350 farmers, advisors and agribusiness representatives attended a series of four forums across the Eyre Peninsula to discuss the dry conditions for the start of the 2017 growing season.
Funded by the Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC) and supported by PIRSA-SARDI and local farming groups Eyre Peninsula Agricultural Research Foundation (EPARF) and Lower Eyre Agricultural Development Association (LEADA), the forums titled ‘Maximising returns through informed decision making’ were held at Wudinna (15 June), Cummins (16 June), Cleve (22 June) and Streaky Bay (23 June).
Local GRDC Southern Panel Representatives Peter Kuhlmann and Bill Long opened the two major forums at Wudinna and Cummins. Local consultant Andy Bates, Bates Ag Consulting facilitated the Cleve and Streaky Bay forums.
At the beginning of each forum, farmers were asked:
- How much have you sown of your intended program?
- Of what you have sown, what germination (establishment) levels have you got?
- Who will put more in if it rains?
Thirty percent of Wudinna and Cummins* farmers had sown their full program, 45% at Cleve+ and only 6% of Streaky Bay+. Conversely, 44% of Streaky Bay farmers had not sown any of their program, compared to 10, 3 and 18% for Wudinna, Cummins and Cleve respectively. Plant establishment was varied, with the best establishment being recorded in the Cleve area with 94% reporting greater than 50% establishment. To sow more now, the majority of farmers reported that they would require at least 20-30 mm of rainfall. Interestingly following the Streaky Bay forum, farmers shifted their responses from requiring 10 mm of rainfall to sow, to a greater number saying that they needed at least 30 mm.
Dale Grey, Seasonal Risk Agronomist with Agriculture Victoria presented the oceanic and atmospheric climate drivers of weather in south-eastern Australia, what they are currently up to and the model predictions for rainfall and temperature for the rest of winter and spring.
Tim McClelland, Systems & Agronomic Services Manager with Birchip Cropping Group presented a range of yield simulations for various localities across Eyre Peninsula using the decision support tool ‘Yield Prophet’.
James Edwards, Wheat Breeder with Australian Grain Technologies explained the potential losses from heat events at flowering and grain fill in wheat.
Kenton Porker, Research Scientist with SARDI highlighted that different barley varieties sown later in the season all ended up maturing within about a week of each other, as opposed to longer growing seasons where varieties display quite different maturity dates.
- For anyone considering sowing cereals now, it was strongly recommended to increase sowing rates to have the best shot at good grain numbers, which ultimately drive yield.
Hamish Dickson, Principal Consultant for AgriPartner Consulting described the key features to consider when designing containment areas for sheep, for the health and wellbeing of both sheep and workers.
An opportunity for questions to all of the speakers was well utilized, with plenty of questions and discussion held with the crowd.
Some of the questions and answers included in the full report
Chris Fitzgerald, Rural Financial Counsellor with Rural Business Support outlined the free, confidential financial services that Rural Business Support provides, as well as types of government assistance currently available and eligibility requirements.
Following the Wudinna and Cummins forums, farmers were asked by show of hands whether attending the forum had assisted or changed what they might do, the majority (~80%) of farmers at each event raised their hands. Some of the real value of the forums however was simply getting people together. There was a lot of discussion amongst attendees during breaks and following the forums which was important for mutual support. Rabobank assisted this process by providing refreshments following the Wudinna and Cummins events.