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"Dynamic, Profitable & Sustainable Mallee Farming"
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Chairs Chat with Daniel Linklater

Dear members

What chilly starts we've had during the past week or two - always a good excuse to find some office jobs to start the day!

Most areas of the MSF region received an excellent start to the season, which allowed for timely crop establishment and good opportunities for both weed kill, initial knock down, and post-seeding selectives. The handy start also meant that all MSF trials were sown on time, and our contractors continue to navigate the tri-state border restrictions to ensure that all trials are maintained through to harvest.

In the northern Mallee we keenly await the arrival of the 'above average' winter rainfall - and I'm sure all areas of the region would appreciate a top up. Pleasingly, many areas are performing exceptionally well, and can look forward to some harvest joy.

The MSF Board met for a meeting via Zoom this week, which was a first for us. Many of you would have first hand experience of the various Covid-19 related border shenanigans, but the show must go on! We had a very productive meeting, and the team is highly motivated to continue seeking investment for new projects, and to ensure all current activity can be completed to a high standard in spite of the circumstances.

A big thank you to MSF staff and contractors for their huge effort to keep the ship steaming ahead through this season's choppy waters. Its been a challenging, but ultimately rewarding season so far. Also a shout-out to ANZ who signed up to provide major sponsorship to MSF a couple of months ago. We appreciate their support, and look forward to strong relationship with them into the future.

We look forward to catching up with as many of you as possible at our upcoming field days, and for those who cannot attend, we will have loads of material to share via MSF socials and the Immersive Ag platform.

Have a great day!
 
 
Update from our Program Manager, Tanja Morgan

It’s been great fun to be involved in a farming systems group working across three states ….that is until COVID-19 border closures have cut our Board members, contractors and personnel off from each over since March. What a challenging time for all!

With a more optimistic start to the season for many we were hoping to have our full field day program planned but as everyone is aware things are still up in the air right now. So, whilst we have made some plans for field days later in the year with some tentative dates below please keep checking in as the situation changes in each state, and we will do our best to keep you updated.

Key things to remember when attending MSF events:
·         Registering your attendance prior to an event is really important to make sure our attendance numbers meet the guidelines set in each state.
·         We will have number limits on our events this year but will try and accommodate people by rotating through sites in smaller groups.
·         If you are unwell please stay at home.
·         Remember to social distance even when in the field.

Hand cleaning facilities will be set up and available at each event.

We are still looking forward to seeing you in the field at our trial and demo sites, but in the meantime keep reading for more updates on what’s happening in the MSF region.

 
 
Save the date Field Days

Our normal field day season will look a little different but we are still hoping to get out and about and kick some dirt. There will be fewer events this year but we are still aiming to hold two in SA and VIC and one in NSW.

Thursday 10th September - Lameroo
Friday 11th September - Loxton

Tuesday 15th September - Kooloonong
Wednesday 16th September - Ouyen/Speed

TBC - NSW event

More to come soon...


 
 

SA & VIC - Deep ripping project update
Post ripping rolling improves trafficability and seeding at Pinnaroo

Paddock trafficability post ripping is a major constraint to the implementation of deep ripping on a commercial scale. Seeding and spraying operations are particularly affected which can lead problems such as poor establishment, machinery damage and in some circumstances soil erosion.  A new trial has been established by MSF near Pinnaroo in 2020 to investigate solutions to this problem.  The trial is part of the project "Deep ripping to enhance production on Mallee Sandy Soils" which is funded by SAGIT.
The trial is measuring the effect two different deep rippers (Hanton and Sharrad ripper fitted with straight shanked Tilco tine and a Williamson Agri ripper fitter with curved Michel tynes) and rolling on trafficability, seed depth and crop establishment.
The trial was sown commercially by the collaborating farmer using a Horwood Bagshaw PSS system.  A 3D map of the trial site post sowing shows that treatments had a significant effect on the soil surface condition post sowing.

Figure 1. 3D map of the trial showing difference in soil surface condition from different treatments post sowing.

