Mildura Weekly : Friday January 10 2014 Vol 8 No 10
www.milduraweekly.com.au 20 Mildura Weekly – 10/01/14 AUSTRALIAN grain growers are play- ing a vital role in improving and preserving the health of the nation’s arable soils through the adoption of research and development outcomes. Grains Research and Develop- ment Corporation Managing Direc- tor John Harvey said it was timely to acknowledge the grains industry’s efforts in ensuring the long-term fer- tility of soils, which are necessary for essential food production. “Australian growers – supported by the GRDC – have for a long time recognised that healthy soils grow healthy crops,” he said. “That is why our farmers are world leaders in taking up new tech- nology and adopting cutting-edge farm practices that promote soil sus- tainability.” Mr Harvey said that with World Soil Day recently held in December, it was an opportunity to reflect on the contribution to grains produc- tion by the vital – yet finite resource – beneath our feet, while also recog- nising the contribution to protecting soils by growers and the extensive advancements in research and devel- opment over the past decade. “The GRDC, on behalf of grow- ers and the Australian Government, has facilitated significant investment into understanding and improving cropping soils, which really are the engine room of grains production systems,” he said. “Minimum and no-till farm- ing, retention of crop residues and improving ground cover are now widely adopted practices that have had a huge impact on reducing soil degradation. “Our research into the soil nutri- ent and biological benefits of rotat- ing crops has also enabled growers to reduce input costs while building better soil profiles.” Mr Harvey said the GRDC had in recent years increasingly turned its attention to the biological make-up of the nation’s soils, and their hid- den potential to increase profitabil- ity and sustainability of grain pro- duction. “The GRDC’s Soil Biology Initia- tive aims to equip grain growers with tools and resources for better man- agement of nutrient input, suppres- sion of soil borne diseases without chemicals or minimum chemical input, and improved information on what makes a quality soil,” he said. “Productivity within the grains sector has been limited for the past 10 years, so we need to explore all avenues for lifting growth. “The soil biological resource is seen as something of the ‘last fron- tier’ for the grains industry. “We don’t fully understand the biological composition of our soils and how they function and contrib- ute to grain production, so there is enormous scope for developing some new thinking about how we should treat and manage our soils and the practices we can put in place to drive productivity and profitability. “This world-leading investiga- tion into the influence of soil biol- ogy on crop yields is establishing an unprecedented foundation of knowledge, and has unearthed some important insights that will inform growers’ future farming practices.” Soil Biology Initiative co-ordi- nator, Associate Professor Pauline Mele, said scientists now know that specific organisms exist in soils in the northern cropping region that can suppress root-lesion nematode – which costs the national grains in- dustry $250million a year. “This natural form of suppres- sion has been found to be much stronger in the surface soil, and is more evident in long-term zero till, stubble retained soils, as opposed to soils which have been mechanically- tilled and where stubbles have been burnt,” she said. “Given this knowledge the next step will be to investigate how dis- ease suppression can be encouraged at greater depths in the soil, where damage to plant roots occurs, and more broadly across cropping re- gions. “We also know that fertiliser is not the only source of N – free-living nitrogen-fixing organisms also have an important role to play – and that the addition of fertiliser can in some instances decrease the release of N from soil organic matter and crop residues.” Scientists involved in the Soil Biology Initiative agree that the pro- gram is making considerable prog- ress in understanding the compo- sition of the living fraction of soils which support crop production, and how growers can best manage soils to maximise nutrient capture and de- fend against crop disease. “The current five-year phase of the Soil Biology Initiative – due to be completed in mid-2014 – has in- volved ‘world-beating’ science,” Pro- fessor Mele said. “And even though it is very much pioneering work, on a global scale we are now in a position where we can start to validate some of the find- ings, and from there provide growers with recommendations on cultural management options and resource support.” Coles musn’t force down chicken farmer incomes: VFF Growers praised for healthy soil efforts • GRDC Managing Director John Harvey with principal research scientist and Soil Biology Initiative II co-ordinator, Associate Professor Pauline Mele. The Land Living on Grant Maynard with THE Victorian Farmers Federation has urged supermarket giant Coles to guarantee it will not force chicken farmers’ incomes “down down.” Coles recently an- nounced that it would stock fresh chicken meat from RSPCA-approved farms under its home- brands. “Coles is crowing that the new RSPCA standard won’t cost con- sumers more,” Victo- rian Farmers Federation Chicken Meat president, Allan Bullen, said. “But I can tell you it will cost growers and processors dearly. “The RSPCA stan- dard means more space for birds, installing perches, more lighting, deeper litter and higher audit, labour and trans- port costs. “If we are to imple- ment the RSPCA stan- dards it will increase our chicken farmers growing cost by 25 percent.” Coles Chief Operat- ing Officer, John Dur- kan, said this week that the move to the RSPCA standard came “at no added cost to custom- ers.” “If that is the case then Mr Durkan must guarantee that chicken farmers and processors will not bear the cost,” Mr Bullen said. “So, my question to Mr Durkan is will you give us an iron-clad guar- antee that Coles absorbs the extra cost of imple- menting the RSPCA stan- dard? “The reality is we’re getting paid 83 cents a bird, delivered to Coles processors. 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Friday January 3 2014 Vol 8 No 9
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