AgLife Digital – August 25, 2021 edition

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August 25, 2021

Just add water Agricultural research based at Horsham’s Grains Innovation Park is anchoring a $10-million waterrecycling project that will allow for an expansion of an ongoing probe into grain-production science. Story, page 27 Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

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Agriculture research bonus H

BY DEAN LAWSON

orsham and the broader Wimmera’s reputation for providing a national heartbeat for grains research is set to gain momentum after a guarantee of more high-quality water for development.

Agricultural research based at Horsham’s Grains Innovation Park is anchoring a $10-million water-recycling project that will allow for an expansion of an ongoing probe into grain-production science. The ultimate benefit from the research is stronger, more reliable, more nutritious and higher-yielding crops that provide building blocks for farmer success, generate billions of dollars in trade and help feed a hungry world. Grains Innovation Park, providing a Wimmera base for various government agencies, has one of the largest workforces in Horsham and its Agriculture Victoria team brings together a broad network in cultural diversity as well as scientific knowledge from around the world. Shoring up its longevity as a nationally significant research institution has widespread implications, not only for the grains industry, but also the socio-economic health of the Wimmera. The Horsham Agriculture Smartwater and Integrated Water Management Project, the result of joint federal and state government funding, will tap into Horsham wastewater previously inappropriate for grain research plots because of salt and sediment contamination. With accompanying infrastructure and evolving technology, it opens the door for an expansion of irrigation opportunities and the types of grain and growing circumstances researchers can study and develop. Agriculture Victoria research director Traci Griffin said the project would provide long-term security and reduce risks to valuable research and innovation at Horsham SmartFarm and provide ‘benefits to the Australian grains industry more broadly’. “Agriculture Victoria currently uses the wastewater from Horsham treatment plant to irrigate 190 hectares of land used for trials on the Horsham

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INSPECTION: Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions senior scientists Garry Rosewarne, left, and Josh Fanning inspect a disease lentil trial crop at Horsham Plant Breeding Centre. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER SmartFarm,” she said. “Wastewater from the Horsham plant currently contains an elevated salt load that can be detrimental to plant growth of some crop types if levels accumulate in the soil. “Infrastructure and technology that will be installed as part of the project will reduce salinity and turbidity in recycled water for farm use irrigation.”

Creating opportunities

Under the scheme, updated and expanded irrigation infrastructure will convert 70 hectares of dryland trial area to have support from spray irrigation. This will help to de-risk these trial areas when seasonal rain is inadequate, while also creating opportunities to simulate rain to help with pest and disease crop-protection research. New infrastructure investment will increase an irrigated area at Horsham SmartFarm west of Horsham from 19 to 260 hectares for Agriculture

Victoria and other SmartFarm users. A proportion of the wastewater will undergo treatment through a reverse-osmosis or desalination facility, which will provide a higher quality of water for use in irrigating crops such as high-value pulses, which are sensitive to elevated salt levels. The expanded irrigation area, combined with higher quality water will also create opportunities for yearround field-trial activities. This includes summer nurseries for national lentil and field-pea breeding programs, where support has previously be unsupported. It might also open the door for research into a more diverse range of crops under the microscope at Horsham SmartFarm. While shoring up agricultural research opportunities, the scheme will also provide a sustainable and longterm solution to GWMWater wastewater management in Horsham. It will also open new opportunities

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for the use of high-quality recycled water in Horsham urban public parks and gardens reliant on higher-value drinkable water and, through pipeline infrastructure, expanded viticulture at Lower Norton to Horsham’s west. GWMWater, Agriculture Victoria and the Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning have worked on developing the project with support from Grains Research and Development Corporation, Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership and Wimmera Integrated Water Management Forum. The project includes construction of a dissolved air floatation plant; a reverse-osmosis plant and a power substation to support its 24-hour electricity needs; two storage dams; an automated precision flood-irrigation system and highly controllable spray irrigators for leaf-soil wetting; and new connecting pipelines, pump stations and other associated infrastructure.

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Victoria’s peak farming organisation has partnered with St John Ambulance to provide Victorian agricultural communities with life-saving equipment. Victorian Farmers Federation president Emma Germano said seven St John defibrillators were on their way for use in remote communities across the state. The VFF, through its Making Our Farm Safer Project, asked Victorian farmers and workers to apply online to be part of the giveaway. “We are thrilled to announce the winners at a time when life-saving technology like this has never been more important to support farming communities,” Ms Germano said. “In some of these areas, having a defibrillator will be the difference between life and death, as medical help can be far away. “I thank and congratulate all winners for the time taken to provide these life-saving devices for their community to use in their time of need.” Nhill is among the seven Victorian communities to receive a defibrillator. Ms Germano said the diverse range of recipients reflected the crucial role the life-saving machine played in regional farming communities. “In some communities, it can take 20 to 60 minutes for access to an ambulance,” she said. St John Ambulance Victoria chief executive Gordon Botwright said his organisation was proud to help VFF award the defibrillators to Victorian farming communities. “As much as we hope these devices never need to be used, we are pleased seven more defibrillators are now available across Victoria,” he said. The defibrillators will provide another critical safety measure and enable first responders to act immediately in an emergency. “St John representatives will be providing training to the locals on the use of the defibrillator,” Mr Botwright said. The State Government also funded the project through its Growing Victoria’s Agriculture and Smarter Safer Farms program.

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“Again this year we will take you from the comfort of your lounge room to Longerenong College and onto our farm of the future – equipped with drones, boom sprays, headers and more”

BY SARAH MATTHEWS

rospective Longerenong College students will be able to experience one of the state’s primary agricultural institutions from the comfort of their own homes on Sunday.

The college’s annual open day will be an online affair again this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. College business development officer Donna Winfield said plans for the virtual event were progressing well. “COVID has seen many events cancelled and postponed throughout the past 18 months and this year Longerenong College was again forced to try to look into a crystal ball and predict whether there would be a lockdown for the on-campus open day,” she said. “The call was made early and you guessed it, we will be in another lockdown on the planned date.” Ms Winfield said establishing a virtual open day early helped streamline the planning process. She said this year’s event would follow on from a successful virtual open day in 2020. “Again this year we will take you from the comfort of your lounge room to Longerenong College and onto our farm of the future – equipped with drones, boom sprays, headers and more,” she said.

OPPORTUNITIES: Longerenong College first-year Certificate IV students Sam Wallace and Melea McKay work on a car. Prospective students will learn more about what the college has to offer at a virtual open day on Sunday. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER “With 100 percent of last year’s graduates securing jobs, demand for ag has more than doubled.” Ms Winfield said the open day offered potential students a ‘perfect chance’ to look at where a qualification from Longerenong College could take them. “The open day will see you meet

new head of campus Avril Hogan, hear about courses on offer and the amazing careers our students have opportunities for,” she said. “I will be talking about the scholarship program, while Bryan Matuschka will talk about the fantastic new DATA Farm and Innovation Centre and what this means for our students.

“The students will talk about why they chose Longy and show you around the campus. “You will also have an opportunity to look at the campus and farm, and we hope this inspires people all over the state and beyond to take a look and hope a career in ag is what they have been chasing.”

– Donna Winfield

Ms Winfield said one of the positives of a virtual event was it could reach people throughout the country. “To attend the day in person, people need to travel here, often have to stay overnight and travel home again,” she said. “With the closure of borders and travel restrictions, attending in person is impossible for some. “This way, nobody has to miss out on discovering what Longy has to offer and they can use that information to make decisions about their future.” Ms Winfield said a highlight of the event would be a live question and answer session on Facebook and YouTube at 11am. “If you are curious about a career in ag, you can have all your questions answered,” she said. Registration for the virtual open day is essential and people can visit website www.longy.com.au for more information or to register.

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nsuring the long-term survival of seeds for future generations has been the life work of Agriculture Victoria scientist Dr Katherine Whitehouse, a seed physiology specialist at Australian Grains Genebank in Horsham.

Dr Whitehouse is one of just a few international experts working in applied seed longevity research. Her principal goal is the effective use of germplasm – the living tissue from which new plants are grown – for hundreds of years. “I am really passionate about global food security and my research focuses on improving and optimising seed longevity and quality management systems to ensure germplasm availability for hundreds of years,” she said. Dr Whitehouse completed a PhD investigating the optimal conditions for drying rice seeds to maximise their life span in long-term genebank storage. The research launched a five-year stint at the world’s largest rice genebank, in the Philippines. A career highlight involved travelling to genebanks in countries and centres of crop diversity including Mexico, Colombia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Morocco, Lebanon and India, as part of a post-doctoral position working on a seed longevity initiative.

