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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 12 March, 2020
In this edition:
Segregating for grain quality on-farm using new technologies

Agriculture Victoria researchers are developing new sensor technologies that will enable growers to segregate pulse grains on-farm.

This research, which is being carried out through Agriculture Victoria and the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Victorian Grains Innovation Partnership, could help farmers to capture higher prices by segregating grain based on quality before it leaves the farm.

Agriculture Victoria Research Scientist Dr Cassandra Walker, who is leading the project, said new imaging technologies are currently under development which can rapidly measure grain quality and will ultimately deliver significant benefits to growers.

“We are aiming to transfer these developments from within the lab to grain processing systems that can be used during harvest, allowing growers the option to segregate grain prior to delivery.”

In recent years there have been significant advances in technology which can measure the quality of cereals at harvest, such as grain moisture and protein. 

Dr Walker said the project aimed to expand this concept by developing new systems that could measure quality traits of lentil, chickpea and field pea to enable growers to capture the maximum value for their pulse crops.

“We are particularly keen to take new laboratory-based segregation tools and demonstrate their value on-farm,” she said.

“To achieve this our grain quality and field scientists are working closely with the precision ag industry and growers to demonstrate the potential value at farm scale.”

The research is being undertaken in Horsham, at Agriculture Victoria’s Grains Innovation Park where new high through-put spectral imaging systems are being used to develop grain quality algorithms. 

“This is world-class research and is highly specialised,” Dr Walker said.

“The program will test the ability of this technology to segregate grain for quality defects due to frost, heat, disease, and contaminants such as snails or foreign seed - but the real value will be tested on-farm.”

Ashley Wallace, a research agronomist working on the program, said the research was also investigating quality degradation of grain during storage.

“This will provide industry with the knowledge to limit loss of quality associated with the storage of pulses, maximising the value of the product at the time of sale,” he said.

GRDC Manager Pulses and Oilcrops, Dr Francis Ogbonnaya, said the findings of this research presents huge opportunities for growers.

“Growers will be able to add additional value to crops through objective segregation of high value grains to maximise their returns,” Dr Ogbonnaya said.

“Ultimately, if sensor-based technologies can be successfully employed on-farm, this will optimise the quality segregation process of grains and maximise grower returns.”

Pre-sowing update for Horsham East farmers

Current soil moisture levels, new crop disease ratings and soil testing for variable rate inputs will be the hot topics at a grower update presented by Agriculture Victoria and Horsham East Ag and Landcare Group at Taylors Lake Hall on Tuesday 24 March.

Speakers include Agriculture Victoria Seasonal Risk Agronomist, Dale Boyd, who will present the very latest subsoil moisture readings from around the district.

Mr Boyd will also provide insight into how growers can use this information to their advantage.

Agriculture Victoria’s Grains Pathology Project Officer, Luise Fanning, will give growers an overview of recent changes to disease resistance ratings for different cereal and pulse varieties. She will also be on hand to answer general queries about managing crop diseases in 2020.

Horsham-based agronomist Travis Hair (Crop Opti) will discuss the practical use of variable rate technology and the use of grid soil testing.

The update will begin at 9am (first presentation 9.30am) and finish before lunchtime.

The event is open to all local growers and advisers and registration is not required. For more details, please contact Keith Fischer on 0417 691 000.

Time to put the brakes on snails and slugs

Wimmera grain growers have been urged to monitor and manage slug and snail populations during a recent series of Agriculture Victoria-led presentations by crop pest specialist Dr Michael Nash.

Dr Nash advised growers with snail issues to use cultural methods as a first step in controlling white snails.

“You can kill over 90 per cent of snails by knocking them off stubble,” he said.

“Days with temperatures above 35 degrees are ideal.”

Dr Nash said that snail numbers tend to increase in seasons preceded by a wet autumn and winter.

“Summer rainfall is not a good predictor of snail numbers,” he said.

“Late March is generally the best time for baiting snails in the Wimmera and sometimes you need a follow-up application in April with a more expensive product.”

