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Newsletter: SA State Report

By Lachie Seears, 2013 Scholar and Chair

August 2017

Following on from last year’s incredibly wet year, this season started out quite dry and this has meant that this year’s seeding in traditional cropping areas was a stop / start affair.  With some farmers pulling the trigger and sowing the entire crop dry.  While it was a challenge for some farmers because of the dry, other areas that had some reasonable early rains had a dry June and a mild start to winter.  This meant for those producers that were lambing in this time, conditions were favourable and lamb losses were down, which meant marking numbers were up.

We have three 2017 Scholars; Toby Bekkers, Jamie Heinrich and Jonas Woolford that have completed their GFP’s and are in the process of personal travel and completing their written report.

Here is a little thought from Jamie as he returned from some personal travel and a GFP:

“I’m finally back home on Kangaroo Island, but what an unbelievable trip it has been! 11 weeks (78 days), 13 countries, 77,000km and over 30 flights! I would like to thank the over 100 different farms/universities/businesses/friends that hosted me over that time. So many welcoming, friendly, intelligent and inspiring people! It really gives me faith in the future of world Agriculture. I would also like to thank Nuffield Australia and PPSA for selecting and sponsoring me. Last but not least, thank you to the awesome group that I travelled with for six weeks (and country hosts), I can honestly say you are now friends for life, what a journey! Can’t believe I still have another six weeks of personal travel to go later in the year…

2016 Christmas Party (James Robertson):

The 2016 Christmas event was hosted by (then) Chairman James Robertson (2011 Scholar) and wife Kerrie. The event made the most of the high river and a large part of the day was spent touring via dinghy through the back waters of the internationally listed Ramsar Wetlands of the Chowilla Floodplain. The day was also supported by 2016 Scholar Dennis Holder (2016 Scholar) who brought his boat up from Adelaide, so that all who attended could get out on the water. Next time Dennis will bring a little more fuel to avoid being towed home! Also, thank you to local Andrew Graham who helped at the event by donating his time and a boat.  It was great to see 2017 NSW Scholar Felicity McLeod coming across for the day, as well as Nuffield Australia CEO Jodie Dean and National Chair Andrew Fowler.  The day finished off with a BBQ and some great fellowship.  Some numbers for the day – 26 attendees, 35km on the road with boats – 70km on the water with boats. All in all, it was a great day out, some wonderful scenery and great Nuffield Australia people.

2017 State Tour and AGM:

We held this year’s state AGM in the Riverland at the beginning of April and had a small group of Scholars that met in Renmark on the Friday night, then we held our tour on the Saturday where we visited some exciting businesses.  We are very thankful for the hospitability of Nuffield Australia Scholars John Gladigau (2007 Scholar) and Robin Schaefer (2012 Scholar) at “Bulla Burra” to see how they are making collaborative farming work for them. We got back on the bus and ventured to “Century Almonds” to learn about the production system and to understand how much water and nutrition it takes to produce the big crops they do. It was also a good opportunity to see some of the specialised machinery at work as they were harvesting almonds while we were there. We picked up Dave Reilly (2012 Scholar) and had a look at his Date palm plantation.

The tour diverted to the Woolshed brewery, located on the banks of the Murray River.  From there we ventured to “Woolenook Fruits” to see Ben Haslett’s (2015 Scholar) intense operation. The highlight was seeing his state of the art packing shed.  The final visit for the day, was to Yates Electrical to look at a solar farm. (Below: group at Woolenook Fruits).

State AGM and Tour April 2017

We held our AGM and dinner at the Renmark Hotel, James Robertson (2011 Scholar) finished his term as Chairman.  He has now stepped down to Deputy Chairman to mentor the incoming Chairman.  Lachie Seears (2013 Scholar) was elected as Chairman. Dave Reilly (2012 Scholar) and Carly Bussenschutt (2013 Scholar) remain in their roles as Treasurer and Secretary.  We had two retiring committee members with Craig Duffield (2011 Scholar) and Helen Thomas (2010 Scholar).  I would like to thank both for their efforts and commitment to Nuffield Australia.  With those two positions being vacated, Ben Haslett (2015 Scholar) and Dennis Holder (2016 Scholar) were  nominated and elected to the committee. I would like to take this opportunity to thank James and Kerrie for their efforts while James was Chairman.  Both have put in a huge amount of time and effort to see Nuffield SA flourish during his term.

How the season is progressing:

James Robertson, Riverland

Good opening rains following Easter, then continuing in May. No rain in June, 2mm of rainfall in July and 36mm of rainfall so far in August.  County in good heart, stock progressing well and had a good lambing.

Ben Haslett, Riverland:

Last season good overall. Record almond crop, good grape and citrus with markets in reasonable shape.  Stone fruit harvest hit by rain which resulted in major splitting and a 35% pack out.  Overall, fair year with forward forecast for this season looking good based on current market trend and water availability.

Mark Modra (2005 Scholar), Eyre Peninsula:

Most of EP now looks reasonable. However two months lost in some areas subsequently reduced area planted.  Some crops very slow to emerge because it was so cold.  Many paddocks have staggered germination making management difficult.  If we have a decile, 5 spring crops will be below average.

Carly Bussenchutt (2013 Scholar), Kangaroo Island:

We have had a drier than average winter, a late break had meant feed on offer has been below where we would like it.  Lack of water logging is a plus but will need significant spring rain to finish out the season we have had 53mm for August so far.

Derek Tiller (2015 Scholar), Adelaide Plains:

We were confident as we started seeding in April.  With reasonable sub-soil moisture levels as a result of excess moisture from the 2016 crop.  Early sown crops emerged well but the top soil was very dry by the start of May.  Any rain we did receive from then till late July was late and patchy.  We continued our seeding program as planned and finished the 4,000ha by 20 May.  By the time we had solid rain, lentils had been in the ground for up to eight weeks.  To our surprise, we managed to have all but three paddocks in average to good condition.  We’ve now had sufficient rain for the crops to grow into available sub-soil moisture and this will mean we are tracking at a decile 5-8 potential.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone all the best for the finish of 2017! I look forward to catching up with as many of you that will be attending the National Conference in Darwin.  I am particularly looking forward to hearing from the returning 2016 SA Scholars; Jack England, Randal Wilksch, Michael Vorrasi and Dennis Holder.

Upcoming Nuffield SA event:

2017 Christmas party Adelaide (TBC)

2018 State Conference (Tour/AGM) Eyre Peninsular (TBC).


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