EXPLORING LONGEVITY: Australian Grains Genebank scientist Dr Katherine Whitehouse. Dr Whitehouse joined Agriculture Victoria in 2018 at Australian Grains Genebank in Horsham. “I have spent a lot of time streamlining and optimising the efficiencies of our genebank processes including seed production, harvest, drying and storage,” she said. “My recent research has focused on lentil, because it is one of our mandate crops but one which at present we know very little about its longev-

ity.” Since 2018, Dr Whitehouse has set up two experiments with one to determine the lentil’s inherent longevity. This research will allow scientists to quantify lentil seed longevity under genebank storage conditions and help better manage a lentil collection. The second is identifying how to optimise longevity by maximising seed quality at harvest. Results will be used to optimise re-

generation protocol at the Australian Grains Genebank to ensure high quality seeds are produced every time. “I enjoy applied research as I know it will evoke change and lead to improvements,” she said. “My area of work helps to ensure the availability of genetic resources into the future and to improve crops to tackle climate change and food security – two things I am very passionate about.”

Walsh: Action needed now Victorian Opposition agricultural spokesman Peter Walsh has accused the State Government of failing to solve a ‘desperate’ shortage of workers for Victorian farms and agriculture businesses. Mr Walsh said tens of thousands of vacancies that needed filling in Victoria’s horticulture industry represented ‘the tip of the iceberg’ as the closure of international borders – and Victoria’s unwillingness to prioritise farm workers’ entry to the state – continued to bite. He said industry experts were pointing out that without action, a shortage of harvest contractors and bulk handlers, shearers and workers in the meat-processing industry would derail a bumper year for Victorian agriculture. “The government must prioritise farm workers for entry into the state,” Mr Walsh said. “With the current limit for seasonal workers expected to be met by October – and a forecast shortage of up to 24,000 workers in the horticulture industry – Labor’s Agriculture Minister can’t afford to delay.” Mr Walsh said other measures, such as rapid testing for COVID-19 and better vaccination rates, could be a game-changer in providing certainty for the food-supply chain. “The time is now for the government to roll out rapid testing. It’s a way to keep Victorians safe. It’s a way to help reopen this state and keep us open,” he said.

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Rams are now available for inspection and purchase Enquiries to: Jae McGrath Ph: 0488 173 825 Email: mcgrath_005@ hotmail.com 14B Sloss St, Horsham | (03) 5381 0800 | Fax (03) 5381 0801

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Walsh: Shows need a lifeline

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ictorian Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh wants the State Government to provide extra support for agricultural organisations confronted by more show and field-day cancellations.

Mr Walsh said Victorian agricultural shows and field days were desperate for a financial lifeline to ensure their survival into next year. He made his comments with confirmation of the cancellation of 2021 shows at Wimmera centres Nhill, Warracknabeal and Stawell as well as Maffra, Colac, Cobram, Sunbury and Berrigan and expectations of others to follow. Mr Walsh said the cancellations left many of the volunteer-run events, which had already recorded hefty losses in 2020, at risk of disappearing entirely. “Our iconic ag shows and field days are a prime opportunity for our farmers and farm businesses to connect to improve their productivity and profitability,” he said. “Cancellation of the Royal Melbourne Show has also torpedoed an important opportunity for producers and breeders to showcase their work to the community and among potential buyers. “The future of these events is in doubt with the Andrews Labor government

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“Our iconic ag shows and field days are a prime opportunity for our farmers and farm businesses to connect to improve their productivity and profitability”

– Peter Walsh

still refusing to come to the table with extra support to recover from losses in 2020 and 2021.” Mr Walsh said the estimations were that agricultural-event cancellations had stripped more than $200-million from Victoria’s rural communities. “Ag societies are doing their best to survive, but they can’t do it alone,” he said. “Financial support will help to make up the cost of cancelling these events, but while we work to get vaccination rates up in our community, we must do more to give our major events certainty. “Rolling out rapid testing is one way we can help our major events sector move forward and can work in tandem with COVID-safe plans and PCR, polymerase chain reaction, testing to allow people to come together. “But the government is guilty of having no plan for Victoria’s major events sector to recover.”

Imaging helps accelerate breeding Scientists have developed a new method to estimate the biomass of wheat crops in all growth stages using aerial imaging. The process can compare hundreds of different genotypes to select the best candidates for breeding. Breeders and growers commonly use crop biomass as a go-to trait to evaluate crop yield and typically measure by weighing plant material produced. Agriculture Victoria research scientist Dr Bikram Banerjee said he was excited to have found an alternative to traditional methods. “Harvesting, drying and weighing plants can be very time consuming,” he said. “We can now reliably estimate the dry biomass of wheat by flying

a drone over a paddock to collect aerial images, which provides us with the data we need.” Dr Banerjee said traditional methods to measure the dry biomass and fresh biomass of a crop became problematic when breeders wanted to compare hundreds of genotypes with different growth behaviour. “In this research, we wanted to test the ability of high-throughput technologies to reliably measure biomass for a large number of wheat genotypes in a non-invasive way over a large area,” he said. “Our mathematical analysis showed a correlation of 96 percent accuracy in layman’s terms for dry biomass across all growth stages. It is unusual to get a correlation this high.”

