Western Australian Farming Systems project

Page last updated: Tuesday, 19 July 2022 - 11:39am

The Western Australian Farming Systems project is a five-year co-investment by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), undertaking farming systems research and development in the medium and low rainfall regions of WA.

The project aims to increase adoption and integration of agronomic and systems innovations which support increased whole farm profitability through managing enterprise mix and rotations.

Background

WA farming systems have evolved over the last 20 years with increases in both the area cropped, and yields achieved. Growers continuously adapt to strategic risks through effective management decisions and innovative production approaches. Much of the system innovation that occurs is underpinned by research and development.   

Growers must continue to adapt to strategic risks such as climate change and a shift in production systems towards carbon neutrality, to remain internationally competitive, sustainable, profitable and build the climate resilience of their production systems. 

Farming systems research and development

Using a multi-disciplinary farming systems research approach, this project will address three main farming systems considerations:  

  • System break options that deliver improved profit and acceptable risk
  • A thorough analysis on the opportunities and risk of changing the timing of seeding
  • Analysis of management options for maintaining profitability under low greenhouse gas (GHG) emission scenarios

The approach will include field trials, on-farm research and monitoring, grower and industry participation, and whole farm economic and biometric modelling.

Research trial activities will be conducted at three regions representing different production environments across the WA grainbelt:

  • Medium rainfall, north – led from Geraldton
  • Low rainfall – led from Merredin
  • Medium rainfall, south – led from Katanning.
Research trial activities will be conducted across three regions
Research trial activities will be conducted across three regions – Medium rainfall north, low rainfall and medium rainfall, south

Project opportunities

The WA Farming Systems project will provide the opportunity for some key outcomes:

  • Direct growers and industry involvement (participatory R&D) in developing farming systems relevant to the local production environment and to meet future challenges and opportunities.
  • Systems trials generate data to confirm impact of current and future rotation practices on key climate and farm business resilience drivers and understand the within and between season implications of management decisions.
  • Assess GHG emissions to establish baseline data, modelling and analysis of existing and transformative farming systems.
  • Multidisciplinary, cross-organisational collaboration to build knowledge on underlying dynamics of current and new farming systems by bringing growers and industry together with R&D collaborators and the project team, with the skills and expertise relevant to undertake field-based R&D; biological and bio-economic modelling; whole farm economic analysis; statistical analysis & result interpretation; extension and support practice change.
  • DPIRD research capacity increased through recruitment of five new early career scientists and two technical officers, including regional appointments
  • Leverage off investment - additional program-level activities with the Grains Transformation and Climate Resilience Programs in the WA Agricultural Research Collaboration and link closely to the development of the Agriculture Sectorial Emissions Reduction Scheme (AgSERS).
  • Support adoption of new practices through partnerships with grower groups, the Grower Group Alliance and the South-West WA Drought Hub.

Grower and industry consultation

Underpinning the participatory R&D approach of the project, is the grower and industry consultation which begins in July and will include:

  • Initial project consultation to confirm research themes aligned to the project outputs
  • Establishing local Regional Innovation Groups for each of the three target regions that will provide annual input into project research activity
  • Establishing a participatory R&D process for on-going engagement.

The consultation will ask participants to:

  • Conceptualise future farming systems for their regions
  • Identify key constraints, required changes and potential innovation options of existing systems
  • Identify the key research questions that will identify pathways to achieve adoption of future systems (ways in which the trial ideas can be adopted).

Key growers and industry representatives have been invited to the initial consultation, with face-to face workshops at:

  • Geraldton (20 July)
  • Lake Grace (27 July)
  • Merredin (29 July)

In August, an online workshop will also be available. Further opportunity for a broader participation will be provided through an online survey.

Please contact Megan Abrahams for more information if you would like to participate in the consultation process

Acknowledgement

The WA Farming Systems project is a five-year co-investment by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

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