According to Dr Nash, cheap bran-based products quickly stop working after rain, while small sized pellets will also have much reduced efficacy.

“Baiting in summer in the Wimmera can be very unreliable for a number of reasons, including high temperatures,” he said.

While research has found that 30 to 40 pellets per square metre is ideal for snail baiting, it’s also important that enough active ingredient is present to ensure snails receive an adequate dose.

Applied bait can quickly run out where snail populations are dense, leading to poor control.

Dr Nash said that growers with slug issues should use a good quality product at a low rate if dry sowing canola.

“Be aware that not all slugs are pests; the striped slug does not damage canola, so there is no need to control it,” he said.

“Slug pests differ from snails in that you do not need to kill all the slugs; you just need to protect the crop for the first four to six weeks.”

A key learning for farmers at the slug and snail management workshops was that burning stubble would not reduce black keeled slug numbers as they actively burrow into the soil, becoming active after 75 to 100 millimetres of rain.

Black keeled slugs are particularly damaging to canola and can also damage cereals.

Dr Nash said a certain percentage of the slug population will be active each year so it was a good idea to bait annually.

He said that insecticides, including those used in seed dressings, can make slug problems worse, as they can impact populations of beetles that feed on slugs. Metaldehyde bait however, does not affect beetles.

While tiles or mats can be used to monitor slug and snail populations, in future, self-powered monitoring devices that provide population data through smart phones will be available.

The snail and slug management presentations were supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation and Agriculture Victoria.

An update on seasonal climate drivers and outlooks

The first 'Fast Break' climate enewsletter for 2020 is now available online.

Agriculture Victoria Seasonal Risk Agronomist Dale Grey reports that oceans are still warmer to the north creating more evaporation, and a number of tropical disturbances, but higher pressure still exists over the north which is inhibiting cloud formation.

He said moisture is around, as long as you can get a connection to it.

The full update on seasonal climate drivers and outlooks is available on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Soils Community of Practice update

The latest Soils Community of Practice newsletter has dropped.

This publication includes information on soil health, the latest soil research, soil management advice, climate and soil moisture information and more.

The main objective of the Soils Community of Practice (SCoP) is to encourage communication and networking amongst professionals who are involved, or have an interest in soil science.

Through this networking the group hopes to foster greater collaboration between the organisations and departments involved in the soil sphere, to the benefit of the many soil related activities underway across the state.

To join the community or to subscribe to the Soils Community of Practice newsletter log on at: and search 'soils community of practice'.

Don’t mis-diagnose eye cancer

By Dr Jeff Cave, District Veterinary Officer

There are several eye conditions that cattle can suffer from and one of the most common seen in Hereford or Poll Hereford cattle or white-faced Friesians is eye cancer.

Eye cancer, a tumour on the eyelid or eyeball, is the most common form of cancer in cattle, and in the early stages, can be misidentified as pink-eye.

Eye cancers may cause losses for producers due to condemnation at the abattoir and loss of potential production of affected stock.

The tumour begins as a tiny growth and steadily increases in size and will cause suffering if left unchecked. It may invade surrounding tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

The severity of eye cancers can be reduced by the early identification of growths and prompt action by either seeking veterinary treatment or culling.

The incidence can be reduced by genetic selection by selecting animals with pigmentation in the sclera ‘white’ of the eye and the eyelid.

The course of action that should be followed depends largely upon the size and severity of the cancer. Small eye cancers may be readily cured by prompt veterinary treatment.

However, if the owner elects to cull the affected animal, the following guidelines should be used:

  • If the cancer is smaller than a five-cent piece, clean, and not flyblown, the animal can be sold through a saleyard for slaughter only.
  •  If the cancer is sized between a five and 20-cent piece, clean, and not flyblown, the animal can be sold directly to an abattoir only.
  •  If the cancer is bleeding, infected, flyblown or larger than a 20-cent piece, the animal should be immediately disposed of on-farm or via a knackery.

