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5 minutes with Stuart Millwood, Growth Awards Regional Winner

Potatoes
29.05.2017
Stuart Millwood with potato seeds

This month we are showcasing the outstanding work that our Growth Awards Winners are achieving out in the field. We spoke to 2016 Regional Winner, Stuart Millwood, State agronomy manager at Roberts, TAS.

Stuart Millwood has dedicated his whole professional life to providing the highest quality agronomic advice through educating and understanding his clients and land capabilities. This approach has allowed Stuart to embrace modern agricultural technology and deliver proven and effective direction to his clients. 

As State agronomy manager at Roberts, Stuart leads a team of 16 agronomists that provide high-level service across a range of crops throughout Tasmania. Stuart is responsible for approximately 60 seed and processing potato growers, equating to 1600 ha, producing 100,000 tonnes of processing potatoes and 3,000 tonnes of certified seed potatoes annually. 

As an adviser, he has helped increase his client’s top line growth (t/ha) by an average of 20% over the last 15 years. Stuart established a popular annual Roberts potato industry forum that aims to connect the potato industry to share the latest technology, R&D and product solutions and help aid its transition to the field.

Stuart leads numerous R&D trials each year, results of which deliver real dollar value figures for growers. But he also ensures validity of trials by establishing and identifying trends before recommending them broadly to his clients.

He also works closely with Syngenta aiding new product trial work under minor usage permit, such as Boxer Gold (2012/13), and aids adoption on full registration of the product and ensures grower education on correct application and timing.

At the end of the day, Stuart sees his clients’ success as his own, and his proven methodologies have led to substantial increases in productivity for his clients. 

 

How do you think your work helps to overcome the challenges of modern farming?

I see challenges as an opportunity. I understand that Tasmania faces unique circumstances including having some of the highest production costs in Australia as a result of high labour, energy and input costs. I’ve helped my clients overcome these challenges by working with them pre-planting to develop a solid strategic plan, and then reviewing outcomes post-harvest to ensure they keep improving to reach higher yield targets and increase ROI.

The key to productivity, I believe, is in increasing quality and yield. This is why I put a focus on paddock preparation, seed vigour (physiologically young seed), nutrition, pest and disease control and irrigation.

Thankfully, the clients I work with are receptive to new ideas, which drives me to continue researching, running trials and staying abreast of industry innovation.

I’m a firm believer in the saying: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

 

How do you help growers to grow quality crops and improve returns?

Yield and quality is everything and therefore I ensure that every action delivers positive returns. I’ve helped lift the average potato yield in my area from 50 tonnes per hectare to 60 tonnes per hectare over the last 15 years, with leading producers achieving 75 tonnes per hectare. I am very proud of this achievement.

Another focus for me is improving seed quality to boost returns for processing growers.

 

How do help your growers make efficient use of crop protection and fertiliser inputs?

Through tailored strategic planning, I ensure every input receives good ROI, including fertiliser and chemical choices. I recommend only tried and proven products along with correct rates and timing of application to my clients so they are able to achieve the highest levels of efficiency and efficacy. I also conduct nutrition and chemical trials to continually improve on efficiency and ROI.

 

How do you help your growers optimise the use of available water resources?

In 2015, Tasmania experienced one of the harshest droughts and one of the worst floods in recent history. During this time, I guided and worked alongside my clients to limit effects of natural disasters and also prepare for the future by recommending better drainage systems and water budgeting.

I help my clients to manage their flood risks via drainage, and identify where they can best allocate the water available to achieve the highest ROI. This includes helping growers with their rotations and field locations, drainage and irrigation monitoring.

Learn more about the Growth Awards and read the profiles of other winners here