executive manager Brondwen MacLean inspect the GRDC-sponsored Agriculture College of WA Morawa's soil pit with College board member Jim Cook (behind) and GRDC Chairman Richard Clark and GRDC Western Panel Chairman Peter Roberts (above). Credit: The West Australian

What keeps you awake at night?

Western Regional Panel chairman Peter Roberts says this simple question to growers initiates research and development priorities for the Grain Research and Development Commission across the State.

Following three weeks of visits to farmers across the southern and eastern parts of WA, Mr Roberts said the most resounding answer remained the same in many areas.

"It's very interesting, the number one thing across WA is frost and we have a big investment in this area," he said.

"Subsoil constraints, such as non-wetting soil, soil acidity, soil sodicity, compaction, salinity - those sorts of constraints are also still high on the Western Panel's agenda.

"Weeds in terms of resistance and evolving new weeds, with more summer rainfall we're getting new weeds in the system, how to manage those and not make the same mistakes we did with radish and rye grass and suddenly find ourselves with an unmanageable situation."

Including legumes in a rotation system and recognising the benefits to soil condition and the financial value of pooling nitrogen naturally remain strong discussion points, Mr Roberts said.

When talk turns to rain, Mr Roberts says the real issue is water efficiency.

"How do we get more grain from the same amount of water? There are plenty of scientific papers saying the standard is 22mg per millimetre of rainfall - growers are very close to this curve," he said..

"Last year was the best year WA has ever had and we produced the highest amount of tonnes, but … it wasn't the best year in terms of rainfall."

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails