Research key to farming in dry times

By Country News

Through a dry season and lower than expected rainfall, grain and fat lamb producer Roy Hamilton has been able to maintain success with minimum tillage, direct drill and controlled traffic farming.

The Riverina grower from Rand in southern NSW said 2018 was the third-driest year on record at his 4400ha mixed farming operation, behind 1982 and 2002.

Mr Hamilton said the three practices, along with a growing understanding of how to store soil moisture, control weeds effectively and manage nutrition, had meant there was still crop planted that would reach harvest.

‘‘In the past, a season like this would have meant bare paddocks, but major improvements in how we do things on-farm, driven by quality research, have meant we can now plant on just 10mm of rainfall and still get crop establishment with limited moisture and take it through with some harvest potential,’’ Mr Hamilton said.

‘‘Twenty years ago, we would never have had a boom spray in the same paddock as a harvester, but now it’s standard practice, because we know early weed control preserves soil moisture for the next crop.’’

Mr Hamilton is a Grains Research and Development Corporation Northern Region Panel member and believes education and knowledge is key to coping with drier years.

‘‘Our records show the past two decades have been significantly more variable in terms of annual rainfall than the century before,’’ he said.

‘‘GRDC needs to keep pushing into new frontiers and playing a vital part in developing on-farm management tactics that help us deal with seasonal challenge.

‘‘I feel the evidence is there to show our climate is becoming increasingly volatile and extreme, so we need all the tools we can get in terms of research and development to manage this and stay in the farming game.’’

GRDC chair John Woods agreed the Australian climate had challenged many growers again this year, however he said work done by the grains industry as a whole had better positioned the sector to cope with the challenges.

‘‘We often talk about the yields in a good year, but arguably it is more important to have a small crop in a tough season, like the one many Queensland and NSW growers experienced this year,’’ Mr Woods said.

‘‘We need to continue this work to mitigate climate effects and raise productivity in marginal years, as these years often coincide with very rewarding prices.’’

■For information to assist growers dealing with the dry times, visit: