State Government and GRDC unveil $20m WA Farming Systems project to bolster farmers’ profitability up to 20pc
A new $20.4 million research project is hoped to give grain growers in low and medium rainfall zones new insights into farming systems practices that could increase their profitability by up to 20 per cent while managing risk and greenhouse gas emissions.
The State Government and Grains Research Development Corporation joined forces to announce the five-year WA Farming Systems project this week, with the funding boon including $12m from the WA Government and $8.4m from GRDC.
WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and GRDC managing director Nigel Hart visited the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Kensington site to make the announcement on Tuesday.
The project has been spruiked for the potential to deliver the agronomic tools and business pathways for the industry to grow and thrive, by using a whole-of-farm research approach to help growers make the best decisions possible.
It is hoped farmers in the low and medium rainfall zones of WA will adopt and integrating agronomic and systems innovations by the year 2026, which could support a 10-20 per cent improvement in farm profitability.
The project will explore a range of farming systems risks and opportunities, including crop diversity, expanded seeding windows and integrating greenhouse gas mitigation strategies into farming businesses.
Learning hubs will be established in the Merredin, Geraldton and Lakes districts, reflecting three different production environments, to undertake rigorous scientific system trials to ground truth a range of farming systems and extend learnings.
Consultation with growers is in progress to help guide the project and aid the adoption of new farming practices adapted to future climate scenarios and market demands.
Mr Hart said the new investment had been developed in response to WA growers’ requirements for an integrative research and development project that looked at the ‘whole of farm’ implications of elements such as different crop rotations and agronomic management practices.
The research investment, which will be informed by ongoing consultation with western growers and advisers, had also been supported by GRDC’s western region panel.
“GRDC has been working closely with WA growers and advisers to really understand their needs at a farm level and this research project is a result of that collaboration,” Mr Hart said.
“This WA farming systems project will explore crop rotations, crop types, timing of seeding in a changing climate, potential weeds and disease management costs and consequences, and an understanding of the GHG emissions intensity of these different systems.
“The aim is to help growers get on the front foot in making business and agronomic decisions in changing climatic conditions in ways the enhance on-farm profitability and sustainability.”
Ms MacTiernan said the project was “another demonstration” of the McGowan Government’s support for the agricultural sector, together with the recent launch of the WA Agricultural Research Collaboration to drive research so WA’s primary industries remain internationally competitive.
“The WA grains industry is at a critical juncture — exposed to increasing pressures from climate change, high input costs, a volatile commodity market, as well as customer expectations for sustainably produced, low emission food products,” she said.
“The WA Farming Systems project will assist our biggest agricultural industry to take on these pressures head on so our grain growers can remain ahead of the game with research-based production practices that are both profitable and sustainable.
“I am pleased to see the project will embrace on-ground trials to support future scenario modelling providing growers with the empirical evidence required to make informed decisions when modifying their operations to strengthen business resilience.”
Ms MacTiernan said the project would take a “pragmatic approach to sustainable production”.
“This includes exploring increasing break crop diversity by integrating grain and pasture legumes and oilseed crops, as well as examining time of seeding risks and trade-offs to lift whole farm profitability,” she said.
“The world is changing rapidly, and the McGowan Government continues to look forward and make strategic investments to equip the State’s primary industries with credible evidence, knowledge and experience to adapt and seize emerging opportunities.”
DPIRD farming systems innovation manager David Ferris said the project would provide grain growers with scientifically proven tools and strategies to adapt their operations with confidence to the changing climate and market environment so their businesses can remain profitable, sustainable and competitive.
“With increasing demand for ethically produced food, alongside the challenges of climate variability, now is the time to examine the risks and opportunities for future grain production so industry can be at the forefront of research advances and build a strong and secure future,” Dr Ferris said.
The project’s initial engagement phase started in May this year and will run through until October.
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