Farm Management

Victorian grain growers prepare for 2017

Victorian grain growers are being presented with a unique suite of challenges and opportunities as they factor the impact of a wet 2016 into 2017’s cropping programs.

While sub-soil moisture is at varying levels across the State, the legacy of 2016’s high-yielding crops will necessitate careful paddock preparation and a planned approach to agronomy in 2017.

Eliminating the “green bridge” of summer weeds and volunteer cereals in those areas receiving January-February rainfall will be a priority activity in an effort to reduce the threat of pests, weeds and diseases and to preserve soil moisture and nutrients for 2017’s crops.

This was a key message delivered to growers and their advisers from across the State at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) 2017 Bendigo Grains Research Update.

GRDC Southern Regional Panel chair Keith Pengilley told Update attendees that in addition to green bridge management, growers will now be turning their attention to dealing with heavy stubble loads to ensure successful crop establishment and testing their soils to gauge available nutrient levels.

“And given that there is an abundance of food supply as a result of 2016’s big harvest, mice are another potential issue that we’ll need to keep a close eye on,” Mr Pengilley said.

He said 2016 had underlined the importance of creating adaptable farming systems – those that are able to withstand the challenges associated with extreme weather conditions and environmental and biological pressures such as the incursion of Russian wheat aphid which was detected for the first time in Australia in 2016 and later found to be widespread across Victorian grain-growing regions.

“Recognising this need, the GRDC invests in research, development and extension to equip growers with the knowledge and tools required to enable them to capitalise on opportunities and reduce their exposure to risk  by developing flexible, profitable and resilient farming systems,” he said.

The latest advice and understandings being generated out of those GRDC-funded research programs were presented at the Update in Bendigo where leading researchers and scientists from throughout Australia and around the world delivered to growers and their advisers important key messages for the season ahead, including:

  •  Russian wheat aphid is likely to be a sporadic but manageable pest if growers implement a combination of green bridge management, strategic use of insecticides and practices that encourage natural enemies;
  • It may well be that the nitrogen “cupboard is bare” for the coming season – a deep soil test is the only way to determine if that is the case;
  • At-sowing rates of other mobile nutrients such as sulphur and potassium may need to be raised following a wet 2016 which could have caused leaching;
  • Herbicide resistance testing will take the guesswork out of herbicide selection and can identify effective pre and post-emergent herbicide options;
  • Sowing on time to maximise crop competition with annual ryegrass helps reduce weed seed set and increases crop yield;
  • Diversify fungicide choice to ensure both good disease control and good anti-resistance management;
  • Wheat and barley disease inoculum will be high in many paddocks in 2017 due to favourable seasonal conditions in 2016 – consult a current disease guide to review varieties and plan ahead;
  • Plan for management of blackleg disease in canola in 2017, taking consideration of varietal resistance group/s, rotational history, flowering date and potential need for use of registered fungicides;
  • If there is a history of sclerotinia stem rot in your district causing canola yield loss, be prepared to use a foliar fungicide to reduce yield loss;
  • Consider previous herbicide use, crop rotation history, soil type and paddock location when deciding to sow a pulse crop in 2017 as these factors can influence crop performance and disease risk;
  • Strategic tillage, whilst acknowledged to result in detrimental effects to soil structure, may have a role in the management of challenging disease, pest or weed issues or incorporation of lime to address sub-surface acidity without long-term effects – setting the clock back approximately 2-5 years in relation to soil structure;
  • Impacts of waterlogging can be mitigated effectively with a well-designed water drainage plan.

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