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Nuffield Australia 2010 Spring Tour report

The Victorian Branch of Nuffield Australia hosted the annual tour from the 20th to 24th October, 2010. Between 60 and 140 people participated in various segments of the program. The week commenced with the debriefing and briefing for new and returning scholars on the Wednesday in Melbourne. That evening the majority of the group arrived in Melbourne and met for dinner at Dicaprio’s Pizza and Pasta Restaurant.

Thursday

Thursday morning commenced with a presentation from Tim Jelbart a property valuer discussing valuations and compensation in and around the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).  Download presentation (1.5 MB)

Duncan McDonell, a 1976 Nuffield Scholar also spoke about the impact of the UGB on his region and farming business.

Following this the delegates all boarded buses and headed towards Kinross Farms, a family owned and managed business that has been producing eggs for over 40 years and is the largest independently owned egg producing farm in Victoria. Here we met with Philip Szepe who spoke about not only the faming business but also the impact of the bushfires.

Following the 2006 bushfires they had implemented a thorough fire plan, which included three types of insurance, one to cover the loss of infrastructure, another to cover the increased cost of maintaining the business and the last to cover a loss in profit. Following the bushfires on the 7th February 2009 all three types of insurance cover were required.

Upon departing Kinross Farms we travelled to Duncan and Patience McDonell’s property at Darraweit Guim. Here the group toured the farm and listened to talks from Blaze-aid and Grain Assist.

That evening the group had dinner at “Rupertswood” Mansion. “Rupertswood” was built as a residence for Sir William John Clarke and covered an area of 31,000 acres. It is also the place where the “Ashes” were created in 1882. The evening included a history of the property and the Clarke family, and for one Nuffield Scholar, also provided an opportunity to reminisce about his school days and scrubbing the floor of the mansion.

Friday

On Friday we all gathered at the Melbourne Airport Quality Inn to hear the presentations from the returning scholars. The day was officially opened by Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Joe Helper, MP.

Gary Kleyn from Future Directions International (FDI) Pty. Ltd. addressed the question “How Can Australia Best Display a Global Leadership Role in Improved and Sustained Agriculture Productivity and Landscape Regeneration in the event of Global Food and Water Crises?” He discussed the impact of population issues, water considerations, food issues, land limitations, science, technology and innovation and the international triggers for conflict.  Download presentation (227 k)  Listen to audio

Graeme Nicoll was the first scholar to speak with his presentation titled: “Enhancing the Resilience of Dairy Farms in the High Rainfall Regions”. Graeme’s recommendations for the Australian Dairy Industry were to encourage a systems thinking approach, including detailed in-herd benchmarking, assessing Montbeliarde cross cows in Australian conditions and adopting a best management approach to pasture management. In addition communication within the industry must be improved.  Download presentation (1.2 MB)  Listen to audio

Steven Ball investigated zero-till farming systems in high rainfall growing zones (HRZ) and its impact on soil biology and nutrient cycling. His studies have resulted in him buying a disc seeding machine, retaining cropping residue, using composted waste as a soil conditioner and investigating niche markets. In addition he is also looking at options to lease/buy land with water, working with the media to get the “good” news stories out and also addressing the need for commonality of terms.  Download presentation (2.9 MB)  Listen to audio

David Gooden’s studies covered responsible pesticide application. He recommended that we should have in-field spray application specialists and that crop spray rigs should be assessed to determine spray coverage and penetration. In addition farm industry groups need to be proactive and encourage media to disseminate positive stories about pesticides and their use.  Download presentation (4.4 MB)  Listen to audio

Rowan Paulet was the last scholar speaking before lunch, his topic “The integration of livestock and cropping in high rainfall zones (HRZ)” suggested that Australian farmers need to have flexibility in their farming systems to enable adoption of new technology, but research and development must still continue.  Download presentation (2.7 MB)  Listen to audio

After lunch Marty Phillips spoke about the the Australian Barramundi industry – addressing cheap imports. His concluding comments stated that the industry must address off-flavor to maintain high quality product. Australia cannot compete on price but we need to differentiate our Barramundi and promote it as Australian quality and grown.  Download presentation (4.5 MB)  Listen to audio

Alastair Starritt studied carbon sequestration in farming systems: A Direction for Enhancing Carbon Sequestration and Soil Health in Broad-acre Agriculture. He spoke about the importance of soil carbon in improving soil structure and agricultural production, and that perhaps in the future we may be able to measure soil carbon using an automatic soil sensor.  Download presentation (2.7 MB)  Listen to audio

Robert Egerton-Warburton then spoke on integrated stock-cropping systems. He mentioned that diversity decreases risk but increases opportunity. He also addressed the importance research and development corporations working together in the future to maximise productivity and be outcome focused.  Download presentation (4.0 MB)  Listen to audio

Bruce Kefford Deputy Secretary, Agriculture Research and Development, Vic DPI spoke prior to afternoon tea on the Friday. His topic was The National Primary Industries R,D&E Framework; Evolving to meet contemporary challenges. This detailed the future role that state governments would have in agricultural R & D, and also stated in which areas Victoria would play a lead role.

