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May 29, 2019

Thirsty work Ballyrogan farmer Dan Jess, pictured at work with trusty canine offsider Molly, is delighted and excited about the prospect of getting secure water supply from an East Grampians Pipeline. Story, page 31. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

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OPPORTUNITIES: Ballyrogan farmer Dan Jess is unlikely to need his bore irrigation system in the future, with the prospect of getting secure water supply from an East Grampians Pipeline. Piped supply will open fresh opportunities as well as improved farm security across much of the region’s southeast.  Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Ararat primed for pipeline A

BY DEAN LAWSON

rarat district farming communities will soon be tapping into piped water in a development promising a significant boost to agricultural prospects in the region’s southeast.

Guarantees of high-quality water via an East Grampians Rural Pipeline will add operational security for growers in what many in the industry consider some of the highest-potential farmland in Australia. The Federal Government’s $32-million commitment for the 1600-kilometre pipeline earlier this month provided the final green light for the project. The money matched a State Government commitment from last year and GWMWater and landholders will provide the balance. For Ballyrogan farmer Dan Jess, who operates a 2150-hectare sheep and cropping business, the prospect of having high-quality Grampians water on tap means a combination of security to opportunity.

“It’s a game changer. It means we will have an assured supply of quality water and won’t be guessing whether we have enough or whether it’s of good enough quality,” he said. “We’ve traditionally relied on dam fills in from run-off but in the last 20 years that has become more and more unreliable. “We’ve had to explore other ways of sourcing water – we’ve tried groundwater but it has been borderline quality for stock and in some circumstances the animals haven’t done particularly well. “It’s been a battle. We’ve had to cart a lot of water and there has definitely been a limitation on how much stock we can run and problems with finishing lambs over summer.” Mr Jess said the prospect of having guaranteed water would help dramatically in farm management and help counter the impact of severe events such as late frost. “We have half the farm in cropping, but in the past couple of years there has been an unreliability with frosts

and dry springs. Being able to run a few more sheep would help get the risk out of cropping,” he said. “I’m really happy and excited. The pipeline is going to make a big difference to us and what we can do.” GWMWater is hosting information sessions about the East Grampians Rural Pipeline for landholders at Tatyoon from 10am to noon today and in Gum San Great hall in Ararat between 6.30pm and 8.30pm tomorrow. GWMWater managing director Mark Williams said the federal funding meant the project could proceed as originally planned. “Access to reliable, high-quality water supplies will help provide growth opportunities and reduce risk, enabling agricultural enterprises to consolidate and expand,” he said. “It will also provide opportunities for new enterprises to be developed. “We’ve submitted our Environment Effects Assessment and the next step is ensuring all interested landholders have submitted an Expression of In-

terest so we can plan the route and connection points for the pipeline to meet the needs of as many landholders as possible.” The sessions at Tatyoon and Ararat will focus on providing a project update and demonstrating the benefits of a secure, piped water supply. They will also provide funding and project updates, outline an expression-of-interest process, costs involved and early sign-up incentives. Landholders can also call GWMWater on 1300 659 961 or visit website www.gwmwater.org.au/egrp for information. Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline, which runs from the Grampians to deep in the Mallee, and a Northern Mallee Pipeline in western Victoria have had a profound impact on other areas of the region. New Member for Mallee Anne Webster has also declared she will fight for a proposed West Wimmera Pipeline.

A government tree-planting program could help Wimmera-Mallee farmers become certified for sustainability practices. Former Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced $1.56-million for three Landcare and natural resource management projects, saying it would help willing farmers connect with tree-planting volunteers. “Greening Australia will receive $550,000 for two projects,” he said. “We’ll invest $350,000 into a webpage putting farmers in contact with volunteers who will help them plant trees or do other environmental work on their farms. “Connecting environmentally-minded farmers with volunteers willing to help is just common sense.  “We’ll invest $200,000 so farmers who request it can trial drones to scout for good spots to plant trees on farms, and to monitor the health of young trees.” Mr Littleproud said an additional $550,000 would be provided to Conservation Volunteers Australia. “This will give Landcare communities management and administrative support so Landcare staff can get out of the office and get their hands dirty,” he said. “A third grant of $460,000 will go to NRM Regions Australia so they can get more farmers certified for their sustainable farming practices.”

High risk alert Victorian field-pea growers can sign up to get SMS alerts when field-pea disease risk is high. The Blackspot Manager alert service uses rain data to predict when spores are released in each district. This allows growers to identify the best balance between fungicide management, sowing time and potential yield loss. Information on the Blackspot Manager website is updated every two weeks from April through to June. Farmers keen to sign up for the SMS alert service can text BLACKSPOT, their name and their nearest weather station or location to 0475 959 932. The service is also available via email. Farmers can email their name and nearest weather station or location to Blackspot Manager@agric.wa.gov.au. More information is available from the GRDC Field Crop Diseases extension website communities.grdc.com.au.

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ne of my most secret items of clothing is not at all what you might be thinking.

It’s a t-shirt I’ve never worn. Emblazoned across it is from the front page of the Herald Sun newspaper with the headline, ‘Hewson in a landslide!’ with a picture of a smiling Mr and Mrs John Hewson to boot. The problem is, of course, that John Hewson lost that ‘unloseable’ election in 1993. The front page was from the paper’s early edition, which of course had to be withdrawn and re-printed. So how did the media and the pollsters get it so wrong – again? I’m sure I’ve shared this theory before, but it’s a good one. Pollster Roy Morgan once said in an

interview I did with him probably 30 years ago – ‘Governments don’t win elections, they only lose’. If you apply that theory, ‘ScoMo and Co’ hadn’t done enough wrong to get the drubbing everyone thought they would. Sure, there’d been leadership instability, but it’s always been thus. I once had former Liberal Party president Michael Kroger walk out of an interview after refusing to answer if John Howard was likely to challenge Andrew Peacock for the Liberal leadership. History just keeps repeating itself. I also read that a mathematician thought the polls making the wrong call was easy to explain. Firstly, it’s very difficult to get a representative sample because so few

Country Today with Libby Price

people have a landline. Just finding someone who’ll answer a phone and talk voting intentions is easier said than done. Also, the margin of error of the polls was about the difference between a win and a loss for Labor. I’m guessing pollsters weren’t as subjective as they might have been in reporting their results. It would also be that, with everyone claiming Labor would romp it in, those conservative voters who’d pub-

licly said they were disillusioned with the leadership squabbles had second thoughts as they went to mark their ballot papers. The little voice in blue or green resonated louder than the voice of red that they used to think lived under the bed. Water, and more specifically the Murray Darling Basin Plan, was considered a key issue in regional seats. Labor’s answer was to favour the environment and lift the cap on water buybacks. The Coalition announced it would have the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigate water market transparency. I have my doubts that will achieve much. The ACCC investigation in milk price discounting did nothing to ap-

pease the situation for dairy farmers, and the ACCC already has a key role in water. For the past decade it’s produced an annual ‘water monitoring’ report which its website says, ‘provides information on regulated water charges, transformation arrangements, termination of network access, compliance with the Commonwealth Water Market and Water Charge Rules, and related issues’. There have been scores of investigations into the plan.  What might make a substantial difference is if the government adopts the recommendation of the Productivity Commission report and splits the Murray Darling Basin Authority in two: the water manager and a quite separate water regulator.

Researchers testing alternative legumes Can black gram be grown in the Wimmera? Is adzuki bean a potential crop for the Mallee? Agriculture Victoria researchers are looking to assess the viability of growing alternative legume crops in Australia’s southern agricultural region, as both winter and summer crop options. The investigation is part of a new Grains Research and Development Corporation and Agriculture Victoria investment. Dr James Nuttall, the program leader, said adapted legume crop options were limited within southern region farming systems, particularly relating to summer-crop options. “Despite the significant breeding gains made with major grain legumes including lentil, chickpea, field pea, faba bean and lupin, further opportunities exist for alternative legumes in the system,” he said. The GRDC and Agriculture Victoria are particularly keen to assess these legume crops in terms of their potential to generate farming systems benefits to growers. New legume crops have the potential to provide greater flexibility as both

