Full house at trials review

Farmers from across the Wimmera and Mallee filled Birchip Community Leisure Centre to capacity for BCG's Trials Review forum.

The event, staged each year to showcase the findings from BCG research, this year opened with acting Board chairman, John Ferrier introducing Chris Sounness as BCG's new CEO.

Mr Sounness said he was looking forward to working with BCG staff and members to continue to deliver practical and relevant research results to farmers.

The day's official program began with a review of the 2013 season given from the perspective of Wimmera farmer David Jochinke and Mallee farmer John Renney.

Mr Jochinke and Mr Renney reflected on some of the challenges of 2013 including the dry summer, low sub-soil moisture, herbicide residues, volunteer plant control, frost and keeping herbicide resistant weeds at bay.

In an attempt to reduce weed seeds in paddocks, Mr Renney said he was trying narrow windrow burning this year. Mr Jochinke, who had previously adopted windrow burning as a weed control strategy, said he was continuing the practice this season and with the benefit of his experience provided some tips for those having a go for the first time.

These included putting a chute on the back of the header to create narrow windrows and not burning the whole paddock at once.

"It is best to do it in sections," he said.

The results from 18 BCG research trials were delivered to growers with presentations focusing on their practical on-farm application.

BCG research agronomist, Simon Craig discussed how crop varietal selection can influence the profitability and sustainability of a farm business.

He said that while most growers selected wheat and barley varieties based on their yield potential, it was important to consider the varieties other attributes (such as its disease rating, maturity and competitiveness) fitted the rotation and farming system.

Following on from this advice, BCG research officer, Cameron Taylor spoke about broadleaf weed control and strategies to cope with rising herbicide resistance in the Wimmera and Mallee.

According to farmers surveyed at Trials Review, weed control and herbicide resistance management was the major factor influencing rotational choices.

Mr Taylor said this was good practice and he encouraged growers to take weed management seriously to maintain the productivity of their land.

He said while BCG research had shown some commonly used broadleaf herbicides (such as Eclipse) were becoming less reliable, new chemistry and good practices (such as spraying when weeds were small) gave good results.

"Don't rely on chemicals alone," Mr Taylor said.

"Integrated weed management strategies are necessary to combat long-term weed problems."

Another tool Wimmera and Mallee growers can now use to control weeds is genetically modified (GM) crops.

SGA Solutions CEO, David Hudson presented the findings from a three year study focused on the agronomic, environmental, economic and co-existance impacts of GM canola.

Mr Hudson said the study, which involved 1346 farmer interviews, showed that while the economic impacts of GM canola were variable, growers reported better weed control, less pesticide use, less cultivation and a lower risk of herbicide resistance development.

"Concerns relating to co-existance failed to materialise with the majority of GM canola growers reporting no impacts on their farming operation," Mr Hudson said.

According to Mr Hudson the major barrier to the adoption of GM canola was the perceived lack of economic value when compared to non-GM weed control management system options. He said profitability was influenced by delivery logistics and proximity to a delivery site.

The 2014 Trials Review Day was held for BCG members. Comprehensive reports on the topics discussed on the day, and on more than 50 research trials conducted in 2013, were included in the 233-page Season Research Results publication produced for BCG members. To become a BCG member, and receive a copy of the 2013 BCG Season Research Results, phone BCG on 03 5492 2787.

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