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Aust grain farmers see yields flow from scientific research

15 September, 2014

A science project with tangible benefits for Australian grain farmers facing variable water availability was found to increase crop yields by $250 a hectare and has now received the 2014 Department of Agriculture Landcare Eureka Prize for Sustainable Agriculture.

Australia's Chief Agricultural Scientist, Dr Kim Ritman, presented the award to the CSIRO and Grains Research and Development Corporation's team represented by Stuart Kearns, Julianne Lilley and Kristen Verburg at the award ceremony in Melbourne for their initiative making water efficient grain production easier.

Raise the profile of science

"The Eureka Awards, now in their 25th year, are the 'Oscars of Australian science' and are designed to raise the profile of science in the community by recognising Australian scientific research and innovation - and commercialisation," Dr Ritman said.

"It is critically important to the Department of Agriculture that we encourage investment of scarce science research dollars in projects that directly benefit our primary producers. After all farmers are actively engaged in sustainably managing over 60 per cent of our continent.

"This joint CSIRO and GRDC project did just that - it developed simple techniques to use water efficiently that have been proved to work on farms."

Key findings include:

  • Participating farmers boosted yields by more than 50 per cent without any increase in water usage
  • Sowing legumes as 'break crops' between other crops increased yields by up to 83 per cent
  • Some farms taking part in the project benefited by 60 per cent summer yield increases because of weed control and ground cover management - early sowing of slow maturing grain added another 22 per cent yield increase
  • Average winter crop yield increased by 25 per cent in all test regions (Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia)
  • "The outcomes of the CSIRO / GRDC project are especially important in Australia where our farmers periodically have to deal with droughts. We know farmers can't always just do more with less - just as any of us can't - but what they may be able to do is apply these techniques to help manage drought conditions better," Dr Ritman said.

Two other finalists were selected for consideration in awarding the $10,000 Department of Agriculture Landcare Eureka Prize for Sustainable Agriculture.

The Future Farm Cooperative Research Centre's project that increased profits on livestock properties while improving surface water and soil retention - as well as Professor Richard Oliver's wheat disease team from Curtin University that sped up the process of developing disease resistant wheats.

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