The PISC subcommittee work plan has been split into six topics, with a different agency taking a lead role for each:

Delivering the National Framework (lead – DAFF)
Draft guidelines, designed to ensure national research will be made available nationally, and regional research priorities will be considered in national research, are being prepared using examples from existing strategies.

Intellectual Property (lead – CSIRO)
Protecting intellectual property (IP) is sometimes a necessary step in commercialisation of research, but this should not inhibit national research being made available to interested parties in the Framework. Principles are being developed to ensure effective IP management within the context of the Framework.

Harmonisation of common processes (lead – CRRDC)
Significant efficiencies are expected by harmonising common processes within the Framework. The first two priorities for harmonisation are the evaluation of projects and standardising contracts.

Portfolio oversight (lead – DPI Victoria)
Current datasets do not consistently capture effort across the Framework. A new template and definitions are under development to facilitate appropriate data collection for portfolio analysis.

Knowledge Management (lead – I&I NSW)
New knowledge management tools are being explored to assess their suitability to provide national access to primary industries research information.

Extension (lead – PIR SA)
Efficient and effective extension of new knowledge and technology is a crucial element of the Framework, and significant benefits are expected from a more coordinated and cooperative approach to extension nationally.  Extension is considered to be part of the Primary Industries Innovation System, rather than the third element in a linear RD&E model, and a set of principles are being developed that Framework parties may use to guide their own programs and methodologies.  Opportunities for national collaboration are also being explored.

 Download presentation (332 k)  Listen to audio

The early benefits of the framework are indicating that this will lead to more stable funding arrangements, increased teamwork and collaboration, development of new funding models and well defined roles for each state jurisdiction, although this framework is continually evolving.

Bruce then discussed in more detail the dairy industry in which Victoria is taking a lead role. Approximately 37% of the current funding resources for dairy are focused on forage and cow breeding management  Future dairy R,D & E will be focused on building profitable, competitive and sustainable dairy farms through investment in increasing farm productivity, and sustainability and developing effective farm business systems

The Friday scholar presentations concluded with a panel session chaired by Terry Hehir, involving all scholars who had spoken during the day.

Presentation Dinner

The Friday evening saw 140 people attending the Scholar Presentation Dinner at Bella Vista, Quality Inn celebrating 60 Years of Australian Nuffield Farming Scholarships. The George Wilson Oration was given by Doug Rathbone, Managing Director and Chief Executive of Nufarm Ltd and the highlight of the evening was the presentation of scholarship to the 2011 Nuffield Scholars.

Saturday

On Saturday morning the buses departed the Quality Inn to visit a Rotary and Robotic Dairy in Gippsland before visiting Flavorite and Gippsland Aeronautics.

Grant and Leesa Williams installed one of Australia’s first robotic milking systems. They milk through a traditional 40-unit rotary on their home farm while a number of other cows are milked an average 2 to 2.4 times per day through the A3 Astronaut robotic dairy.

At Flavorite the group inspected a hydroponic tomato facility which produces vine ripened truss tomatoes, single and cherry truss tomatoes. The business is currently undergoing an expansion with an additional 22.8 ha of greenhouses being built. All new greenhouses include hanging gutters (which Flavorite introduced into Australia) and incorporate a hot water buffer system which enables CO2 to be pumped into the greenhouse to increase plant growth.

The final visit for the day was Gippsland Aeronautics. This company commenced operations at the Latrobe Regional Airport in Morwell in the 1970s as an aircraft maintenance and modification business and then set up a small manufacturing line for the GA200. In 1993, the company re-certified a new model, the GA200C with the capability of lifting one tonne on 300HP, giving the aircraft a 30-50% better performance than any aircraft in its class. The company has since manufactured over 45 of these aircraft and has exported to countries including China, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Brazil and South Africa. They have also developed a high wing, eight seat GA8 Airvan, as a utility transport to replace the Cessna 206/207 and DHC Beaver. This aircraft has also been exported across the world.

Sunday

The Tour concluded with a visit to Peter and Elaine Notman’s seed business at Poowong and Caldermeade Farm, which is owned by Max and Barbe Jelbart.

Photographs taken during the tour can be viewed on the Nuffield Australian online gallery

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