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Staying ahead of the game

The Seedcare Institute Wagga Wagga visual assessment of treated seed

By Gregor Heard, Fairfax

Australian agriculture is renowned globally for its innovation.

Confounded with an often hostile climate, Aussie farmers have been forced to continually adapt with new technology to ensure their continued sustainability.

Today, research shows Australian growers are some of the quickest to take up new technology and innovation in order to continue to drive productivity gains.

There are promising programs across a range of applications at present that will drive the efficiency gains at paddock level into the future, with growers nominating ag-tech and advances in application technology as key advances.

New technology has been developed to allow broadacre farmers to better manage their inputs, whether it be through the use of electromagnetic soil mapping, spatial imagery or other innovations, allowing growers to better target pests, judiciously apply fertiliser, and minimise herbicide resistance through evermore precise application technologies.

In horticulture, more and more farmers are taking advantage of state of the art irrigation systems which use moisture probes to ensure paddock soil constantly has the optimum amount of moisture.

But it is not just technology that is allowing producers to grow more for less.

In recent years there has been a spate of activity in the breeding space as international seed companies realise the potential in the Australian industry.

Plant breeders are working feverishly to develop varieties with increased tolerance to abiotic stresses that cause millions of damage every year in Australia such as heat, salinity and frost.

Keeping an eye on the future is also a priority, with key research businesses such as Syngenta investing in projects, like the Seedcare Institute, located at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga.

Through its lab, Syngenta will help contribute to higher yielding crops with the development of better seed applications to withstand pests and disease, while making efficient use of available moisture.

Farmers and the agronomy sector are buying into the research and make real strides in terms of future-proofing their businesses.

Lachlan Hauser, a regional winner of the 2018 Syngenta Growth Awards and a potato grower in south-east Queensland, has improved his productivity while keeping his operation sustainable, throughout the production process.

Right from seeding time, where he has taken steps to improve the seed treatment process to improve plant germination through the growing season where he utilises integrated pest management strategies, Mr Hauser is dedicated to improving the business.

He said he had looked at methods of improving the business and decided an overall strategy was the best way forward.

“We are now looking after the soil and environment and taking a holistic approach to the business.”

For Elders Bairnsdale agronomist Noel Jansz, also a regional winner in the Growth Awards, the technology advances over the past decade are helping him take his clients to the next level.

Mr Jansz uses technologies such as satellite imagery, drones and monitoring systems to gather large chunks of data which can then be used in the farm decision making process for his horticultural clients in eastern Victoria.

Like Mr Hauser, he said a holistic approach was critical to the sustainability of farm businesses and he is committed to integrated crop management, which looks at issues such as including site selection, soil management, seed and planting material, crop rotation, crop nutrition, pest and water management.

He said using technology could help farmers better identify the correct timing for inputs.

Not necessarily to boost yields, but to keep soils in good condition and able to consistently produce high quality produce – the key in his industry.

To do this, he said getting the timing of processes such as sowing and spraying right was critical.

“Getting the timing right helps you get top quality produce and with that top quality you will improve returns.”

The overall winners of this year’s Syngenta Growth Awards will be announced in Sydney on December 5 at the Growth Awards gala dinner.