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The new approach also outperformed all other widely used traditional methods commonly used to estimate the dry and fresh biomass of wheat. “We wanted a system where we could screen thousands of genotypes across the life cycle of wheat without compromising accuracy, and these results showed our approach was robust for different growth stages,” Dr Banerjee said. “This tool has the potential to become the go-to technique for screening varieties for traits such as salinity, heat or frost tolerance, disease resistance, nutrient-use efficiency and drought tolerance.” Dr Banerjee’s research paper is available online at dx.doi. org/10.3390/rs12193164.

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BEST IN CLASS: Asher Kinsman and Joel Fowler at Emmetts Horsham are proud to be providing sales, service and parts of Bredal spreaders.

Emmetts is pleased to offer the entire range of Bredal spreaders in all branches across western Victoria and South Australia. As well as machinery, Emmetts will also be providing parts and service support to customers in these areas. Bredal is a family owned and operated business located in Vejle, Denmark. Bredal Australia have been the sole importer for the past 20 years and are based in Gunnedah NSW, with staff across Australia for sales, parts and service backup support. Bredal specialises in the production of high-quality lime and fertiliser spread­ers, from three point linkage models right through to top end trailing units. For over 60 years, Bredal have been leaders in spreader design using robust construction techniques, whilst ensuring products are simple to operate.

the dedicated fertiliser spreader options currently available. This is achieved while maintaining the ability to spread unprocessed mate­rials with the same machine and remaining a simple reliable product. The addition of the XE models with extended spinner placement mean unprecedented application widths can be achieved, the K135XE model spreads up to 48m of commercial fertiliser with a carrying capacity of 21,000L. At the technological forefront, Bredal utilises class leading computer technology from Teejet to offer machines controlled via ISOBUS with capabilities including Auto Calibration via weigh cells, headland

management, full section control that minimises field overlap to under 1.5% and variable rate applications. Also available through Emmetts is the Kivi-Pekka range of rock pickers, in widths of 4-?m with a tipping height of 2.9m. Emmetts has been a family owned and operated business since 1957, and now has 11 branches across western Victoria and South Australia. Offering global leading agricultural machinery brands such as John Deere, Emmetts is committed to Australian agriculture and supporting growers through worldclass machinery, the latest technology, and aftermarket support.

Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Bredal Australia’s Managing Director, Ben Nichols, says “We are very excited to have the Emmetts group on board as a whole and recognise the commitment by Emmetts for employing a product specialist for the Bredal franchise. We look forward to working with Emmetts and their customers by supplying simple, precise and reliable spreaders fully backed up through to our factory in Denmark.” Units have recently landed in Horsham, Victoria, with more stock arriving across the group over the coming months. For more information on the range of Bredal products, visit www.bredalaustralia.com or contact your local Emmetts branch.

Emmetts Managing Director, Peter Emmett, says “Emmetts are committed to supplying the bestin-class agricultural machinery products and look forward to offering customers the Bredal range of spreading equip­ment. The Emmetts company have employed a full-time product specialist within the group to ensure that the entire Emmetts team and customers can be trained and fully supported in the new product offering.” Bredal spreaders come in a number of specifications from a simple wheel drive through to the high spec variable rate options. With a wide range of sizes and variations, there is always a Bredal model to suit custom­ers’ requirements. As a true multi-combination spreader, Bredal equipment can spread fertiliser products with a consistent spread pattern matching or exceeding Page

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There’s money in mud...

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here’s a certain numbness we are all feeling going through this pandemic. Waking up and thinking, yes, it is real, I didn’t dream it.

So, let’s take a step back and consider just how fortunate we are in grain growing at the moment. It was only a few months ago that we were on tenterhooks, waiting for that predicted wetter-than-average season to come to fruition. Just in the nick of time, the rain arrived and dry-sown crops bounced out of the ground. While Australian farmers are revelling in photos on social media of bogged tractors, it’s a very different picture in the northern hemisphere. Drought is still ravaging much of Canada and the United States. Canada is a good country mile in

Country Today with Libby Price

front of any other country in canola production. While we’re second on the list, they still produce more than four times what we do. “It’s not nice to say but the reality is the Canadian farmers’ loss is our gain and them having less to export is going to put us in the front seat to supply a lot of markets, especially into the likes of Europe and China,” Thomas Elders market analyst and Country Today regular Andrew Whitelaw told the program last week. “We’ve seen Canadian canola futures hit that nice, beautiful $1000

a ton. It is a price we got to briefly for a couple of hours in June, but now it’s got there and it’s settled there, which is really good because it’s probably at a record level now,” he said. “While we’re not seeing the same price levels as Canada, it is flowing through here in Western Australia with the canola price above $915 a ton for the coming harvest and the east coast slightly lower but still broaching that $900.” What’s extraordinary about this is that usually a bumper crop here results in price falls: the old supply and demand pendulum domestically. But global trade has outmuscled local tensions. NAB Economist Phin Zeibell told Country Today, it’s a rare phenomenon.

