The Focus Paddocks project aimed to improve the true value of the break crop, determine the real dollar value and obtain more profitable farm businesses throughout the region.
The links between break crops (lupin, canola, pulses, improved pasture) and improved wheat yields are well known. The benefits are understood by those that use break crops in the rotation. What is their real dollar value? Are you able to put a figure on it? are just a few questions the project is looking to answer.
Observing the trends at the time of the project one could wonder if there really was a positive dollar value in break crops. The trend over the last ten years (prior to the project) was more wheat and less break crops. The areas and tonnages of break crops has decreased significantly since 2000, with the exception of canola in the last three seasons (prior to the project). Wheat on wheat cropping was the predominant rotation.
The Focus Paddocks project (Putting the Focus on Profitable Break Crop and Pasture Sequences in WA) was designed to help with provision of consistent and reliable information regarding break crops and pastures.
The project operated throughout the wheatbelt. Sampling took place on 66 properties, from 188 paddocks, throughout the wheatbelt. The project was affiliated with eight farming groups. These included Fitzgerald Biosphere Group, Liebe Group, Facey Group, West Midlands Group, North Stirlings Pallinup Nature Resource Group, Yuna Farm Improvement Group, Holt Rock Group and Mingenew Irwin Group. It was hoped that these linkages generated discussion and learning across the state about your Focus Paddocks. The wheat on wheat rotation has problems with weeds and disease. Are greater problems still to come? Perhaps recent advances in wheat agronomy and production technologies are performing the functions of a break crop more cheaply and effectively.
Sampling included soil characterisation to a depth of 1 metre, soil pogos for nutrient and disease analysis, weed counts as well as plant leaf and root disease analysis. To add value to the physical paddock data are a series of grower interviews. These will help to understand the decisions made in each of the paddocks. By knowing the reasons for the decisions we were able to provide tailored information to assist growers to get the best from their crop, be it cereal or otherwise.
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