Farming Systems (South)
Farming in southern NSW principally consists of mixed farming enterprises west of the Great Dividing Range. Although it can vary considerably throughout the region generally it consists of 60% cropping and 40% livestock, principally sheep. Wheat accounts for approximately 60% of total crop production, followed by barley (15%), canola (10%), oats (8%), and the pulses. Rice production, formerly the second major crop, has reduced considerably as a result of the droughts and water policies and now accounts for 5% of crop produced.
Rainfall is somewhat winter dominant. Summer rainfall events do occur but they are too irregular and the evaporation losses are too great to support summer cropping, although some summer cropping of rice, maize and soybean occurs in the Murrumbidgee, Coleambally and Murray Valley Irrigation Areas.
The western plains generally have lower and more erratic rainfall than the eastern slopes and tablelands. Productivity in the plains is lower, and as a consequence, holdings tend to be larger and water management is a key feature of the farming system. Higher rainfall further east generally permits more continuous cropping. Still further east on the tablelands grazing predominates and cropping is largely for fodder or feed grain purposes.
Soils are predominantly red brown earths, low in nutrients and soil carbon. Soil pH is often around 4.5-5.5.
Key issues for farming systems in southern NSW include:
- improving soil structure;
- improving productivity per unit of input (land, N, P, water, and energy (fuel);
- coping with and arresting acidity, salinity, and sodicity;
- addressing reduced P availability and the increasing cost of bagged N;
- the balancing of stored water with rainfall;
- arresting declines in perennial groundcover;
- ameliorating the feed gaps for livestock;
- reducing the period of non production; and
- resistance to chemicals used for weed/pest/ disease management;
- slow adoption of technology.
The desire is for mixed farming to remain:
- profitable despite climate change, increasing costs of inputs and declining terms of trade;
- productive while protecting the natural resource base.
So, research in the Farming Systems South Unit is focussed on providing management options for farmers to overcome identified constraints and:
- improve productivity;
- increase production;
- protect the natural resource base; and
- cope with climate change.
Develop agronomic packages and innovative practices that increase productivity by
- Providing targeted agronomic research data for new wheat, canola, oilseed mustards, and pulse varieties that will be synthesised into management packages for the south-eastern Australian cropping region
- Development of management packages to increase the adoption of new annual legumes and the supply of low cost nitrogen for crops and pastures.
- Providing advanced knowledge on barley agronomy to growers and advisors across the entire region.
- Optimising production, profit and sustainability of cropping systems through improved performance and profit of field pea, faba bean and chickpea.
- Industry development of Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) through agronomic research.
- Producing improved mainstream rice varieties for the Australian rice industry with increased yield potential, yield stability, grain quality and improvement in water productivity (kg grain/ML).
- Developing resilient perennial forage legume cultivars with appropriate management packages compatible with cropping systems in the low (<375 mm) and medium (375-500 mm) rainfall Mediterranean regions of southern Australia.
Develop germplasm and systems for efficient nutrient and water cycling by
- Maintaining wheat yield and quality in an environment of adverse climate conditions by understanding and improving drought tolerance and water use.
- Identifying cereal genotypes with high yield potential when grown under irrigation.
Develop plant germplasm to increase productivity over a wide range of environments by
- Developing molecular markers that will enable selection for reduced LMA expression and assist in eliminating the genetic defect in the long term.
- Adapting canola to climate change through understanding genetic variation, flowering control and heterosis.
- Finding the genetic basis for chalky belly in rice.
- Development of low temperature tolerant rice germplasm.
- Improving profitability and sustainability of the Australian soybean industry through release of new varieties possessing desirable combinations of higher yield, better agronomic traits, broader adaptation, better disease resistance, better weathering tolerance and higher value and specific culinary or functional traits.
- Evaluate in NSW narrow-leaf lupin varieties produced in WA.
- Evaluation of improved barley varieties for production in southern NSW.
Conduct economic risk analyses of current and future farming practices to meet production and NRM demands by
- Conducting economic assessment of profitable, water use efficient irrigation and cropping systems adopted from Northern Victoria to Lachlan Valley.
- Using economic and hydrological modelling to aid farmers make decisions to manage salinity.
Develop germplasm for resistance breeding for endemic and exotic diseases by
- Developing bread wheat germplasm comprising an array of genes conferring resistance to Septoria triticii blotch for use in Australian wheat breeding programs.
- Developing screening technology, understanding the genetic control of key priority traits (Blackleg resistance, tolerance to drought, tolerance to frosting, manganese tolerance, canola grain quality, flowering time and shatter resistance), and then developing molecular markers for the genes responsible leading to novel germplasm for use in canola breeding.
- Disease screening of barley genotypes for resistance to scald.
Develop feedbase management practices for animal production systems by
- Increasing the adoption of perennial pasture species in southern NSW by demonstrating their productivity, persistence, summer dormancy and environmental benefits.
- Assessing the value of old man saltbush as a feed supplement in alley farming practices in central NSW.
- Commercialisation of five Lotus cultivars
Key Collaborations and Partnerships
- EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation
- NSW Centre for Agricultural Genomics
- Grains R&D Corporation
- Meat and Livestock Australia
- Barley Breeding Australia
- Pulse Breeding Australia
- Farmer Groups: Farmlink, Riverine Plains, Central West Farming Systems
- Other State Government Departments
- Australian Centre Plant Functional Genomics
- Future Farm Industries CRC
Unit staff are located at Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute; Yanco Agricultural Institute, Temora ARAS; Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, Condobolin ARAS, Cootamundra District Office, Cowra ARAS.
Key facilities include land prepared and maintained for dry-land and irrigation farming trial work; lateral, centre pivot and flood irrigation; cereal and oil science laboratories; and molecular biology laboratories. Researchers also have access to expertise across a wide range of research and extension disciplines, pathology and entomology diagnostics; soil testing; feed testing; animal house for livestock feeding studies; biometricians and economists. Through the E H Graham Centre researchers also have access to honours and post-graduate students.
|Current Project Summaries - Southern Farming Systems as of 3 October 2007
The Farming Systems South research unit has undertaken research to better understand and improve the productivity of primary industries. View the results of their research in summaries of their scientific outputs. These are organised by year of publication.
Find a list of Farming Systems South scientists.
Dr John Oliver
Research Leader, Farming Systems South
Phone 02 02 6938 1816