Owners who fail to take reasonable action to prevent suffering in their animals may be considered for prosecution under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.

A photographic guide regarding the course of action that should be followed for different sized eye cancers is available on our website at and search ‘eye cancer in cattle’.

For further information please contact your local veterinarian or an Agriculture Victoria veterinary or animal health officer.

Producer Demonstration Sites program opening soon

Livestock producer groups interested in running local projects to validate the on-farm benefits of research and development findings are reminded that funding applications open on 1 April.

Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) Producer Demonstration Sites (PDS) program for 2020-21 is open to beef and sheep meat producer groups throughout Australia.

The PDS program includes Levy and Co-Contributor funding options for projects ranging from two years to a maximum of six years.

Preliminary applications for both funding options will be open for six weeks, from 1 April to 12 May 2020. 

The open call compliments seven PDS’s already underway in Victorian through a partnership between MLA and Agriculture Victoria, where we are supporting producer groups to test research or innovations on-farm, under local conditions. 

They cover topics such as: increasing lamb survival, using drones for sheep welfare, filling feed gaps with fodder beet, dung beetles for lamb enterprises, weaning lambs in the Wimmera, using soil probes to predict spring pasture growth and annual grass control strategies (more details at:

MLA Program Manager – Adoption, David Packer, said the PDS program aims to increase the rate of adoption of key management practices and technologies that improve business profitability, productivity and sustainability.

“Adoption of research outcomes is absolutely critical to driving practice change on-farm and building resilience and prosperity in the Australian red meat industry,” Mr Packer said.

“The PDS program enables producers to see first-hand the commercial relevance of research outcomes through long-term, hands-on experiential and peer-to-peer learning.

“The program continues to successfully result in evidenced-based practice change that has increased productivity and profitability for the adopting production systems.”

Producer groups wishing to engage in a levy PDS project can apply for up to $25,000 per year, for the length of the project, and producer groups wishing to engage in a co-contributor PDS project can apply for up to $50,000 per year, for the length of the project.

“Co-contributor projects require producer investment in the project, which is matched by MLA Donor Company (MDC),” Mr Packer said.

A Levy funded PDS comprises:

  • Funding of up to $25,000 per year for the project term (two to six years)
  • A minimum of three sites and ten core producers, though flexibility offered for extensive regions
  • Alignment with the Research Advisory Council PDS priorities, as defined in the Terms of Reference.

A Co-Contributor funded PDS comprises: 

  • Funding of up to $50,000 per year for the project term (two to six years)
  • Funded by 50 per cent levy, 25 per cent producer cash contribution, and 25 per cent MDC
  • Eight per cent access fee (of total project value)
  • A minimum of three sites and ten core producers, though flexibility offered for extensive regions
  • Alignment with industry targets and priorities as per the Meat Industry Strategic Plan, Beef Industry Strategic Plan, Sheep Industry Strategic Plan and MLA Strategic Plan.

Groups will require a facilitator, experienced in group coordination and extension, monitoring and evaluation of on-farm practice change and communication and reporting, to oversee the demonstration.

The 2020-21 Terms of Reference and levy PDS priorities will be available on the MLA website on 27 March 2020.

For full details, application guidelines and forms, visit

Artisanal advisory group members sought

Producers in Central Highlands with experience in artisanal production are encouraged to apply to join the Project Advisory Group (PAG) guiding a three-year project for the artisanal sector being undertaken by Hepburn Shire Council on behalf of the Central Highlands region.

Members of the PAG will represent diverse range of producers and may include meat production, beverages, fruits and vegetables, preserves, apiary, egg, poultry and other livestock.

Applicants need to have an interest in promoting the sector and overcoming barriers to building artisanal agriculture in the region.

Expressions of interest close on 27 March 2020.

For more details visit:

How secure is your farm?

Growers and advisers are invited to join Simon Grant and Max Mudge from Victoria Police, Craig Martell from the Game Management Authority and David McDonald from Jim’s Antennas to learn about improving on-farm safety and security.