“Two years ago we had this big drought-induced shortage – of wheat – in eastern Australia and that pushed local prices higher than global benchmarks,” he said. “I think what we’re seeing now… on the ground for Australian producers is wheat prices with a three in front of it, easily with a three in front of it coming into harvest, and that’s a great season… maybe even better than last season. “So you’ve got this great combination of prices and volumes which doesn’t happen very often.” It gives a whole new meaning to the saying, ‘there’s money in mud’. I’ll leave the last word to Andrew Whitelaw: “This will be a year, and you can hold me on this, this will be a year to be remembered and talked about in a generations time.”

95 Nelson Street, Nhill

Look for stripe rust CALL 03 5391 2106

Authorities are urging graingrowers across the region to be vigilant when inspecting wheat crops, following the identification of stripe rust infection. Analysis has revealed infections in susceptible varieties in western and central Victoria with a strain likely to be the same that caused issues last year. Agriculture Victoria research scientist Dr Mark McLean advised growers and consultants to inspect cereal crops for symptoms and determine the need to apply foliar fungicides. He said growers should check the latest disease-resistance ratings in a Victorian Cereal Disease Guide online at agriculture.vic.gov.au/ biosecurity/plant-diseases/grain-pulses-and-cerealdiseases/cereal-disease-guide to identify the varieties at greatest risk. “This is a relatively early infection for stripe rust and it could be a sign of significant issues if conditions continue to be favourable,” he said. “Rusts have the potential to cause more than 30 percent yield loss in susceptible varieties, if unmanaged.”

Raffle to shore up Natimuk asset Natimuk Agricultural and Pastoral Society hopes to raise between $15,000 and $30,000 from a raffle so it can buy a remnant parcel of rail easement on the edge of Natimuk Showground. The society has decided to buy the land south of the reserve fenceline, unused for rail transport for decades, from VicTrack to eliminate a need to pay rising rental fees. Buying the land will mean the society will own all of the showground site and open opportunities for expansion. Society secretary Judith Bysouth said the raffle, which offered 50 travel-voucher prizes for $5 a ticket, was also about generating support for industries hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Half of the easement land was bought in 2012 to accommodate tennis courts and we have been paying rent on the other, so we’ve decided to bite the bullet and raise money to buy the rest,” she said. “Hopefully in buying these vouchers people will respond and also join us in providing some hope and inspiration for our accommodation and hospitality industries.” There are 6000 tickets with a total prize pool valued at $45,000 and each prize valued between $600 and $900. Officials will draw the raffle on December 18 and winners will have 18 months to regis- PRIZE POTENTIAL: Natimuk Agricultural and Pastoral ter their voucher and then 18 Society committee member Lois Trimble, also a member of months to use it. Stawell society, promotes a major raffle.

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BY SARAH MATTHEWS

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SUCCESS: Some of Victoria’s top rams were on display at Marnoo Recreation Reserve for Marnoo Stud Breeders Association’s second state show. Organisers hope to build on the event for next year.

arnoo Stud Breeders Association leaders are expecting to host an even bigger and better Victorian State Merino Field Day in 2022 following the success of this month’s event.

President Trent Carter said some of Victoria’s top rams were on display at Marnoo Recreation Reserve for the association’s second state show. Last year’s event was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inaugural event in 2019 featured 26 studs. Mr Carter said this year’s field day had 32 studs in action and both he and Victorian Stud Merino Sheep Breeders Association president Peter Rogers had received inquiries from other breeders. “We could have an extra four or five next year,” he said. “People loved the layout and the time slot. It’s a six-hour event without any bells and whistles. It’s relaxed, easy to move around in and nobody is hidden away. “The atmosphere was nice and social and commercial breeders could come and have a quiet look. “We had a big marquee – 20 metres by 45 metres – for all the visiting studs and trades. We had about 500 rams scanned in on the day and they are some of Victoria’s best.”

