Farmer of the Year to open Dowerin

REBECCA TURNERThe West Australian

Farming on the edge is how 2012 Australian Farmer of the Year Peter Kuhlmann describes operating his 9600-hectare cropping property, 40km east of Ceduna in South Australia.

Mr Kuhlmann, who will be officially opening this year's Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days, is excited to be coming to WA, which he described as being 'at the forefront of cropping'.

Official program and field day guide in the COUNTRYMAN newspaper, August 22, 2013

Mr Kuhlmann said Australia's agricultural sector faced increasing challenges and it was important to recognise the contribution made by farmers and farming families.

"Farming for most means operating on smaller margins while managing volatile prices and a changing climate, " he said.

"Producers need to access a huge range of knowledge and expertise to run a successful business these days."

Mr Kuhlmann said innovation, research and development played an important role in improving skills and technology available in the agricultural industry.

He said they would enable farming in Australia to remain profitable and sustainable into the future.

With this in mind, Mr Kuhlmann said he was looking forward to seeing what was on offer at the Dowerin field days, as well as being able to talk to other farmers.

Mr Kuhlmann said his property, which has an average rainfall of 291mm, had very difficult soils.

"We have some of the lowest cropping yields per hectare in Australia, " he said.

"Our biggest challenge is managing the little bit of moisture we get."

Mr Kuhlmann said the challenges of farming in a dry area required a smart approach to generate profits, manage risk and ensure that environmental impacts were minimised.

He has adopted many practices to reduce these risks, including stubble retention, changing to fluid fertiliser, grazing cereals, summer weed control and sowing lucerne on low water use efficiency paddocks.

He also implemented a no till farming operation in 1996.

"This has intensified my cropping program, increased the reliance on herbicides, increased my machinery and other input costs and, therefore, financially exposes me in low production or low price years, " he said.

"The dilemma of farming in a dry environment is the number of trade-offs and compromises that we are forced to deal with.

"Trying to balance time of seeding, weed control, maximising water use efficiency, cost of machinery, profitability and volatile grain prices with a fickle start to the season is tough."

Mr Kuhlmann described himself as an early adopter and was often among the first to try new technologies in his area and undertake farm trials to evaluate them.

He has also broadened his knowledge by visiting farms and rural organisations in Canada, the United States, South Africa, South America, China, Japan and Kenya.

Since being named Farmer of the Year, Mr Kuhlmann said he had especially recognised the valuable contribution that farmers and farming families made to the food and fibre industry, the economy, their environment and their communities.

He said farming was "a tough business to be in at the moment", but he was positive about the future and had hope that farming would continue to be a strong and important industry in Australia.

The Australian Farmer of the Year Awards are organised by ABC Rural and Kondinin Group.

The awards recognise the contributions of individuals and families to farming pursuits in Australia.

· The Official Opening is on Wednesday, August 28 at 10.30am in the GWN7 Pavilion

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