The trafficability following ripping was measured by driving a Landcruiser ute across the surface immediately prior to seeding and then measuring the depth of the ruts left by the tyres.

Un-ripped treatments had shallow ruts of 40-50 mm but were 120 mm following deep ripping with both ripper types (Figure 2).  Consolidating the ripped surface with a roller reduced rut depth by 50% (Figure 2). The rut depth data correlated with seeding depth data with wheat seeds from un-ripped and ripped and rolled treatments emerging from 20-30 mm depth while unconsolidated ripped treatments emerged from 50 mm for the curved Michel tine and 60 mm for the Tilco straight tine (Figure 2). 

The position of the tine on the bar also affected the seed depth.  Where tines at the back of the seeding bar work excessively deep, they may throw soil onto adjacent rows sown with tines from the front of the bar.  This will increase the depth from which the seeds need to emerge and may also carry pre-emergent herbicides into the seed row. 

In this trial seeds were germinating from 75 mm depth from rows sown with the front tyne but only from 45 mm when sown with a back tine (Figure 2). This effect resulted in a 16% decrease in wheat establishment and reduced early vigour of the deep sown rows. 


Figure 2. Data collected from ripping x rolling treatments: depth of wheel rut (left); seeding depth of wheat seedlings (middle) ; seeding depth of wheat seedlings in un-rolled treatments for tines at the front or back of the seeding bar (right)
 
 

NSW - Sustainable no-till farming systems
This three year trial will explore the interaction between crop rotation and nitrogen fertiliser management in subsequent crops.

In the first year a range of break crop strategies have been implemented with treatment expected to have a large impact on nitrogen inputs into the soil. This includes lentils, vetch hay, vetch brown manure, medic pasture, fallow, oaten hay.

Each of these break phases will be followed with a wheat crop in year 2 and barley in year 3. Nitrogen fertiliser inputs will be varied within the wheat and barley crops so that a total of 10, 30, 50 and 70 kilograms of nitrogen inputs are applied to different treatments.
Monitoring of crop yields, nitrogen balance, and soil health will be conducted over the life of the trial to inform local farmers of the production and profitability risk of the different strategies and of the impact on the health of the regions cropping soils.

The trial was sown 3rd May 2020 and the table below shows early plant establishment measured at the site.

Starter Fertiliser
Legume Crops (Vetch, Lentil, Medic): Granulock Z 11, 21.8 @ 48.7
Cereal Crops (Wheat, Barley Oats): DAP S Z (16:17:0:8; 0.5%Zn) @62.5

This project is funded by Western Local Land Services

 
 
SA - Are you interested in being involved in
our SA Mallee Sheep Technology Producer
Group?
Another livestock project to announce! We have been working really hard in this space to meet the demands of our members and do more work on livestock in the farming system.

We were successful in receiving funding from Primary Industries and Regions in SA to start a Sheep Producer Technology group with Livestock Consultant Daniel Schuppan from Nutrien Ag Solutions.
 
The Producer Technology Group aims to:
  • Explore and share experiences and knowledge on ways that precision livestock management technologies can be used in red meat and wool production.
  • Learn from experts on how technologies could assist you to improve productivity, efficiency and profitability in your business.
  • Support producer members to implement and apply technology to improve productivity and profitability.

The group will meet 4 times over a 2 year period, with the format, content and delivery of the group’s activities tailored to suit group members’ knowledge and skills.
To kick things off a central meeting will be held at the Karoonda Footy Club rooms Tuesday 11th of August, to identify key livestock areas of interest and may include implementing electronic ear tags to improve management decisions, GPS sheep tracking, auto drafting, water point telemetry etc
The numbers for the group will be limited to 15 to make sure we get great discussion. At the moment we have some spare seats so if you are keen to be involved please register your interest to be involved with Sonia at  sonia.allen@msfp.org.au

Details for the meeting will be sent through upon registration.

 
 

Caption from our recent photo comp and so relevant to how we feel at MSF "Quick!!! We must cross the border before it shuts!!!

Editor’s note – BTW we are all staying put and doing the right thing 🙂


 
 

SA - What will the Mesonet measure?
The Mesonet towers are all in now and waiting for the components to arrive. There has been a delay in getting shipments of components, but we are hoping this process will begin in August. What will the Riverland & Mallee Mesonet measure?

Below is an example of from the data that will be freely available from every site in the Riverland and Mallee. This includes Vertical Temperature Difference for monitoring spray inversion conditions, Grain harvest code of practice, Temperature, relative Humidity (which is great for hay growers), wind at 2m and 10m, Delta T, Dew point, Rainfall and GFDI.

Vertical temperature Difference is represented by a traffic light system making it easy to see if certain sites have conditions that are good (green), worsening (orange) or no good for spraying (red) as a result of spray inversion conditions.

MSF will be organising workshops for growers, advisers, industry in the coming months. These workshops will cover spraying and spray drift and how to access and interpret the data from the Mesonet.

Have you heard our Mesonet podcast?

Check in with Peter Cousins and Tanja Morgan to hear about the new Mesonet for the Riverland and Mallee and why this will be a game changer for helping to manage spray drift.
The project team
Mark Stanley - Ag Excellence Alliance, Peter Cousins - Peter Cousins Consulting, Michael Faulkner - Agrilink Agricultural Consultants, Warwick and Damon Grace - Grace Research Network, Tanja Morgan & Sonia Allen - MSF

For project enquiries contact Mark Stanley, Project Leader, 0427 831 151 mark@regionalconnections.com.au

 
 
SA - Strategic use of summer crops to reduce
the impact of Mallee seeps
Demonstration site at Bowhill
Check out the video from Insight Extension for Agriculture Consultant Chris McDonough taking us through some management options he is working on with growers at the Bowhill Seeps site. Chris is working with growers in the SA Mallee to establish a range of practical management options and using tools for early seeps ID. 
 
 
VIC - Decision tree established to determine
the best approach to tackling Mallee Seeps
Demonstration site at Ouyen
In December 2018 a site was selected and established on the Vines Family farm east of Ouyen. The site was established for the evaluation of water drainage into a localised seep from a sand rise.

The initial inspection showed the site already had some tall wheat established to an area where the farmer had used his historical knowledge to establish a selected area with reasonable success.  The total area of successful establishment accounted for 0.75 Ha. We decided to try and determine if this area had created a buffer great enough for managing the recharge.
Picture 1) Area of established Tall Wheat Grass and Google Earth Image of seep site and Tall Wheat grass area
Management Decisions
A Decision Tree is being established to aid in the management of Seeps, based on 40 Years of Victorian Mallee monitoring and data collection. The steps below are being used to assist with the development of this Tree.

The following parameters must be established to use this Management tool
1. Water Table Salinity EC
Why? - Essential for long term successful management decisions of the arable acres affected. How salty is in and what is likely to grow in these areas?

2. Data Collection
Why?- Obtaining data spatial or other to give better understanding of the sites dimensions and past productivity  

3. Farm Management Priorities by the individual grower.
Why? - What does the grower want to do? The most effective course of treatment and action for the site may not line up with the goals of the grower.

4. Establishing a cost benefit analysis of the actionable treatment
Why?- Is the total cost of the potential mitigation management of the area too great for what it is going to achieve?

The Vines seeps site at Ouyen demonstrates the use of the decision tree to come up with management options that will work to address seeps and best fit the farming system.

Step 2. Data Collection

The data that was collected came from Google earth maps, NDVI and EM38 maps. This data helped clarify the area involved in the seeps direct entry and recharge points. Both the elevation and also NDVI have some relevant data for the soil type and also the spatial properties. The EM 38 clarifies the water table rising on the southern flat of the rise with some large numbers showing up in surface salt. 

3.  Farm Management Priorities by the individual manager.
Geoff discussed that his son was keen to realign the fences to better suit the soil types and a new placement as seen in Figure 1 enclosing some 26 Ha would be better in the future. Sturdy individual tree-guards would be utilised on the single row of trees spaced at 20 metres.

4. Establishing a cost benefit analysis of the actionable treatment
Every seepage site will be different and its management accordingly!
On this site the short-term treatment has been to establish salt tolerant grasses; aiming to both utilise seepage inflows and create groundcover to minimise evaporation and resultant salinization.

Long term treatment will be the establishment of a single row of strategically placed salt-tolerant trees above the seep. At 20 metre spacing and straight rows stepped to fit current farming practices, and these will replace the need for other works to remain in the future. Individual guards of sheep mesh (900x6000) will be used and relocated to new sites every 4 to 5 years.
The potential for the salinized affected area to be fenced and used as permanent pasture for stock has also been discussed with the cost of this being significantly higher.

AGRIvision consultants Rob Sonogan and Jarrod Brown have been working with our Vic farmers to demonstrate a range of management solutions for the Mallee seeps project.

More info on the Mallee Seeps project can be found here

The Mallee Seeps project is supported by Mallee Sustainable Farming, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the Grains Research Development Corporation and the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board.
 
 
Tri-state - Improving sheep nutrition through assessment of regional feed based nutrition deficiencies
MSF is excited to announce our official project partnership with AWI to investigate the feed value of a range of low rainfall crops and pastures.

Over two years this project will sample the feed value and mineral content of the following low rainfall crops and pastures - vetch, peas, lentils, serradella, lucerne, veldt grass, medic pasture, barley, canola and oats.

Feed tests will be captured in winter, spring, summer and autumn to build a picture of the nutrition value in these species to improve decision making on feed base management and livestock nutrition. It is also an opportunity to investigate if legumes can be a viable grazing option providing multiple end uses for legume crops grown in a low rainfall environment.

This project will involve livestock consultant, Hamish Dickson from AgriPartner Consulting and we plan to bring you regular project updates, some new Immersive Ag products and livestock workshops in the final year of the project.

 
 
SA - Can we get on top of barley grass in a mixed cropping enterprise?
The GRDC funded Barley grass project is in its second year of a three-year trial at Lameroo, aiming to determine the best rotations and weed management strategies for barley grass control in a mixed cropping enterprise. 

This trial is comparing the district practise strategy of wheat, pasture, wheat to a range of other crop rotations and strategies over three years to determine which will be the most successful in reducing barley grass and keeping numbers low.

The three-year demonstration plan is outlined below.
In 2019 nearly 90 mm of rainfall fell at the site in the 6-week period from approximately the middle or May to the end of June ensuring excellent conditions for crop and pasture establishment and pre-emergent herbicide efficacy. 

Both wheat and barley crop treatments established at a density of 100 plants m2 and pastures about 500 plants m2. There was a high background barley grass population at the site with approximately 150 plants m2 establishing in the medic treatments (Figure 1).  The application of knockdown and pre-emergent herbicide treatments in the wheat and barley plots reduced the barley grass population to 50 plants m2 (Figure 1). 
The results from the first year showed in crop management tactics had a large impact on the number of barley grass panicles in spring (Figure 2).  Cutting hay in the barley plots removed all panicles and spraying medic + barley plots with grass selective herbicides during winter minimised barley grass panicle number. 

On the other hand, where no in season control options were practiced, a high number of barley grass panicles remained in spring.  There where 263 panicles m2 in the wheat plots and 543 panicles m2 in the medic only plots.  However, both medic treatments were spray topped with glyphosate in spring with the aim of stopping seed set of the remaining panicles.  Data is still being collected on the effectiveness of the spray top treatments.  
Thanks to Lameroo farmer Brenton Pudney for hosting the trial.

Coming soon – stay tuned for the MSF Farmtalk podcast on Barley grass control with Chris Preston and Tegan Buckley.

 
 

Tri-state - Target 50 Decision making to keep ground cover in the system.
 
 
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