BRENDON CANT brendon at iinet.net.au
Wed Mar 23 07:36:10 CET 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Reflecting on almost 40 years as a cereal agronomist, Dr John Angus of CSIRO
Plant Industry, Canberra, suggests that the ability of farmers to innovate
for themselves will help ensure a positive and sustainable future for
southern Australian broadacre farms.

Traditionally, there had been up to a 30 year delay between research and
on-farm adoption.

The next big challenge, or opportunity, broadacre farmers face will be
re-integrating livestock and grazing with cropping.

"Opportunities are there to introduce perennial pastures, grazing of crops
and using failed crops as a feed source," Dr Angus told a packed audience at
The University of Western Australia, while delivering the 2011 Hector and
Andrew Stewart Memorial Lecture, titled 'The remarkable improvements in
Australian mixed farming' and hosted by The UWA Institute of Agriculture.

Increased farm sizes, more cropping, a greater proportion of broadleaf crops
and improved wheat quality and yield marked fundamental changes to the mixed
crop-livestock farms of southern Australia during the period from 1980 to

Dr Angus proposed that the major contributors to improved wheat productivity
had been breeding, including resistance to disease and stresses, crop
management, including planting  times, nutrition, stubble management and
crop sequences and, lastly, but most importantly,  adoption and innovation
by farmers.

He quantified wheat yield  improvements as being about 65 per cent due to
crop management and singled out Western Australian grain growers for their
commendable innovations in the stubble management and no tillage space.

"An important, but  previously underestimated management change, has been
the break-crop benefit of broadleaf crops which control cereal diseases," Dr
Angus said.

"Healthier cereals following break crops respond better to nitrogen
fertiliser, which can be confidently and strategically top dressed in
favourable seasons.

"Greater spreading of lime, which is needed to grow canola on acid soils,
which are especially prevalent in WA, improves the yield of subsequent
crops, enabling the return of lucerne and barley to previously acidified

"More water being used by higher yielding crops and by lucerne-based
pastures is also reducing the risk of salinity and water logging."

While crop yields fell in the past decade, this was mostly due to the effect
of droughts and because break crop benefits and supplementary nitrogen were
not expressed in dry conditions.

Dr Angus believed break crops could improve the yields of subsequent wheat
crops, suggesting lifts of 0.8 tonnes/ha after canola, 0.5 t/ha after oats
and a staggering 1.82 t/ha after lupins.

"It's obviously a real shame, therefore, that the lupin area has declined in
recent years," he said.

Legumes such as lupin, chickpea, field pea and faba bean also offered the
benefit of hydrogen fertilisation, which stimulated growth by up to 10 per
cent due to increased hydrogen in the soil.

"Partly offsetting lower returns from crops, however, was increased lamb
production, based on more perennial pasture, grazed crops and fodder
conserved from droughted crops," he said.h Fellow, CSIRO Plant Industry,

Dr Angus completed his doctorate at The University of  Melbourne and worked
briefly in the Australian Commonwealth Public Service, Canberra, before
joining CSIRO in 1973. He worked in the Land Division until 1987 and has
since been at CSIRO Plant Industry.

He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and
Technology and has been awarded a Medal of Australian Agriculture.

UWA Institute of Agriculture Director, Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique,
thanked Drs Andrew and Donald Stewart and other members of  the Stewart
family for their attendance at the 2011 Hector and Andrew Stewart Memorial
Lecture at UWA and their continued support.

The Hector and Andrew Stewart Memorial Lecture is delivered in memory of the
late Mr Hector J. Stewart, MLC and the late Mr Andrew Stewart, a member of
the teaching staff in Agriculture at The University of Western Australia
from 1937 to 1959.

Recent presenters include Professor Louw Hoffman (2010: 'Game: more than
just meat'), Department of Animal Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South
Africa and Associate Professor Patrick Tranel (2009: 'Winning The Weed
War'), University of Illinois, USA. The remarkable ewart Memorial Lecture


Authorised by 'The UWA Institute of Agriculture' and issued on its behalf by
Brendon Cant & Associates (+61) 8 9384 1122
Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique,
Director, The UWA Institute of Agriculture
(+61) 0411 155 396

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