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Mr Carter said being able to host the event in between statewide lockdowns was ‘pure luck’. He said it helped that studs and trades involved were happy to be flexible and work alongside the committee. Restrictions at the time enabled crowds to attend the field day on August 16, provided they complied with the organisers’ COVID-safe plan. “Everyone was great about adhering to COVID restrictions and it was a really safe and successful event,” Mr Carter said. “We had about 250 people visit throughout the day, with about 350 in

total by the time you counted trades and stud breeders. “They were all pure, genuine stud breeders and the feedback we got was fantastic. “We had a great level of inquiry. It was just a great day to get out and socialise with everyone and see everyone’s stud genetics. “It’s really been two years since we’ve got to see what the Victorian merino industry has to offer.” Mr Carter, who is also co-principal of Marnoo’s Wallaloo Park stud, said participants were particularly pleased to attend the Marnoo event after the last-minute cancellation of the Austra-

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lian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo in July. “We’d unloaded our rams, stayed the night and had to load them back up the next day and leave,” Mr Carter said. “It wasn’t a huge disaster for Victorian studs, it was worse for NSW and South Australians. Some people from South Australia drove for 12 hours only to get to Bendigo and have to go home again – and be back over the border by midnight.” Mr Carter said competition was a highlight of the Victorian State Merino Field Day. “We were fortunate to judge the Victorian long wool championships at

Marnoo, which were supposed to be judged at Bendigo,” he said. “We had Robert Plush, George McKenzie and Jonno Hicks judge the competition and then two of them also judged the March-shorn rams.” Marnoo’s Belbourie Merino and Poll Merino Stud won the coveted Zoetis Hogget Ram of the Year accolade. Marnoo Stud Breeders Association is a ‘group of local stud breeders putting on an event for the state’. Mr Carter said association members would meet in November to discuss any feedback and set a date for next year’s field day. He said the event would only continue to grow in stature. “We really want to ramp up the social aspect, with a bar and live music – which we didn’t do this year – and really create a fun day out for the family,” he said. “We have our fingers crossed for next year.” People can email feedback to marnoomerinos@gmail.com. Marnoo breeders will also turn their attention to their on-property sales at the end of September and early October. Many of the studs will host open days on September 23, with Wallaloo Park’s sale day scheduled for September 30.

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Karleigh turns attention to business 95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

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“I think we now understand the value that can be added to a business when the books are done properly and how important it is to budget and plan financially”

oung Wimmera farmer Karleigh Martin has a lot on her plate.

Mrs Martin, 28, works on her family’s farm at Brim, juggles three days a week working at Warracknabeal not-for-profit disability organisation Woodbine, all while studying primary school teaching. She has also signed up for a Young Farmers Business Bootcamp with Agriculture Victoria. The bootcamps, first piloted in 2015, are designed for people new to farming to help them understand and manage business risk and to develop a business plan to grow their enterprise. Mrs Martin is part of a growing band of young farmers seeking to develop their farm-finance skills. She said despite growing up on a farm, it was not until she joined husband Sam in their sheep, cattle and mixed-cropping enterprise that she came to see the business side of agriculture. “I never previously had anything to do with the books,” she said. “My husband hates doing the farm books and never prioritised them. “I think we now understand the value that can be added to a business when the books are done properly and how important it is to budget and plan financially. “I felt a little out of my depth at times during the bootcamp, but found

ALWAYS LEARNING: Brim’s Karleigh Martin is taking every opportunity to learn more about business management in agriculture. it really beneficial and I learned a lot.” Mrs Martin said during one of the bootcamp sessions a presenter said: ‘It helps if you think like a banker, which means knowing what documents to keep up to date, showing you can manage cash flow’.

She said the advice struck a chord. “At the workshop we looked at the performance benchmarks produced by Grains Research and Development Corporation for farmers performing in the top 20 percent,” she said. “The farmers were producing more tonnes per hectare with lower input

costs. I walked away from the bootcamp wondering how we could reduce our input cost without compromising how effectively we produced the product. “The first thing we implemented was shopping around for chemical instead of purchasing it from the one store.

– Karleigh Martin

“We still shop locally, but purchase elsewhere if the price difference is significant. “In the season just passed we purchased a chaser bin and grain bag in-loader so we could store grain to try to capitalise on the upside of the market.” Mrs Martin also jumped at the opportunity for an express finance course targeting young farmers earlier this year. She said Agriculture Victoria’s 90-minute ‘Farm Finance – Getting Prepared’ webinars allowed her to continue to develop her business skills without having to leave the farm. “After watching the first webinar I never regretted my decision and knew I wanted to make sure I was available to watch the remaining series,” she said. “The webinars are available as a recording if you can’t attend live, which was great for me when I had to leave one session early due to family commitments.”

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021


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VFF shores up direction V

ictorian Farmers Federation has revealed its Strategic Plan for 2021-2026 and its vision to enable a secure farming future for Victorians and future generations.