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

grain and fodder options, fix additional nitrogen and, in the case of summer crops, provide opportunity to use rain in late spring and summer.” The legume crops under testing scrutiny include adzuki bean, black gram, black turtle bean, borlotti bean, burgundy bean, cowpea, guar bean, kidney bean, lab lab, lathyrus, messina, moth bean, mungbean, narbon bean, navy bean, pigeon pea and soybean. Many of these crops are traditionally suited to sub-tropical growing conditions. Dr Nuttall said a key consideration to the success of crops tested would be their suitability to the rain pattern and temperature in southern environments. He said the program was also tapping into the Australian Grains Genebank, AGG, at Horsham, a vital resource for conserving and supplying genetically diverse germplasm for crop species. Early-sown trials at Horsham have now been established, where 812 different genebank legume lines are being tested. Audrey Delahunty, a research agronomist working on the program, said the genebank had provided an invalu-

EXPLORATION: Dr James Nuttall is leading an investigation into alternative legume crops for southern Australia cropping regions. able supply of germplasm to test for genetic adaptation of these alternative legumes to the southern region. “In testing a broad range of germplasm from the AGG, within the southern Australia environment, this will also help inform breeding programs of the key traits and genetic potential available to maximise adaptation of alternative legume crops within this region and systems context,” she said.

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The program, in aiming to better understand the suitability of a range of alternative legumes to the southern region, also takes into consideration agronomy, markets and profitability. GRDC’s southern agronomy and farming systems manager Andrew Etherton said research findings presented a huge opportunity for growers to include an additional crop into rotations that will benefit their entire farming system.

He said key issues under investigation included optimal time of sowing and opportunities and herbicide options across the Mallee, Wimmera, North East and South West regions. “Ultimately, we are aiming to identify crops and management strategies that can expand the range of legumes available to the grains industry helping to build soil nitrogen, utilise outof-season rain and improve farm profitability,” he said.

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ember for Lowan Emma Kealy has fielded calls from frustrated farmers in her electorate over the issuing of tags under Victoria’s kangaroo pet food program.

The program involves using kangaroo carcasses culled as part of population-control efforts by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, as pet food. The trial program was initially slated for two years, but was extended for six months in March. Ms Kealy said while farmers were happy the program was continuing, many had been left frustrated by a system which required kangaroos killed by a professional shooter to be tagged and recorded. She said an ‘inefficient and bureaucratic’ system resulted in delays for many farmers. “Our local farmers were very relieved to hear in March that the program would continue in its current form for a further six months, but are being increasingly frustrated by lost paperwork and delays with the issuing of tags,” she said “Local farmers and professional shooters have advised me of several cases where their application forms have been lost, requiring them to complete statutory declarations to enable their application for tags to be processed. “They are also reporting that the Andrews Labor Government is making fewer tags available to applicants with the explanation being that the program ends in five months. “One farmer even reported being told ‘he only needed to shoot a couple of kangaroos because

it would scare the others and they would all run away and not come back’ which is beyond ridiculous.” Ms Kealy said kangaroo population control was a critical issue in parts of the Wimmera and not enough was being done about it. “Farmers around some areas of Lowan continue to report kangaroo numbers in plague proportions, with precious fodder they have stored on their farms to keep their livestock alive over winter being eaten by large numbers of kangaroos,” she said. “The delays being caused by this bureaucratic bungling in the processing of applications and issuing of tags are only exacerbating the problem. “The Andrews government dithered for months over the program, refusing to guarantee it would be ongoing, and is now under resourcing the program in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to reduce the number of kangaroos being culled under the program. “Labor urgently needs to improve the process for the issuing of tags to farmers and professional shooters to allow our farmers to manage this ever increasing problem. “The sustainable management of kangaroos is critical for our region.” More information on the kangaroo pet food trial can be found by visiting website www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/managing-wildlife/ wildlife-management-and-control-authorisations/kangaroo-pet-food-trial.

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IN THE GROUND: Birchip Cropping Group staff members have been busy sowing trial crops across the Wimmera-Mallee. The picture shows sowing of a nitrogen-response trial at BCG’s main site at Karyrie, eight kilometres west of Birchip on the Sunraysia Highway. The BCG sowing program of 105 trials at 26 sites in the Mallee, North Central and Wimmera is almost complete.

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People still have time to register for a series of farm-business financial-management workshops in Horsham, Boort and Donald. Agriculture Victoria is working with Partners in Ag, PinG, to provide the two-day workshops, designed to help farmers prepare for and survive the impacts of dry seasonal conditions. Farm business planning, risk management and financial literacy will be the focus of the workshops, led by facilitator and trainer Tony Hudson. Each workshop will explore the basics of farm business management with advice on how to identify, plan for and manage risk. Ways to manage dry seasonal conditions with details on how to put information together for a

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bank, accountant or financial planner will also be covered. Additionally, with two hours of oneon-one mentoring included as part of these workshops, participants will gain an understanding of the financial position of their business, including a realistic picture of cash flow for the next 12 to 18 months, and practical steps they can take to meet their business goals. The workshops will be at Horsham on June 6 and 13, Boort, June 11 and 18 and Donald, June 12 and 19. They are free to attend but places are limited and participants must register. People can find out more by visiting website partnersinag.org.au, emailing admin@partnersinag.org.au or calling 0428 622 655. Wednesday, May 29, 2019


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New rules for tractors on roads 95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

Farmers are now able to move tracked tractors on Victorian roads after a change in state regulations. Victorian Farmers Federation Grains Group president Ashley Fraser said the change was a ‘common sense’ move that would reduce barriers to efficient grain production, and came after lobbying by the VFF. “We have been working with VicRoads and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, NHVR, to amend outdated regulation that prohibited rubber tracked tractors from moving on Victorian roads without a permit,” he said.

SEASON TO SEASON: Seeding at Maroona earlier this month.

A long history of researching L

BY CRAIG ALTMANN

ast week might have seen me enjoying the best pie I have had. If not, it’s well up there – lamb and mint it was.

I was hoping to eat on the run but was reassured it was to be consumed as an ‘eat in’. I’m glad I took the advice, The Catching Pen at Coleraine provided a much-needed break following some jam-packed days of packing seed, running around and seeding trials. We then dashed over to Maroona to seed a forage cereal trial. As we packed up, the sun set behind the high ground to right of the Maroona Wind Farm and it was time for the drill to head to Gippsland. Taking a few pictures of everything underway and how it appears is essential. As I was snapping away towards the end, it was like I’d seen this all before. The beauty of smart phones is that they hold so many images. Flicking back through my photos, I found last year’s trial-seeding photographs. It was a month earlier – in April 17, 2018 and the shots revealed us stirring up plenty of dust. I had another photo too, May 14, 2018. The site was up and growing by that time. Last year this site was designed to allow us to evaluate grain, hay, dual-purpose and forage oats for grazing.  The site was left to go through and seed down.

As a result, there’s good growth establishment of volunteer oats and ryegrass this year. Comparing the May 14, 2018 and May 16 pictures of the same site this year showed growth to be very similar, which I found interesting. Apart from being interesting to compare one year to the next, it made me reflect on how we are fortunate with the amount of research, development, evaluation and demonstration that occurs in the area. The likes of the Grains Innovation Park that recently celebrated 50 years,  Longerenong College established 1889, Birchip Cropping Group, Perennial Pasture Systems and businesses such as AGF Seeds shows this area has a long and rich history of research, innovation and learning – be it government, private, small business, multinational, farmer groups, or tertiary institutions. Even the ‘Altmann Bag Lifter-loader’ was made locally. • Mr Altmann, who grew up in Jeparit, attended Longerenong College and has gained extensive industry experience in business and general farming, is a seed and marketing sales agronomist with Australian Grain and Forage Seeds, AGF. He has volunteered to provide his thoughts on the industry and season in a regular AgLife column.

“The updated regulation means grain farmers can now more easily move their tracked tractors efficiently between paddocks without needing to apply for a permit every time. “These changes bring Victorian requirements in line with other states, and significantly reduce the regulatory burden for farmers during key production times such as sowing and harvest.” More information on the updated regulations can be found in the NHVR’s National Class 1 Agricultural Vehicle and Combination Mass and Dimension Exemption Notice Operator’s Guide by visiting www.nhvr.gov.au.

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immera farmers will have a clearer understanding of soil nutrient management when recommendations from a Grains Research Development Corporation, project are published.

GRDC announced it had completed the soil sampling phase of its ‘Using soil and plant testing data to better inform nutrient management and optimise fertiliser investments for grain growers in the southern region’ investment project, and would soon provide recommendations based on the results. The project, led by Agronomy Solutions in conjunction with Australian Precision Agriculture Laboratory, CSIRO, Landmark, Hart Field-Site Group and AgCommunicators, aims to improve nutrient management through the increased use of soil testing. The project was conducted in GRDC’s southern region – encompassing Victoria, Tasmania and parts of New South Wales and South Australia. GRDC soils and nutrition south manager Stephen Loss said the project would quantify the benefits to growers of adopting soil and plant testing to inform their fertiliser decisions, and provide them with confidence and knowledge in their management decisions. “The rates of soil testing in the southern region are lower than other regions, particularly Western Australia, and we think there’s an opportunity for growers to save on fertiliser inputs where

their residual soil nutrient levels are high,” he said. “In many cases there is also upside in putting on more nitrogen than what is customary to achieve higher yields, higher returns and better grain protein, especially in favourable seasons. “We are working with agronomists and private consultants, helping to take soil samples and then interpreting results and providing recommendations for the growers. “We set up strip trials in paddocks, comparing the fertiliser recommendations made from the soil test results against an uninformed rate, a nil rate and potentially a high yield-limiting rate.” One hundred agronomists and growers took part in the project. Project leader Harm van Rees said general project feedback received from workshops was positive. He said fertiliser recommendations were made to project growers and agronomists over the past few weeks. “Deep soil nitrogen and topsoil phosphorous are the focus, but we are keeping an eye on potassium and sulphur levels as well,” he said. “We’re also undertaking tissue testing during the season which will give us information on micronutrient requirements.” Crop walks are expected to be held later this year, depending on seasonal conditions, with the aim to show nutrient responses at the end of tillering, growth stage 30. Further workshops will be held later in 2019.

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STOREWIDE DISCOUNTS • Sidchrome Tools • Hikoki • Milwaukee • Safety Equipment YOUNG GUNS: Nhill and District Young Farmers President Jessica Pilgrim took home a regional young volunteer award after attending 2019 Volunteering Recognition Awards in Horsham. She is pictured with other finalists, left, Horsham Agricultural Society president Zac Currie and Edenhope Henley on Lake Wallace committee president Hugh Caldow at the celebrations at Horsham Town Hall.  Picture: DEAN LAWSON

EPA helps farmers meet regulations A trove of information on how to manage farms in an environmentally sensitive way is now only a click away for farmers. Environment Protection Authority, EPA, Victoria has launched an agricultural guidance section on its website full of advice for farmers on how to minimise environmental impact and comply with Victorian regulations. EPA executive director Damian Wells described the new website as a ‘one-stop shop for online advice’ and said there was useful information for everyone in the agricultural sector. “We aim to support farmers. Equipped with the right advice, farmers can manage the farm in a way that minimises harm to the environment and human health, meets Victorian regulations, and helps them to pass on their farms to the next generation in good condition,” he said. Wednesday, May 29, 2019

“Victoria’s $13-billion agricultural sector is very broad and we want to ensure our advice meets farmers’ needs. “That’s why we’re encouraging them to tell us where they need greater support. “Our agricultural guidance page includes a simple, two-minute survey that gives farmers an easy way to ask for the environmental advice they most value.” The website offers advice on a range of topics, including livestock planning, farm waste, chemicals, noise, water, and sediment and dust. People can visit the website at www.epa.vic. gov.au/business-and-industry/guidelines/agricultural-guidance. Farmers and members of the public can report pollution to EPA’s 24-hour hotline by calling 1300 372 842.

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ictoria’s farming peak body has encouraged farmers with a passion and vision for the Victorian livestock industry to step up and nominate for the Victorian Farmers Federation Livestock Policy Council.

The VFF Livestock Group has called for nominations to fill five vacancies representing the regions of Mallee, North Central, Glenelg, Goulburn Broken, and West Gippsland. VFF Livestock Group president Leonard Vallance said being on the Livestock Policy Council was an opportunity for farmers to contribute to policy, set the advocacy direction, and make a difference for livestock farmers and the industry. “The VFF Livestock Group has a strong record of success,” he said. “We have been at the frontline of negotiations with industry and government to improve animal welfare, livestock traceability and market access. “Our biosecurity extension program, Stock Sense, helps producers adopt industry-leading animal health and production practices. “We will continue to lead the way for Victoria in national standards for loading ramps, permanent kangaroo control framework for Victoria, protecting live export and fighting farm crime. “Our council is filled with proactive and dedicated livestock producers who have all played a role in the livestock group’s success.

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“I thank every member of the council for their hard work and valuable contributions and I encourage any farmer who feels they have what it takes to apply and represent the views of their region.” Mr Vallance said VFF Livestock members should have received a nomination form in the mail and via email. He said people must lodge nominations with a returning officer no later than 5pm on Monday. Completed nomination forms can be emailed to returningofficer@vff.org.au.

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esearch is revealing new insight and understandings about mice in Australian broadacre cropping systems, especially in terms of their food preferences and aversion to bait.

Grains Research and Development Corporation’s major mouse-related research, development and extension program has shown mice prefer cereals over lentils, background food significantly affects consumption of bait and strategic use of bait is more effective than frequent use of bait. As part of the suite of GRDC investments, CSIRO researchers have been undertaking bait substrate trials to determine what drives a perceived reduction in efficacy of zinc phosphide bait and testing potential new bait substrates that might be more attractive to mice. Researchers are testing the willingness of mice to transition from one food to another and then determining whether mice will continue to eat that alternative food source once zinc phosphide bait has been applied. CSIRO researcher Steve Henry said one experiment involved mice being held on a background food type – barley-lentils-wheat – for two weeks and then offered the choice of an alternative grain type – malt barley-durum wheat-lentils for five nights. “A clear message from this work is

that mice don’t like lentils,” he said. “Results from trials have shown mice have a clear preference for cereals over lentils, which indicates lentils wouldn’t be a good bait substrate for zinc phosphide.” Another experiment has aimed to determine the acceptance of different toxic bait substrates by mice when challenged against a different background food type. Mice were held on a background food type – lentils-barley-wheat – then offered an alternative of the three types of zinc phosphide-coated grain – barley-husked malt barley-unhusked malt barley – for three consecutive nights, as well as the background diet. “Mice consumed toxic bait grains regardless of the bait substrate type, however, background food type significantly affected the number of toxic grains consumed,” Mr Henry said. “Mice established on a wheat background consumed fewer toxic bait grains than mice on a lentil or barley background diet. “Mice on a barley background diet showed a slight preference for malt barley.” Mr Henry said an interesting outcome of the experiment was in relation to toxic-bait aversion. “Mice that ate a sub-lethal dose of toxin on the first night showed bait aversion – they stopped taking toxic

INSIGHT: CSIRO’s Steve Henry with a common mouse. Picture: GRDC grains on nights two and three,” he said. “In all rodent populations, there will be some animals susceptible and some that are less susceptible to bait. “If those less susceptible individuals consume zinc phosphide and don’t die, then we end up with almost instant bait aversion.” The next phase of the research will examine the role of available alternative food on commercial zinc phosphide bait effectiveness. The GRDC mouse-related investments include a focus on mouse ecol-

ogy. This work will involve experiments aimed at understanding how mice function in zero and no-till cropping systems. “Historically, mice lived on the margins of paddocks and moved into crops when conditions were favourable,” Mr Henry said. “Now, with low levels of disturbance in paddocks, mice are building burrow networks in paddocks and living where resources are most plentiful.” The mouse ecology research will address five key topics – farming

practices, managing refuge habitat, understanding mouse movements, mouse burrows and bait delivery. The results of the bait substrate experiments, with the results of work in the five key mouse-ecology priority areas, will form the basis of a series of recommendations for improved mouse control plans for Australian grain growers. “The current approach to bait application is to spread bait on a broad scale across entire paddocks,” Mr Henry said. “To date, the majority of our understanding of mouse ecology and behaviour is based on work undertaken in conventional cropping systems. “Better understanding of mouse ecology in zero and no-till cropping systems could lead to more strategic application of bait, potentially reducing the quantity of bait spread or increasing the effectiveness of bait by targeting high activity zones in paddocks.” In the meantime, Mr Henry encourages growers to remain vigilant throughout the 2019 cropping season. “While our monitoring shows numbers are generally low across southern, northern and western cropping regions, largely because of continuing dry weather, we know mice can breed to high numbers very quickly if conditions change and favour mice.”

Plan to create road map to better soil Federal Water Resources Minister David Littleproud believes $850,000 in government investments will benefit farmers across Australia. Mr Littleproud said the Federal Government would provide $550,000 for projects to improve soil quality and a further $300,000 to encourage farmers to take up modern technology and farming practices. Mr Littleproud said the money would help put grower groups and natural resource managers in contact with Australia’s leading researchers. “Soil is a precious resource for farmers and this will help them protect and improve it,” he said. “We’re investing $466,650 over two years to help educate 36 grower groups and natural resource managers in soil knowledge, and help them take that out to even more farmers. “Members of this national network will share what they learn with one another so local solutions can have national benefits.

“A further $100,000 will be invested in having Soil Science Australia create a road map to better soils. “The road map will look for ways to boost the capacity of our soils so they can retain more nutrients and good bacteria. “Good soils also retain water longer, which makes a big difference in seasons with low rainfall.” Mr Littleproud said encouraging modern agricultural practices would also provide benefits. “We need the results of our research to be taken up by farmers to keep them at the cutting edge,” he said. “We also need the good ideas which come from our research to be converted into products farmers can buy and tools they can use. “The truth is Australia could do a lot better in getting farmers to take up new ideas, tools and practices – uptake levels are relatively low.”

! s r o t u ib r t n o c r is look ing fo Are you a farmer? Work for an agricultural business or have a interest in ag? The Weekly Advertiser wants YOUR help making AgLife a premier agriculture feature! Let us know about industry insights, life living on the land or anything agricultural related.

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FARMLAND GIANTS: Murra Warra Wind Farm continues to take shape with huge 200-metre-tall turbines towering above the Wimmera plains. The $650-million project is projected to increase the value of farmland in the region. The turbines began to generate power for the first time last week. Pictures: PAUL CARRACHER

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New guide for land access

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ictorian Farmers Federation has welcomed a trial of a new guide helping landholders negotiate land access with mining explorers.

VFF president and Murra Warra farmer David Jochinke said the guide, accessed via the State Government Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions website, would help both landholders and explorers. “Farming and mining are both vital for the Victorian economy and rural employment,” he said. “However, it’s critical that support is available to help landholders work with explorers, and that explorers better understand how to minimise impacts on farms. “I thank the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions for working with the VFF as a key stakeholder, and for being willing to trial this new, consultative approach to land access. “With clear and open communication and a mutual understanding of needs, farming and mining can co-exist and the whole community can benefit. “The new guide provides clear guidance on issues such as setting farm biosecurity protocols, managing impacts on crops, compensation, and dispute resolution. “It is important for farmers to understand that before an explorer can

access your land, you must provide consent. “I encourage all farmers and landholders to read the new guide to commercial consent agreements before they begin discussing land access with explorers. “We encourage all primary industries to consider how the different sectors can work together for mutual benefit of each party and regional communities.” Much of western Victoria including the Wimmera-Mallee is a target of intensive mineral exploration as prospecting firms search for gold, copper and other valuable metals on private land. Victoria’s resources sector is growing, with investigations revealing more gold being found every year and more companies searching to see where mineral deposits might exist for potential development. Demand for minerals such as gold and copper is increasing because they are key parts for technology and renewable energy products. The trial of the land-access tools coincides with a new wave of minerals exploration in western Victoria across an area known in geological terms as the Stavely Arc. Following last year’s Stavely Ground Release, the first of potentially six new Mineral Exploration Licences has been awarded.

DRILLING: Minerals exploration is occurring across western Victoria. The planned exploration spending across all six licence areas is expected to be more than $20-million, bringing a boost to regional towns through consumer activity. Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed annual mineral exploration spending in Victoria grew to 47.8 percent to December 2018, compared with 32.6 percent growth for all of Australia during the same period. Generally, early-stage exploration

activities, such as mapping, sampling and rock testing, are the first steps in establishing if minerals are present. If further development is considered to be economically viable, it takes many years to progress towards mining, including meeting strict regulatory controls. Details of exploration in western Victoria and the landholder tools are at earthresources.vic.gov.au/landaccess.

Grants to help farmers 95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

Financial relief for drought-stricken farmers in Victoria’s north-west is available in the form of State Government grants. Agriculture Victoria’s northwest dry seasonal conditions coordinator Rob O’Shannessy said the government had already provided about $45-million to farmers across the state through various grant programs. “There are a number of grants available to assist farmers manage current conditions and prepare their farm and business for a positive future,” he said. “If you are thinking about applying for any of the assistance available I strongly encourage you to do so now – you may be eligible for more than you think.” Mr O’Shannessy said programs included the On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants Program and an On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme. “We have also had positive feedback from many farmers who have attended our technical decision-making workshops delivered across the state – with more happening as we speak,” he said. Rural Finance administrates the grants programs and people can call 1800 260 425 or visit www.ruralfinance.com.au for more information. For information about other assistance available visit www.agriculture. vic.gov.au/dryseasons.

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95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

T

he science behind agriculture and in particular broadacre grain crops shows little sign of slowing as researchers work on creating products for a variety of needs.

For more than 60 years the CSIRO has been supporting Australia’s grain industry to improve yields, quality and management, and to combat disease. Improving health factors are major drivers in much of the work surrounding grain, especially at the CSIRO, where scientists have for the past couple of decades explored ways of tackling chronic disease. Research is constantly leading to improved grain varieties, with work involving everything from boosting fibre to reducing gluten levels in crops. A quick scan at some of the research shows that an international team including CSIRO members have developed a wheat variety with 10 times more fibre than other varieties. Here is a snapshot of the project from the CSIRO website – Resistant starch is known to improve digestive health, protect against genetic damage that precedes bowel cancer and help combat Type 2 diabetes. Australian diets largely lack this type of starch. Resistant starch is a dietary fibre that feeds the ‘good bacteria’ that live in the large bowel. These bacteria are

part of our microbiome. They can use resistant starch as food because it resists digestion in our small intestine and moves on to the large bowel. The most popular source of dietary fibre is wheat, eaten by 30 percent of the world’s population, whether in bread, pizzas, pastas or tortillas. The CSIRO and its partners have worked to develop a wheat that can provide millions of people with more fibre, without having to change their eating habits. Amylose is a highly soluble part of starch and research behind highamylose wheat started in the 1990s. In 2006, the CSIRO teamed with French company Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients and Grains Research and Development Corporation, and worked on developing wheat varieties with a higher content of resistant starch. Together, the work established Arista Cereal Technologies. The first breakthrough came when research identified two particular enzymes, that when reduced in wheat, increased the amylose content. Breeding work then enabled CSIRO scientists to increase the amylose content of wheat grain from about 20 or 30 percent to an unprecedented 85 percent. This was sufficient to increase the level of resistant starch to more than 20 percent of total starch in the grain

high-amylose wheat varieties suitable for different growing regions. Discussions are underway with companies in Australia about developing a new product for local and possibly also Asian markets.

Superior health benefits

compared with less than one percent in regular wheat. High-amylose wheat was developed using a conventional breeding approach. United States-based Bay State Milling Company was the first company to take this technology to the market, in 2017. Expectations are that its product, HealthSenseTM high-fibre wheat flour will be incorporated into a variety of food products in America in coming years. In Australia, Arista is partnering with a breeding company to develop

In another example of health-based CSIRO grains research, a wholegrain it developed in the mid-2000s has proven to have superior health benefits that can help combat cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. Work was based on reducing the incidence of chronic disease through improved diet. Again, here is insight published on the CSIRO website – The motivation was to find practical, effective diet and lifestyle solutions that could help reduce the burden of these chronic diseases. Increased wholegrain intake has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and even help with weight control. CSIRO scientists have seen the potential to enhance the nutritional value of wholegrains, such as barley, to help combat these health problems. One particular barley grain emerged from research as having higher fibre content and enhanced nutritional benefits compared with regular barley.

A program of conventional plant breeding led to the development of BARLEYmax, a high-fibre wholegrain with high levels of resistant starch. An extensive program of experimental studies, including a human trial, showed a range of foods produced with BARLEYmax as their key ingredient had a low glycemic index and also produced positive changes in a range of biomarkers of bowel health. In a joint venture with Australian Capital Ventures Ltd, CSIRO bred the new BARLEYmax grain, then worked with food manufacturers to create products containing BARLEYmax, including breakfast cereals, food wraps, rice mixes and bread. Consumers have been able to enjoy the benefits of foods containing BARLEYmax since August 2009. BARLEYmax is now licensed to a CSIRO spin-off company, The Healthy Grain. The potential value of improved health outcomes for Australians from widespread, regular consumption of BARLEYmax is estimated to be worth about $305-million a year due to its potential for lowering rates of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. In addition, the total savings in health system costs from increased dietary fibre intake are forecast at up to $17-million a year.

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