Regional research agronomy project

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'Regional Research Agronomy' is the abbreviated working title for the 'Building crop protection and crop production agronomy research and development capacity in regional Western Australia' project (DAW00256), a five year co-investment of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).  

Boosting regional agronomy capacity

Over the period 2016–2021 the project boosted regional agronomy capacity by developing the skills of recent entrants to the grains industry while they undertook regionally-based research, development and extension activities.

Based in Albany, Esperance, Merredin, Northam and Geraldton, the team worked across five Western Australian port zones and focused on an array of locally identified issues of priority to the grains industry and farming systems.

Over the course of the project DPIRD mentored 19 early-career scientists to develop skills in grains and farming systems research, development and extension. The program enabled participants to transition to new roles across the grains industry and into farming systems R&D.

5 people looking at crop disease in trial plots
Regional agronomy team learning about DPIRD crop disease trials, September 2020

Research, development and extension 

The project was involved in a wide range of regional priority-aligned project activities in collaboration with grower groups and/or other research projects. Access to trial reports and focus areas for the project's research, development and extension are summarised below.

Trial reports

All trial and demonstration reports on these and other activities can be found at the  GRDC Online Farm Trials website.

Click on 'Search', scroll down to 'Related Programs' and scroll down further to 'Regional Research Agronomy' and tick the box.  At the top of the Search list click the green 'Go' button to view the list of trials from the project.

Pest and disease surveillance and management

Sampling wheat crop for crown rot at Merredin in October 2016
Sampling wheat for crown rot at Merredin in October 2016

With the team of agronomists dispersed across the regions, capacity to undertake pest and disease surveillance was significantly increased.  The project contribution included: 

  • over 500 reports of pests and diseases , including collection of samples for resistance testing and area freedom surveillance for exotic pests and diseases. 
  • oat disease survey of Kwinana West port zone in 2018 complementing and supporting work undertaken by  the National Hay Agronomy project's  pathology surveillance program
  • surveys conducted with growers and consultants to review existing crop protection decision support tools  to inform future investment
  • a multifaceted approach to sclerotinia management in season through petal testing, apps, remote sclerote monitoring for apothecia and spray trials.


Managing snails and other invertebrates

A range of snail management activities were conducted including:

  • Monitoring using time-lapse cameras to correlate snail activity and lifecycles to local weather conditions. This work added value to other projects being carried out by DPIRD research scientist Svetlana Micic, Stirlings to Coast Farmers and SEPWA,  resulting in improved timing and efficacy of bait application.
  • Monitoring data were also used to investigate the behaviour of other pests, in particular slaters and vegetable beetles.


Investigating soil-borne and root diseases

Woman in paddock of wheat stubble using pogo to collect a soil sample
Soil sampling for Predicta B test to assess risk of soil-borne disease

Research and surveillance activities investigating soil-borne diseases included:

  • an extensive root disease survey across the Kwinana East port zone to characterise soil borne disease risk in the eastern wheatbelt 
  • crown rot management following different variety and nutrition strategies
  • using break crops to manage root lesion nematodes.


Break crops and pastures

2 people kneeling in wheat stubble llokign for emerging break crops
Esperance regional agronomists inspecting break crop trial for crop emergence, May 2019

The project conducted several trials and activities exploring the success of break crops or pastures and/or their effect on cereal crop productivity:

  • high value pulses trial at Grass Patch near Esperance to investigate the effect on cereal yields through disease and weed control and increased nitrogen availability
  • compilation of 15 case studies of growers' experiences growing faba beans on the south coast
  • investigating effect of legume pastures and serradella on subsequent cereal crops in the northern wheatbelt.


Cover of Growing faba beans publication
DPIRD 2021. Growing faba beans on the south coast of Western Australia 

Crop agronomy and weed management

The agronomy team collaborated with growers, grower groups and researchers to add value to research on frost, integrated weed management, summer weed control and local variety validation, including:

  • collaborating with GRDC frost project DAW00227 in evaluation of frost sensitivity of barley, wheat and oat varieties in relation to sowing date
  • conducting local validation of wheat varieties in the eastern wheatbelt with Merredin and Districts Farm Improvement Group 
  • exploring options for managing matricaria in the eastern wheatbelt
  • continued monitoring of ryegrass management in 27 long-term focus paddocks, work initiated by agronomist Peter Newman in 2000 
  • investigating harvest weed seed management in the Geraldton and Albany port zones where trials were established to assess the efficacy of control methods.
  • implementing summer weed time of removal trials following a widespread summer rainfall event in March 2017.


Addressing soil constraints

Two people crouching in paddock stubble using instrument to measure soil moisture in in a furrow
Measuring soil moisture in inclusion furrow treatment at Kalannie local lime sources trial 

Project participants conducted trials across the grainbelt to manage soil constraints such as acidity, compaction and non-wetting. They tested DPIRD decision- support tools aimed at prioritising soil constraints and assessing the potential benefit of liming on soil pH. Work included:

  • In the Kwinana East port zone, the value of using on-farm lime sources was investigated through a series of small plot trials, large-scale demonstrations, field days, decision-support tools and workshops. Results from the trials and feedback from the workshops were incorporated into DPIRD’s iLime app.
  • assisted in testing the ROSA (Ranking Options for Soil Amelioration) decision support tool 
  • overcoming subsoil constraints on a range of soil types. 


 Trial protocols

The project has compiled useful protocol documents to aid with planning and implementing research trials for people new to agricultural research. Contact Megan Abrahams if you would like a copy.