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Media release. Bob Nixon. 2014 Scholarship winner

Media release. Bob Nixon. 2014 Scholarship winner

Bob Nixon from Kalannie in Western Australia, has been awarded a prestigious Nuffield Scholarship, supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation. He received the award at the organisationʼs prestigious National Conference dinner last night (Thursday) at Crown Perth.

Bob will study techniques and crop rotations to cope with a drying climate. In partnership with his family, Bob runs a broadacre cropping and livestock property within the low rainfall district of the central wheatbelt, receiving an annual rainfall of 300mm.

This year their cropping program consisted of 9100 hectares wheat, 1570 hectares canola, 1000 hectares barley and they also run 2000 merino ewes mated to Merino/Samm rams.

In addition, the family operates a gypsum mining business, which his brother Daniel manages. Bob runs the farming business with the additional help of two full time staff and seasonal casuals.

Bob says while the low rainfall region of WA is receiving a lot of media attention regarding the difficult financial and seasonal conditions, there is a way forward.

“We canʼt make it rain and we canʼt rely on prices to always be high, so the answer must lie in making the most of available research and development, and ensuring we get the best outcome we can from available moisture. Our future is in our own hands and we can continue to be successful in the face of reduced winter rainfall and increased seasonal variability,” he observes.

Bob is particularly interested in crop agronomy – especially in adding low risk diversity to their crop rotation. While he is having good success growing canola following fallow, Bob would like to further investigate making low cost canola profitable in the local environment.

“There is already much knowledge on canola, but there is a lack of work on making it fit into eastern wheatbelt rotations. I would like to study a range of options to help make canola a successful low risk alternative, including managing off patent, low cost herbicides for weed control, retaining seed, how to mitigate direct heading seed loss, plant densities and row spacing, as well as the potential for GM traits such as a ʻdrought guard geneʼ,” he says.

Bob is also interested in how to conserve moisture and control weeds in fallow areas, and also some ʻblue-skyʼ thinking.

“Iʼd like to take some time to simply explore what is out there that we are not yet aware of, and may just offer the edge we need to continue to prosper in the low rainfall zone of the wheatbelt – you never know what you might come across,” he says.

Bob would like to visit Canada, the USA, Israel and Argentina to complete his studies.

GRDC Senior Manager Operations and Farm Practices, Peter Morrison, says GRDC provides ongoing support to the Nuffield Scholarship Program as a way of building capacity in the grains industry and providing an opportunity for grain growers to focus on critical issues that will impact on their future.

“Seasonal variability has a major impact on crop productivity and is a major influence on both strategic and tactical decisions made in growing a crop in any year.

Bobʼs study project will investigate an area of keen interest to the GRDC and topical to grain growers,” Mr Morrison concluded.

Nuffield Australia is an organisation providing opportunities to Australian farmers to travel overseas on an agricultural research scholarship. It is a 16-week program consisting of both group and individual travel. In March 2014 we will have one group travelling through Canada, United States (California and Washington DC), Mexico, Europe, Brazil and New Zealand, while a second group will tour South Africa, Kenya, Eastern Europe, Europe and USA.

Bob is available for interviews to talk about his planned study.  Mobile: 0429 662 150

A high-resolution photo of Bob is available for download online in the 2014 Nuffield Scholar gallery

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