February 15, 2019
GRDC ‘listening’ tour through Wide Bay/Burnett region
Concerns about peanut crop diseases, a need for more pulse and legume varieties, and the benefits of diversifying from straight sugarcane production were some of the key issues raised by growers during the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Northern Region Panel tour though the Wide Bay/Burnett regions.
Led by grain grower and Chair of the GRDC Northern Region Panel John Minogue, the 11-member advisory panel engaged directly with growers, grower groups, advisers, researchers and community members on the three-day ‘listening’ trip last week.
Grain grower and GRDC Northern Panel Chair John Minogue, pictured with Peter Howlett, led a fact-finding tour through the Wide Bay and Burnett regions last week to engage directly with growers and hear about on-farm issues and regional production constraints. Photo GRDC.
Mr Minogue said meeting directly with industry was a critical part of finding out the challenges facing different regions of Queensland, as well as getting feedback about growers’ current research needs and priorities.
“Our role as an advisory panel is to engage directly with growers in a two-way conversation that helps us to develop an in-depth understanding of the regional constraints challenging their farm profitability and productivity,” Mr Minogue said.
“Understanding what keeps growers awake at night is vital, so we can fulfil our responsibility of ensuring GRDC investments made on their behalf, deliver relevant, paddock-ready solutions to production constraints and importantly improve farm profitability.”
Last week the Panel travelled through the Kingaroy, Bundaberg and Maryborough regions, visiting key GRDC research investment sites focused on peanut breeding and evaluation, legume crops in rotation with sugarcane and national soybean breeding program sites.
The trip was one of two the Panel do annually, through different Queensland and New South Wales cropping regions, to liaise directly with industry.
“The Wide Bay/Burnett region has been impacted by drier than usual conditions, which has made it a tough season for many growers,” Mr Minogue said.
“Alongside the challenges of dry times, other issues growers raised included the need for more information about diseases such as peanut kernel shrivel (PKS) and Sclerotinia stem rot, which are currently causing yield losses in peanut crops.
“We reassured growers that the GRDC are continuing to invest in research that aims to deliver information back to growers about these diseases, as well as identifying management options.
“We also discussed a long-term GRDC breeding program investment with the Peanut Company of Australia, which has developed some lines showing promising disease tolerance for PKS, but these are several steps away from being commercially available.”
The logistics of controlled traffic farming, in situations where growers were going from cane machinery to narrower equipment for pulse and legume crops, was another topical issue.
“A shift from cane production to horticulture, primarily macadamias, is a current trend in the region. This is being driven by price issues and raises questions about the long-term future of the sugar industry,” Mr Minogue said.
“To potentially offset this, many growers have introduced soybeans or peanuts into their cane rotations, which has had a positive impact on their farming systems, from both a diversification perspective and in terms of nematode control and nitrogen fixation.
“But these growers spoke of a need for more pulse and legume varieties that are suitable for the region, as well as agronomic information specifically for coastal environments.” Fertiliser placement was raised as another key concern for the region, with an emphasis on ensuring nitrogen run off is minimised to reduce any potential environmentally impact, specifically on the Great Barrier Reef.
Mr Minogue said the Panel met with more than 60 growers, as well as researchers, advisers and industry stakeholders during the tour.
“We were there to listen and the growers we engaged with appreciated the chance to share their on-farm production constraints directly with us,” he said.
“This information will now be used to help refine the GRDC’s research, development and extension investments at a regional and national level, because at the end of the day we all share a common goal of creating enduring profitability for the grains industry.”
Mr Minogue said if growers from the Wide Bay/Burnett region were interested in further direct liaison with the GRDC they could contact locally-based Northern Panel member Jo White.
“Dr White is a research pathologist and is based in the Maryborough region. She has a thorough understanding of the challenges facing the industry and is available and willing to listen to growers’ concerns,” he said.
Dr White can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.