Held at Goroke Bowling Club from 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm on Tuesday, 31 March, this event will provide attendees with information and tips on how to improve security and avoid property theft.

Topic covered will include:

  • the role of Farm Crime Liaison Officers
  • reporting livestock and farm theft
  • tips and tricks to prevent farm theft
  • safe storage of firearms
  • disposal of unwanted firearms
  • the role of Game Management Officers
  • on-farm security and water trough monitoring systems

This event is free, and a light supper will be provided.

Registration is essential. To RSVP or for more information visit the Agriculture Victoria Eventbrite page.   

Crop variety data released to inform 2020 sowing programs

Important new data has been released to inform southern region grain growers’ crop variety choices for the 2020 season.

Harvesting of the extensive winter crop variety trials conducted through the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) National Variety Trials (NVT) program is complete and data from those trials is now available to growers and advisers.

GRDC NVT Manager – South, Rob Wheeler, said single site results from successful trials in 2019 have been finalised and this data has been fed into multi-year, multi-environment trial (MET) variety performance analysis.

“These multi-year, rolling datasets for all crops and growing regions will provide growers with the most valuable information to support their decision making around what to sow this year,” he said.

“Long-term MET results are the most accurate and reliable means of interpreting variety performance across sites and years, rather than results from a single year.”

Results and analysis from the 224 trials harvested in 2019 across South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania can be viewed at

Growers and advisers are encouraged to base their variety decisions on not just yield results but also market receival quality data.

“Simply focusing on yield does not provide growers with a reliable indication of which varieties may potentially offer the best returns – the quality of the grain harvested is also an important factor,” Mr Wheeler said.

To support growers and advisers, the GRDC has produced instructional videos on ‘how to interpret NVT data (long-term yield results) using the NVT website’ and ‘how to navigate NVT’s website’. The videos can be viewed via the GRDC’s YouTube channel at

Season 2019 was a somewhat variable one across the southern cropping region and these conditions were reflected in the NVT program.

“The trials program in 2019 was generally a successful one, with a small percentage of trials compromised by frost and shattering due to strong winds, particularly just ahead of harvest in November,” said Mr Wheeler.

“Data from those compromised trials is presented in a ‘quarantined’ report on NVT Online.

"This report provides growers with a transparent account of the fate of unreleased but not abandoned NVT trials.

"However, the data is of no value for the purposes of head-to-head variety comparison and should not be used for any variety selection decisions,” Mr Wheeler said.

Stay tuned for expert advice on growing pulses

Southern region pulse crop growers are being provided with a kickstart to the 2020 season thanks to a pre-sowing webinar series over the coming weeks.

In preparation for this year’s cropping season, the webinars will enable growers to hear from leading industry experts without leaving their farms.

The series of short online webinars are being provided as part of the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Southern Region Pulse Extension Project.

The four Growing Pulses in 2020 webinars on March 12, 16 and 17 will cover topics such as inoculation and nodulation, growing pulses on sand and pulse markets.
GRDC Manager of Agronomy and Farming Systems – South, Allison Pearson, says this year’s Growing Pulses webinar series follows a well-received inaugural series in 2019 during which industry experts provided an overview of relevant agronomic information, pulse research findings and current market information by pulse crop type.

“More and more growers are becoming interested in growing pulses to improve their farming systems and overall profitability,” Dr Pearson said.

“Through this webinar series, the GRDC is supporting new and established pulse growers with information and advice to underpin successful production. The webinar format allows growers and other industry personnel to conveniently tune in from their homes or offices.”

The GRDC Southern Region Pulse Extension Project began in 2017 and is delivered by a consortium of organisations involved in the pulse industry across the GRDC’s southern region.

Its objective is to increase the knowledge of growers and advisers on sustainable pulse production, leading to improved farming systems and grower profitability.

Growers are encouraged to join the webinars live to interact with industry experts and to extract the most value from each forum. For those who cannot tune in to the live webinars, recordings which can be viewed at any time will be made available on the GRDC website following the events.

Webinars details:

  • