AgLife – May 25, 2022 edition

Page 1

May 25, 2022

Taking control New glasshouses at Horsham Grains Innovation Park are almost ready for Agriculture Victoria research scientist and lentil breeder Arun Shunmugam to begin sowing the first lentils for speed breeding. As part of a new investment, the glasshouses are set to decrease the time it takes to bring new lentil varieties to market and give scientists more control over the environments they are grown and tested in. – Story, page 21. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

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ew glasshouses and an innovation hub at Horsham Grains Innovation Park are set to increase productivity and learning opportunities across the Wimmera’s agriculture industry.

Agriculture Victoria senior research scientist Cassandra Walker said the innovation hub would be a centre for the next generation of scientists and industry leaders to learn and test grains. “New potential industry investors who want to come into the region can test grains and see how they could meet processing needs,” she said. “The hub is similar to an incubation hub, however it also has the capacity for end product assessment and product development. “We have eight PhD students on site who will use the hub and I think there are new potential PhD projects that they will be seeking students for. “The space will also be used as an education hub, where students from primary through to secondary school and undergrads at university can come and learn more about agriculture and science, to get people engaged and excited about agriculture.” Dr Walker said she was excited about the space and the new technologies that would be relevant to different industries wishing to use grains in their products.

BIGGER AND BETTER: Agriculture Victoria scientist Linda McDonald and lab manager James Stevenson are excited to be able to use new glasshouses, and in future an innovation hub, at Grains Innovation Park in Horsham. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER “It is a space that will be used for training, teaching, engaging – that’s what the innovation hub is really about,” she said. The State Government has invested $12-million in the project, with construction of the innovation hub to start in May, 2023 and be completed in 2024. Agriculture Victoria research sci-

entist and lentil breeder Arun Shunmugam said the new glasshouses would be a gamechanger for breeding and research. “What we’re going to get is good temperature control, automated processes for things like fertiliser application and state-of-the-art LED lighting,” he said. “This is all coming with precise

building management control, so we can control it using apps on phones. “It will tell us if there’s a slight difference in temperature or lighting conditions, so it’s going to warn us or alert us so we can go reset it.” Dr Shunmugam said the state-of-theart facility would be ‘very’ beneficial compared with older glasshouses. “Our research scientists typically

can grow only two generations of pulse crops in one year using the older glasshouses, but with this new facility we will be able to grow three to four generations in a year, which is a big advantage for us,” he said. “With the larger footprint of the glasshouses, we can do more speed breeding combined with genomicsassisted technologies, that means we are going to have increased yield gains quicker as well. “We will be able to save one year’s worth of a breeding cycle, and this will eventually filter through to a $3.5million increase in lentil productivity each year because we are getting our varieties one year quicker to the market, which is a great thing for us.” Dr Shunmugam said the researchers would focus on a variety of plant traits to improve them for farmers and their productivity. “As a national-level breeding program for field pea and lentils we focus on multiple characteristics in our pulse crops,” he said. “Disease resistance is one of them. We also focus on herbicide tolerance, salt and boron tolerances, which are all abiotic factors that affect the plants in the field. “The glasshouses are all functional, but we haven’t put any plants in there yet, so we plan to start sowing soon.”

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Trouble ahead


all me crazy but I love watching crops being sown. It’s like really grown-up colouring in. Nice straight lines, not going over the border, hypnotically creating stunning patterns of cultivation perfection. Akin to a perfectly mowed MCG. Almost an artwork.

It’s been a pretty solid start to the winter cropping season for most but there are other areas of angst and expecting the unexpected. The first is of course global tensions created by Russia’s outrageous and appalling invasion of Ukraine. When I started as a rural journalist in the mid-1980s, Russia was a net importer of wheat. Indeed, grain shortages in part led to the Russian revolution in 1917. I had a wonderful modern European history teacher in my final matriculation year at school who would act out all the dictators across the front of the classroom, imitating Lenin pledging, ‘peace, bread and land’ to the starving serfs in a well-practised Russian accent. He was a good actor, but Lenin failed with that as we now know, and Russia continued importing grain and having shocking failed crops and starvation for decades to come. A quick Googling of Russia’s wheat production sees a sudden, marked turnaround in the year 2001 with modest exports of grain. Since then, Russia has trebled its wheat production to 90-million tons a year with nearly 60 percent being exported, making it the largest grower and exporter of wheat in the world. In comparison, in 2020 Russia exported

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37.3-million tons, the USA and Canada both 26 million, France nearly 20 million, Ukraine 18 and then Australia with 10.4 million tons. The war has shaken global wheat markets and importers of grain are facing chronic food shortages. Add to the mix the volatility of trade policy from the giant economy of India and there’s more trouble ahead, according to Thomas Elders market analyst Andrew Whitelaw. Last week, the fragility of the global market was stark. The wheat price peaked at A$460 a ton then fell $13 to $428 when word got out that despite announcing the export ban, India had allowed loading of shipments of wheat. Wheat prices might be high, but that won’t necessarily translate to huge profits here. Here’s a sobering closing comment from the latest Rabobank report on the impact of the war in Ukraine: “For the Australian food and agri sector, the implications of the planned next round of EU sanctions on Russia are more negative than positive as prices of farming outputs like grains are expected to move substantially less upward than those of input costs like energy and, to some degree, fertiliser.”

Birchip Cropping Group farmers John Stutchbury and Liz Ferrier on a seeder in December 1998.

Milestone for cropping group Victoria’s oldest farmers group will celebrate an anniversary milestone in 2022 and has asked all people connected to the organisation to save the date. Birchip Cropping Group, BCG, will notch 30 years of agricultural networking and solutions with an anniversary dinner on October 7 and hopes farmers and industry leaders will help mark the occasion. BCG chief executive Fiona Best said the milestone was a ‘special’ achievement. “BCG was developed by a handful of dedicated and energised individuals who grew the organisation into the thriving and dynamic operation we are

today,” she said. “It was their belief in the power of shared solutions, which stands at the heart of BCG’s enduring success. “The dinner will celebrate 30 years of progress, of dedication, optimism and determination of farmers, researchers and communities who strived to not just persevere with what we have, but to build and develop solutions that have benefited not only the local community but the wider region encompassing the Australian agricultural sector.” BCG has also announced a new organisation offshoot for young farmers and has invited

young western Victorian farmers to join the new network. Birchip Young Farmers Network, made up of groups across the Wimmera, Mallee and North Central, provides an opportunity to ‘socialise, improve farming knowledge and strengthen professional networks’. The group’s first meeting is scheduled for a post-sowing-season kick-off. Young farmers are asked to email or call 5492 2787 to register interest. For more information on BCG’s anniversary dinner, people can call Ms Best on 0427 922 786.

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Tributes for leader


n agricultural college leader has defined leadership and strength of character as professional traits of former college principal Max Coster, following his death earlier this month.

Longerenong College training manager Barry Ray said the professionalism of the late Max Coster, principal of the school from 1990 until 2002, remained indicative of the college’s longevity and its strength. Mr Ray said Mr Coster ‘had a lot to give’. “The professional way he dealt with the student body, his guidance and direction had a positive impact on the school,” he said. “He was instrumental for me in giving me my first start at the college as a staff member. “I worked closely with Max for 12 years. He was astute, considered and strategic in how he approached his role and he certainly impacted us here during his time.” Mr Ray said Mr Coster’s ‘portrayal of strength and certainty’ was a defining feature of his leadership. “There was nothing wishy washy about Max. He was definitive and students and staff fed on that. If you have a leader who

The late Max Coster you might not always agree with their every decision, but you see their reasoning – it is something people can get behind,” he said. “He certainly had a positive effect on the standing of the organisation and was able to enhance the school’s connections with government departments, for example.” Mr Ray said the college was still going strong and continued to improve and go from strength to strength. “The school has been around for more than 130 years, we knew it would outlive Max, just as it will outlive me – that is its strength,” he said. He said Mr Coster’s leadership

was also reflected by the positive commentary from former students, who spoke of the ‘way’ he went about his principalship. Responses from former students on a Longerenong College social-media post notifying the community of Max Coster’s death included: ‘I was lucky enough to run into Max when he bought a home in Bendigo, it was great to see him and reminisce at the time. RIP Max and condolences to the family.’ ‘RIP Max. He made a significant difference in my life and I’m sure many others. Condolences to his family and to all who loved him.’ The college had written, in part: “Max spent 12 years as principal and we are mindful of the inestimable wealth of his contribution to education, and in particular at Longerenong College during that time. Those who were fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him and have him as a leader and mentor can only wish more educators were like him. Max motivated and empowered both staff and students and allowed people to grow. On behalf of everyone at Longerenong College we extend our deepest sympathy and send our love to Joan and family at this sad time.”

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HANDS ON: Western Ag’s Laura Millard, left, shows Longerenong College second-year student Lynae Howlett through the company’s Horsham site. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Real-world experiences Horsham agricultural students have regained opportunities to learn outside of the classroom through workplace experiences following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Longerenong College students are continuing to develop their skills alongside working agricultural industry members during their time at school, with an aim to move into regional jobs after they finish their studies. Student Lynae Howlett secured a work placement at Western Ag this year, spending four weeks working alongside Longerenong College alumni at Western Ag Horsham. Miss Howlett, originally from Ballarat district, said the placement was a great chance to get real-world experience under her belt. “This is my second year at Longy where I am studying a Diploma of Agronomy and an Advanced Diploma of Agro-business management. This experience gets your foot

in the door at a good company,” she said. Miss Howlett will complete four weeks at the Horsham site, before gathering more experience at the company’s Ballarat site. College 2019 graduate Laura Millard, an animal health specialist at Western Ag, said the college offered ‘great courses and amazing teachers’. “Longy helped me get my job here, with support from my teachers and the college to get me through my courses and into this role,” she said. Miss Millard and Miss Howlett constitute an increased number of female agricultural students at the college. “It is really great to see the girls giving the boys a good run. It is still a very male-dominated industry, but I think there might just be more girls than boys at Longy this year, which is great,” Miss Howlett said.

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Goroke P-12 College leaders hope two new four-legged friends will introduce students to a new element of the agriculture industry. Agriculture students from years seven to 10 will be in charge of caring for and studying two three-week-old dairy calves as part of a three-week schools-based competition. Agriculture teacher Louise Hobbs said she first participated in the program as a student at Kaniva College 10 years ago. “When I saw the program was still running, I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity for the students to engage with the dairy industry,” she said. “Our competition team is completing the full-cream curriculum and is collecting growth data for their scientific report, alongside producing a video about looking after the calves and the industry. “Students also write a letter to the dairy industry.” Miss Hobbs said the whole school was getting involved. “While our competition team is from years seven to 10, we have lots of primary years coming and watching the feeding and even our year-12 VCE Agriculture class getting involved,” she said.


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FEEDING TIME: Goroke P-12 College students Patria Lees, left, and Maisy Batson feed one of their new calves.

“It’s great to see the program build upon inter-year-level relationships.” Students have to feed the calves three litres of milk each, twice a day, as well as incorporate supplementary feed into their diet. Agriculture student Lucinda Smith said she was enjoying the new farming experience. “I love how the calves are always so excited to see me every morning,” she said. “It’s teaching me that agriculture isn’t just cropping and sheep, it’s so much more.” Maisy Batson said the calves were ‘lots of fun’ as they were interacting with the students in different ways. “The calves give us an insight into the different types of

agriculture feeding,” she said. “It shows us just how vast the agriculture industry is and that there are so many jobs.” Liam Perks said he was excited about the program helping him in his future career. “It’s going to help set me up to be a farmer in the future,” he said. “I know I want to get involved in dairy in some way, maybe by going to work on a dairy farm after school.” The Cows Create Careers project is run by Jaydee Events with support from Gardiner Foundation and WestVic Dairy. The project will conclude with a presentation event next month, with various awards for competing school’s work.

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Solid start for region W


immera farmers are hopeful that consistent autumn rain is the beginning of a positive season for winter crops.

National Farmers Federation vicepresident David Jochinke said this year had provided an ‘excellent’ sowing and weed control window for Wimmera farmers. “Winter growth should be good this year,” he said. “We have been able to do knockdowns as part of our program and also had the opportunity to do double knocks in some places. “The moist soil will help allow pre-emergents to work fully if they are applied correctly.” Before crops were sown, Wimmera farmers were spraying ‘knockdowns’ to prepare their paddocks for cropping to eliminate any green-plant material. The rain would then activate any pre-emergents sprayed to help prevent weeds from growing once the crop was sown. Mr Jochinke, who farms at Murra Warra north of Horsham, said because crops were sown into moisture this year, early growth could be seen throughout paddocks. “It was nothing like this last year when lots of farmers were sowing into dry conditions,” he said. “We’re in the third year of the La

“It was nothing like this last year when lots of farmers were sowing into dry conditions. We’re in the third year of the La Niña and we’re finally seeing that rain fall in the southern part of the eastern coast”

– David Jochinke

Niña and we’re finally seeing that rain fall in the southern part of the eastern coast. “Rain is tricky, we want it when we want it, but we can’t do without it.” In 2022, rain totals to May 18 were 159 millimetres at Horsham compared with 73.4 millimetres during the same period in 2021. The average rain for Horsham between the start of the year and the end of May is 125.6 millimetres. Wimmera Catchment Management Authority chief executive David Brennan said in some parts of the Wimmera, the rain had provided the best start in many years. “What we’ve seen is an increase in the soil moisture profile, so wetlands are starting to hold water and we have damper ecosystems,” he said. “We couldn’t be in a better position, but it’s still very early in the season and we need the rain to continue.” Australian Bureau of Meteorology

predicts June to August rain is likely to be above the median for much of mainland Australia. Large parts of eastern Australia have a 40 to 60 percent chance of being in the wettest 20 percent of past June to August periods. This is about two to three times higher than the normal likelihood of a very wet season. Mr Brennan said he was hoping to see decent inflows into storages, rivers and wetlands if the rain continued. “Other years it has been very dry at this point in the year and people have been nervous, but everything is primed and good this year,” he said. “The green we are seeing around is a sign of productivity and hope for the season ahead. “It’s good to get enough rain for farming, but to get enough for significant inflows would be the icing on the cake for everyone.” Mr Jochinke said as the season started to tick over farmers would need more rain. “We would need good spring rainfall to capitalise on this good start,” he said. “What would be ideal is that we get good weed control, it stays reasonably wet throughout winter, we have a cool, moist spring and prices hold where they are. “That’s what would be ideal for Wimmera farmers.”

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ON TRACK: Murra Warra farmer Blair Thomas is about threequarters of the way through his sowing program. Mr Thomas said there was plenty of moisture in the soil at the moment. Rain is expected across the Wimmera in the next couple of days, with between 10 and 20-millimetres forecast for Monday. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

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here are a few smiles over Yarriambiack way.

It’s only a small step, but the recent announcement of funding for phase one of a ‘Distributed Housing Project’ is pretty exciting. We get to build 14 two-bedroom homes across five towns in the shire. Warracknabeal, Woomelang, Hopetoun, Murtoa and Rupanyup will see the tradies move in before the end of this year. As you ‘grow up’ you come to realise the importance of persistence. For the past three or four years we have been telling anyone who will listen, it makes no sense to keep building large estates of thousands of houses in a barren paddock on the edge of our major cities. It will be many years before the public infrastructure is in place to support this new population. In the meantime, congestion increases and housing affordability decreases. By contrast, many rural communities have surplus public infrastructure. The roads, schools and sporting facilities are built.

From left field with David Matthews

The missing piece has been the houses. A lack of housing is the major impediment for people considering a move to rural-regional areas. But conversely, developing good quality housing can be the key to attracting the thousands of people we need to address the chronic skills shortage holding back many areas in regional Australia. Latest numbers from Regional Australia Institute show 85,000 advertised jobs in the regions. And there will be many more jobs not advertised. So why not build 50 houses in each of 20 different towns? Fifty houses... maybe 200 more people to spend in the shops, go to the school, be a part of the sporting teams. We were lucky in Yarriambiack. We had a progessive council led by a

dynamic chief executive in Jessie Holmes. We had a community bank able to put some seed funding on the table to show local community commitment. We had a kind of unspoken but collective persistence… let’s just keep at this until we succeed. The trick now is to build momentum; to turn 14 houses into 1400 houses. There’s a growing national conversation about the lack of social and affordable housing in Australia. And it seems to be across the political spectrum. All political parties realise the importance of access to housing as a basic human need. And influential groups like superannuation funds and philanthropic organisations are also beginning to invest. So the time is right to raise our rural voice. Local councils, industry lobby groups and individual businesses all have a role to play in highlighting the need and the opportunity. Given the acute public focus on access to housing, there will be increased investment by government and industry. Let’s make sure we’re a part of it.



D i m b o o l a WILL TRAVEL – Servicing the Wimmera region ❚ Mobile arc & MIG welding, Mag drilling, oxy and plasma cutting ❚ Agricultural welding repairs, tray and trailer repairs/modificatios AVAILABLE 7 DAYS & AFTER HOURS

Finance workshop for young Wimmera farmers

❚ Feature gates/fencing panels

Young Wimmera farmers keen to find out more about farm finance have an opportunity to increase their knowledge at a workshop in Horsham on June 1.

