On Trial - Unearthing new crop varieties and products

Article I Lucy Moore

Photography I Dean Kinlyside

With so many emerging crop management strategies and new products constantly becoming available, appropriate and timely research is critical for farm advisors to ensure growers are equipped with the best advice for their operations.


Since its establishment, Delta Agribusiness has developed an in-crop trials program which is identifying priority issues and solutions for the agronomy team to pass on to farming clients.


Delta Ag Senior Farm Consultant, Tim Condon, who heads the R&D program for Delta Ag NSW based at Harden, said the program was used to fill knowledge gaps and technical aspects of agronomy, management, as well as, information on new crop varieties and crop protection products.


“Dynamic things are always happening in agriculture. A lot of work goes into getting protocols and products organised, finding a site, doing all the assessments throughout the season and reporting back to the group, hosting field days and site visits.


“Our growers really enjoy the process and look forward to the information at the other end, and they have confidence in the advice our agronomists are giving them.”

The in-crop trials are currently located in paddocks throughout Delta Ag’s geographical footprint in regional NSW and Victoria. Delta Ag Executive Director and Group Manager Advisory, Chris Duff said there is input from all sectors of the advisory team into the focus of the trials.


“The importance of the trials has certainly increased over the years and the program is a large investment to make. These research sites and results are then used for our internal training programs, in our crop management publication each year, and advisors use the data for their pre-season meetings as well,” Chris said.


Tim Condon said the trial programs are aimed at a broad spectrum of farming angles dependent on current farming issues or farmers needs arising at the time.


“This year there has been a bit of a blow out on leaf diseases in cereals given the wet weather, so we’ve focused more on fungicides,” Tim said.


“Generally we work with suppliers who have set trials to work out what we can do from our end to complement the work they do.”


AGRIVision (a Delta Ag company) Swan Hill’s Research and Development Manager for Victoria, Jarrod Brown, brings 20 years of experience to the field of trial work and believes if it weren’t for in-house trial work, many production company trials would not receive testing under such a variety of conditions.


“Unless we produce our own data in our own patch, on our own weed spectrum, the relevance loses its lustre in terms of what we believe and what we don’t believe.


“If we’ve done the leg work beforehand on our own, we can hit the market running with a product and get the best value for our growers.”


Jarrod said there were a number of crossovers between Victorian trial work and work done further north.


Chris Duff also made particular mention of a three-year trial Delta conducted seven years ago which was an industry first, focusing on the plethora of alternative fertilizers. He said the specific data from alternative fertiliser trials was instrumental in providing growers with clarity on their value and likely responce patterns. Such an extensive trial had not been conducted within the industry before.


“Ryegrass is the number one weed in cropping, and we conduct a series of trials every year comparing all the common products and likely pre-emergant mixes. It’s an everchanging space and we have to keep abreast of the best options for our clients.


“As the industry transitioned from open-pollinated varieties to hybrid, we have conducted three years of trial work on establishing the benefits of hybrids, and then conducted seeding rate trials to establish the right sowing rates. That was established due to the high cost of the seed, coupled with the significantly bigger seed size of hybrid seed. In addition to that we did trials to establish the cost benefit ratio of retained hybrid seed versus hybrid seed. This was proven to be clearly in favour of first generation hybrid seed. We have also had a high focus on canola agronomy and have implemented a lot of the fungicide management strategies identified in our own canola trials.”


As part of a growth in Delta’s in-crop trials, agronomist Nell Evans, based at Grenfell, has now joined the Delta network to assist Tim Condon in the management of the program.


Nell was previously employed by national agronomy contract research company, Kalyx.


“It’s been nice coming into the commercial sphere with Delta where I’m now seeing some of the molecules I had been working on for three years being run in practical trials in the Delta program,” Nell said.


“I enjoy looking at herbicides and seeing them in a use pattern and working out where they would fit in the Australian market in terms of broadacre cropping, potentially becoming available as early as next year.


“The Delta trials are really about deciding how we can best fit the chemistry into paddock programs for our agronomists.”


Nell said levels of ryegrass resistance to glyphosate and clethodim continue to be particularly prominent issues across the landscape this season. “Our Delta team are at the forefront of looking at how new chemistries fit with existing chemistries to be used in our agronomic patterns in our growing regions,” she said.


“The trials are not limited to cropping and we’ve been quite interested in doing thistle trials in grazing country this year looking at best management practices in pasture systems.


“The key for trial work in all regions is being able to pick up a product and place it where we think it will benefit growers most in terms of deliverables for the incoming season.”


Tim said looking beyond trials currently under investigation in small plot replicated situations, there were goals to expand into paddock scale strip trials as ideas gained momentum.


Tim added that in recent times with Delta Ag having its dedicated precision ag team, some of the in-crop trials were conducted in conjunction with that group’s large scale paddock trials. Some of the research has been validated by the precision ag team and their technology.


Nell is excited to see how far the program could grow. “The ability to invest in knowledge in order to pick signals in the market and not get convoluted by marketing material is pretty impressive.”


Nell also said her involvement with the Grenfell growers’ community group brought home the real meaning behind her work. “We take the group through a canola and cereal variety trial field day out here so they get value out of that straight away,” she said.


“They get to see, touch and feel the results for themselves. They can see what’s looking good and see what’s being hit by rust this year – more than just a graph on a page.


“It’s really giving back to our farming community.”

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