The Agronomy Network met for the second time in Echuca on Friday 9th December to hear about and discuss past and current agronomic and irrigation research occurring in our region.
The group heard from Agriculture Victoria Senior Research Scientists, Kevin Kelly and Mike Morris, on current and past research in the agronomic and irrigation hydrology space. Also on the agenda was an introduction to the Forage Value Index project by Ron Prestige from Dairy Australia. The session finished with a question and answer session with University of Southern Queensland Researcher, Geoff Cockfield, who was keen to understand the agronomists' perspective on what sustained and improved feedbase performance in the dairy industry might look like for our region. Geoff's work is part of a wider research project across Victoria funded by the Gardiner Foundation.
See below for a summary of the key messages from the day. The full presentations can be accessed here:
Rob O'Connor, an experienced Irrigation Officer with DEDJTR works with Accelerating Change on all things irrigation, including scheduling. Rob shares with us, below, lessons learnt from the project about soil moisture monitoring and the use of moisture probes, and the value of using ET data to schedule irrigations.
Lessons learnt about soil moisture monitoring
Soil moisture probes have been used on the partner farms under different forages in 2015-16 and through the recent winter-spring period. The probes have provided useful information largely for irrigation scheduling, particularly when the moisture probe information was regularly revised and used in conjunction with other scheduling methods already used on farm.
Getting the most out of probes
It was evident from probe data that a shallower depth of moisture extraction was occurring under pasture compared to lucerne. Moisture uptake was typically occurring to a depth of 50-70cm under pasture and 100-120cm for lucerne. (Refer to figures...
Many of the learnings to come from the presentations were directly applicable to dairy farms in our region. Faced with uncertain and varied climatic conditions, water availability and market volatility, grain farmers are chasing efficiency and looking to lower costs of production where it is sustainable and profitable to do so. Coupled with best management practice to get the basics right, farmers were encouraged to use a range of information tools available to them to identify where those extra 1-2% gains could be made.
Technology to drive efficiency: Moisture probes, drones and satellites.
A focus on lifting water productivity came through in technical presentations on irrigation scheduling and soil moisture monit...
Accelerating Change held two Open Days in May, one on each of the project partner farms – the Humphris’ in Tongala and the Stewart-Matthews’ in Yarrawalla – where data around the quality and yield of different forage types, and the impact of different irrigation strategies, had been collected over the spring and summer. Each of the partner farms worked closely with their respective consultants to conduct a financial analysis of their business with the benefit of comprehensive project data indicating how they performed across the season.
The Open Days provided an opportunity for all dairy farmers and industry professionals in the region to review the data as well as to hear from the partner farmers about what they learnt from the results and the decisions they have made going in to next season. Guest speakers at the Open Days included Seasonal Risk and Grains agronomist, Dale Grey of The Very Fast Break, Soil agronomist, Dale Boyd, and Farm Monitoring Solutions (FMS) technician, Adrian O...
At the Stewart PIT meeting in December, the group reviewed the pasture accumulation data and nutritive values for the season so far. The group was put to the test to see if they could judge by eye the pasture mass and quality characteristics Accelerating Change has been collecting. One of our twitter followers guessed in first go! What do you reckon?
Match the nutritive results with the pasture species on the left:
Chris Delladova from Kober in fodder beat in December
There has been significant excitement amongst farmers in the Accelerating Change project around the potential for fodder beets as a direct grazing option for the region. Fodder beet is high yielding annual crop which provides feed over late summer and autumn. It has large leafy top and large bulbs that sit high up out of the soil. This distinguishes it from sugar beet, where the majority of the bulb sits within the soil, and needs mechanical lifting in order to be grazed directly. Fodder beet also has a slightly softer bulb, and has been specifically bred for animal feed purposes, so has a lower nitrate content in the leaf than sugar beet.
Fodder beet is grown extensively in New Zealand and the UK, and has the potential for very high yields (30t/ha plus) under good management. Nutritive characteristics are around 12.5-13.5 ME and 6-8% protein. In Australia, fodder beet has been trialled in QLD, Tasmania and WA. There is an excellen...