Toby 0400 101 387


Agriculture Victoria has organised Young Farmers Network Farm Finance – Getting Prepared workshops across the state. ORM Agribusiness consul-

tant Jane Foster said the workshops would be an opportunity to have open and transparent conversations about farm finance and get some tips on how to communicate in ‘bank


• Clay topping

speak’. The Horsham workshop will be between 6pm and 8.30pm at the Royal Hotel and is limited to 25 participants. People can find out more online at

d or e h s a g n i d e Ne ? d e t c u r t s n silo pad co

SERVICES INCLUDE: • Shed & silo pads constructed • All grain silos • Dams filled or cleaned • Grain bunker pads • Clay topping on sand • Earthen shed pads LARGE & SMALL • Hay sheds • Roads • Farm drainage for cropping • Plant hire

HORSHAM 3400 ❚ Ph: (03) 5382 4557

❚ Daryl: 0428 504 693

We service the Wimmera & surrounds

• Bobcat & laser grader • GPS & laser equipment ❚ Paul: 0427 954 353

Prairie Pro

❚ Email:

SE R I E S 2

*Booms sizes vary depending on model of sprayer

The next generation of premium trailed sprayers. Features:  5000, 6500, 8500 & 10,000L product tanks  24-36m RivX or 48m TriTech V booms*  G-Hub external filling & cleaning system

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

 Fast Fill 3” clean & dirty fill points  IsoBus 10-16 section boom control  RapidFire / RapidFlow application technology



Wednesday June 1, 2022 8:30am – 6:00pm


COMMUNITY SHOWCASE CASH IN EVENT Local club & community OFFERS group donations up for grabs. Details on our website

Wilson Bolton Dealership, 22 O’Callaghan’s Pde, Horsham

CONTACT US Ph: 03 5382 0157

• Showcasing the new Mercedes-Benz Actros, Freightliner Cascadia & Fuso Trucks. Demo’s and Test Drives of all trucks and machinery. Mitsubishi EOFY Deals. • FREE Sausage Sizzle from 11am | FREE Coffee and beverages served throughout the day. • Trucks & Machinery representatives on-site all day. • Showcase Event only offers on the day.


LOOKING TO BUILD A SHED? Visit to get a quote with our new online form






Cnr Golf Course Road & Kendal Drive, Horsham

 5381 0992


15 Carine Street,Road Horsham in theDrive, BIG RED SHED Cnr Golf Course & Kendal Horsham

 5381 0992 Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Proudly brought to you by:



Sweet success for buzzing business 95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106



Wimmera honey business built on more than 80 years of family and industry knowledge has emerged from COVID-19-restrictions as an award-winning force. Based at Douglas, third-generation honey business ‘Beetanicals’ has one eye on raw-honey products and another on its range of beeswax-based skin balms. The brand won five awards at the prestigious 2022 Sydney Royal National Honey Show last month, in the commercial-honey section of competition. It also won gold at 2022 Organic Beauty Awards as the ‘best wellbeing self-care brand’. Company founders Tanya and Warren Stanley have dedicated Beetanicals’ Sydney show wins to Warren’s parents, John and Bev Stanley, founders of Stanley’s Honey. “We dedicate these honey awards to Warren’s parents for producing premium single line honey that has been loved by so many locals and beyond for decades,” Mrs Stanley said. Beetanicals walked away from the show with silver recognition in Manuka and Eucalyptus Honey MGO 30+, and Blue Gum Honey; as well as bronze in Yellow Box Honey, Red Gum Honey and Manuka Honey

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

THREE GENERATIONS: The Stanley family, including Warren Stanley, left, his sons Toby, 4, and Cooper, 7, and father, John, has become a well-known name in the Wimmera for its quality honey products. MGO 100+. Mrs Stanley said the honey was judged on flavour, colour, aroma, clearness and brightness. Warren Stanley said he attributed the honey’s success to specialist knowledge about which of the family’s beehive sites produced the best honey, as well as an ability to get single lines of

honey from forest sites. “Our honey is straight line, premium honey and we don’t blend our honey,” he said. “We have a large amount of sites in forests, which enable us to get our single lines. “We have learnt over the years which of our sites produces the best

honey as all sites aren’t equal. Some areas can produce a better tasting honey than others.” Mrs Stanley said like most businesses during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beetanicals had its ‘challenges’, but now things had ‘taken flight’.

“COVID-19 put a damper on us getting out there and getting to expos to promote the brand and mix with customers and industry, it certainly slowed that side of our growth,” she said. Mrs Stanley said after trade shows were cancelled the company invested more time into social media and collaborations with other Australian businesses. “But it was our foundations, with local support and Australia-wide online orders, that allowed Beetanicals to move forward. Being adaptable and willing to evolve in changing times has been pivotal,” she said. “In 2022 we have attended more festivals and markets than we have in a long time, with the idea of re-connecting directly with our customers, hearing feedback and allowing for people to test our entire product range. “This has helped our business continue to fly.” Mrs Stanley said the company was recently at Grampians Grape Escape and was a ‘well-received treat’, especially with children and families. She said Beetanicals products were available across the Wimmera and ‘bee-yond’. “Our stockists are listed on our website,,” she said.