VFF president Emma Germano said member feedback for the organisation to be a united voice for all Victorian farmers had driven the move for the organisation to evolve and modernise. “The VFF exists to be the voice of Victorian agriculture and is here to protect and progress farmers’ interests,” she said. “As much as we acknowledge our past and where we have come from, our strategic plan defines our way forward.” Ms Germano said the VFF focus would be on fostering a connected and engaged farming community, using resources responsibly, advocating for farmers and evolving and modernising the organisation. “This is all intended to deliver value to Victorian farmers,” she said. The VFF has identified four

key measures for success by 2026. These are – • To be financially supported by at least 5000 Victorian farmers by 2026; • The operating budget is in surplus by 2024; • At least 50 percent of a policy council’s key objectives are achieved each year; • Victorian farmers describe the VFF as accountable, transparent, inclusive and effective. “We must encourage as many farmers as possible to actively participate in the VFF,” Ms Germano said. “By gathering the diversity of thoughts and opinions of Victorian farmers and the community, we can better work towards achieving common ground. “Our industry is evolving rapidly and we must ensure we do the same to ensure we provide the support, advocacy and resources farmers need moving forward.”

95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

WIND POWER: RES Australia’s Susan FindlayTickner, centre, with, from left, Janet Pilmore and Marion Smith, Robbie Millar, Kirsty Holland, Mark Fletcher, Wes Bell and Richard Wilkens and Gavin Hynam and David Ward. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Energy farm backs community projects Seven community groups from across the Wimmera and southern Mallee will use money provided by a regional wind farm to complete pressing projects. Representatives from the successful organisations accepted cheques from a Murra Warra Wind Farm 1 Sustainable Community Grants Fund at a presentation at Horsham Golf Club. Wimmera Development Association is managing the ongoing fund through a community grants steering group, which allocated the full complement of $61,000 available to clubs to put towards projects. Clubs must complete all projects by June 30 next year. Applicants put forward projects valued at a total $240,000 and the steering group needed to make selections based on the

impact each had from social and environmental sustainability perspectives for the benefit of communities in Horsham Rural City, Hindmarsh and Yarriambiack municipalities. The grants program is part of the wind farm’s community investment program. RES Australia’s Susan Findlay-Tickner, representing Murra Warra Wind Farm, said the money came from a community program, established on completion of stage one of the farm. “It was a well subscribed grant process, which was great to see,” she said. “It meant that we have very good projects going forward – some of which have already been implemented. It looks like we’re going to have good outcomes.” Ms Findlay-Tickner said when the sec-

ond stage of the wind farm came online, $99,000 in grants would be available for community projects annually. Successful applicants were Centre for Participation Horsham, to install solar panels for energy savings and organisational sustainability; Horsham Motor Sports Club Blue Ribbon Raceway for a parkland project; Enterprise Rupanyup for Rupanyup Retail Centre solar power project; 1st Warracknabeal Cubs and Scouts for a Revitalise Outdoors program; Warracknabeal Girl Guides for environment enhancement, Wimmera Off Street Drag Racing for a Beat The Heat Youth Motorsport Mentoring Program at Warracknabeal; and Guides Victoria, Dimboola for painting building exteriors at Arura Campsite at Dimboola.

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Opportunities for innovators

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95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

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nvesting in a future-ready agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector is the goal of a 2022 science and innovation awards grant program, with applications now open.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is inviting young researchers, scientists and innovators in agriculture, fisheries and forestry to submit a project application that addresses industry challenges. “Australia has a proud tradition of innovation and we’re looking to build on that legacy with the next generation of Aussie smarts,” he said. “We’re looking for projects that tackle issues in innovative ways and contribute to the ongoing success and sustainability of Australia’s agricultural, fisheries and forestry industries. “It’s about supporting young people who are passionate about agriculture and helping them make a difference. “Our young people are at the forefront of transforming agriculture as it grows to a $100-billion industry. “Their innovations and new ideas will help individual farmers as well as whole industries and communities. “They will drive change as ideas and prototypes become reality.”

Fraser Border from the University of Southern Queensland was last year’s Ministerial Award winner. “His project used augmented reality to help meat-process workers improve accuracy and efficiency, reduce waste and increase returns for processors,” Mr Littleproud said. People can find out more and apply online at www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/ conferences-events/scienceawards. Applications close at 5pm on October 1. The 2022 round features 12 industry award categories, with each winner receiving a grant of up to $22,000. Award categories are: Established, new and emerging rural industries; Eggs and poultry; Red-meat process; Pork; Wool; Cotton; Biosecurity and digital innovation; Fisheries and aquaculture; Forest and wood products; Grains; Horticulture; and Viticulture and oenology. The Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is an open competitive annual grant program supporting young people aged between 18 and 35 who are working, employed or studying in an agriculture, fisheries or forestry-related industry – including food and sustainable natural-resource management.

