Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF) has a built a reputation as a game-changer for agribusiness across the Mallee through its cutting-edge, collaborative research and development initiatives.
There are many significant milestones the organisation has reached over its first two decades, including fostering the uptake of no-till and other sustainable farming systems across some of Australia’s most challenging farming country.
But the organisation isn’t one to rest on its laurels and its sights are focused squarely on continuing to investigate and deliver the latest research and applications to improve farm profitability, sustainability and efficiency.
So what will the future of farming look like in another 20 years?
Here are some of the areas of new research that could shape the face of agriculture across the Mallee.
Could Mallee farmers soon manage their sheep with a few clicks of a computer keyboard?
Virtual fencing has the potential to provide the answer to managing grazing pressure on farms that have removed fences to create larger paddocks to streamline cropping operations.
A partnership between MSF and the CSIRO has shown the technology can be used to restrict the access of grazing sheep to a defined area within a paddock.
On-farm trials at Gol Gol in NSW using collar technology developed for cattle management have already shown that sheep can be excluded from a section of paddock vulnerable to erosion.
Trials at Waikerie in SA showed sheep were able to quickly adapt to the virtual control system.
The technology opens up new opportunities for targeted grazing for weed management, better management of pasture establishment, protecting environmentally vulnerable areas and potential labour savings.
High Performance Soils
MSF is at the forefront of new research into improving soil management through its collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils (Soil CRC).
With estimates that underperforming soils are costing Australian farmers billions of dollars in revenue each year, the work of the Soil CRC and its 39 partners over the next decade could be a game-changer for farming.
With farmers, scientists and industry experts uniting on a range of research projects, MSF members will be at the forefront of this new wave of innovation.
They’ll see greater investment in soil productivity research and adoption, access to research and scientists from across Australia, opportunities to interact with like-minded farmer groups and a long-term perspective on soil productivity research.
Untapped potential of pulses
MSF’s research and Mallee farmers’ adoption of break crops has created a new opportunity for farmers to think more about crop diversity.
While wheat has been bred in Australia for well over a century, the lentil and chickpea industry only started nationally in the 1990s. Yet since then, a pulse industry has already developed in the low-rainfall Mallee.
A shift in Australian eating patterns and increasing domestic consumption of lentils and chickpeas are driving expanded market opportunities for growers.
That, in turn, could see plant breeders look towards developing new varieties suitable for lower rainfall marginal areas such as the Mallee.