Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation comment with CSU Professor Jim Pratley

CROPPING: CSU Professor of Agriculture, Jim Pratley from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation reflecting on the changes in cropping.
CROPPING: CSU Professor of Agriculture, Jim Pratley from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation reflecting on the changes in cropping.

Sowing rains have arrived and it's timely to reflect on the changes in the way the crop is planted.

Once farmers would cultivate their paddocks several times to prepare the seedbed. If the rain came at the wrong time, you couldn't get onto the paddock and sowing was often delayed compromising yields.

The experience of both wind and water erosion off cultivated fields was common in the 'traditional' days but largely became a thing of the past as cultivation was replaced by the knockdown herbicides.

The advent of this chemical seedbed preparation and direct drilling meant crops could be sown on time or even early to maximise the length of the growing season and hence the yield of the crop. Soil structure was no longer being destroyed and so water and nutrient relations were stabilised, at least relatively.

The lack of soil cover in recent drought times have created some dust storms - imagine what they would be like if the soils had been cultivated. Conservation agriculture has continued to evolve recognising that soil cover needs to be retained so moisture is better conserved and technology now allows seed to be sown with high accuracy.

Research, development and innovation have played a key role in helping farmers to make these changes to maintain production and reclaim the environment at the same time. At the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation our research is working to help farmers face the challenges ahead.

One of those is herbicide resistance, with 25 years of testing at Charles Sturt University showing 80 percent of more than five thousand samples of annual ryegrass tested over that time being resistant to at least one herbicide group.

Our projects investigating integrated weed management and crops that can out-compete the weeds will help farmers reduce herbicide use. Research is also focused on improving the productivity and sustainability of cropping systems with projects tackling sub-soil acidity and management of crop pests and diseases.

History shows us that farmers are innovative and adapt to change. I am sure armed with sound research the industry will continue to meet these challenges.