NEW ROLE: Longerenong College general manager Avril Hogan.

Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Gaining a feel for college challenge Two weeks into her new role as Longerenong College’s general manager has provided Avril Hogan with insight into one of the Wimmera’s iconic agricultural institutions. Ms Hogan said in meeting staff and students and learning about ‘the many and exciting’ projects underway she had quickly observed a strong connection throughout the college.

“There is really a deep commitment from staff and everyone involved from the organisation to train students and get them ready for an exciting career in agriculture,” she said. “It is fantastic and I can’t wait to get deeply involved in the planning for what is an exciting future.” Ms Hogan, with more than 20 years of combined experience in marketing, teaching and the ag-

ricultural industry, steps into the shoes of former manager John Goldsmith, who has retired and moved interstate. She is originally from Canada, moving from the wheat-belt province of Saskatchewan to Australia after meeting her future husband at Wimmera Machinery Field Days in 2005.

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Throwing a net over mobile weeds 95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

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pal research scientist – agricultural systems with CSIRO, is leading the area-wide management for cropping systems weeds project to better understand the importance of weed mobility, and test the opportunities for this collaborative approach. He says the idea is to draw together industries and land managers to ‘find a collaborative solution to a common problem’ where a strong value proposition can be established. “Area-wide management has been very effective in the management of invasive animal pests and for some mobile insect pests,” he said. “We know some weeds are particularly good at moving across the landscape, either as contaminants or borne on the wind or in flood water – and most farmers have experienced a weed incursion from a source beyond their farm boundary. “We are testing collaborative and cost-effective ways to reduce the spread of cropping weeds across diverse farming landscapes.” Each of the three pilot areas has identified the highest priority mobile weeds to target in its initial on-ground project. In Sunraysia, Mallee Sustainable Farming and horticulture organisations have partnered to develop strategies that minimise spray drift while also providing effective control of

BY CINDY BENJAMIN, WEEDSMART

imilar to feral animals, ‘mobile’ weeds move easily across landscapes, taking no notice of boundary fences, land use or land tenure.

These weeds are now the subject of a pilot area-wide management project to trial co-operative and cost-effective methods to reduce the movement of these weeds and the herbicide resistance traits they have evolved. The cross-industry project has Federal Government funding to target weeds that are a common problem to all industries in an area and have mobile seed and pollen – that is, they spread easily. Weed species that fit the criterion include flaxleaf fleabane, feathertop Rhodes grass and annual ryegrass. In three distinct regions – in the Darling Downs of Queensland, the Riverina of NSW and the Sunraysia in Victoria – project teams are devising and implementing area-wide management programs to tackle target weeds of concern in their region. The University of Adelaide is providing targeted herbicide resistance testing within the pilot areas and mapping the spread of weeds, based on genetic testing conducted at the University of Queensland. Dr Rick Llewellyn, senior princi-

Dr Rick Llewellyn

important weeds like fleabane. The University of Adelaide’s Dr Chris Preston is helping the Sunraysia project team as it investigates application techniques and product choice for summer weed control in this diverse cropping region. “Where a range of different crops are grown in close proximity there is a risk of damage through off-site

movement of herbicides,” Mr Llewellyn said. “To reduce this risk, growers using some products, such as phenoxy herbicides, must work within narrow application windows; but to prevent large populations of weeds setting mobile seeds, growers need cost-effective herbicide options. “The area-wide management trials

led by Mallee Sustainable Farming compared weed fallow control efficacy of six alternative products registered for use in optical sprayers, as well as options for better control of mobile and resistance-prone weeds like sow thistle in horticulture.” The ‘WeedSmart Big 6 tactics’ can be applied to area-wide management as well as within a cropping enterprise to tackle resistance through strategic patch management and diverse control methods that result in low weed densities and prevent seed set of mobile weeds. Mr Llewellyn said more co-ordinated awareness and information sharing could channel effort and innovation into weed-management improvements that benefited the individual land manager as well as the district. “There has been an increase in the diversity of food production industries in many districts over recent decades, so there’s more and more opportunity for a collaborative approach to reduce weed costs and risks as ‘new neighbours’ become established in many dryland grain growing areas,” he said. The project involves a variety of research and development partners and has Federal Government support. People can visit website www. weedsmart.org.au for more information about diverse weed control tactics.

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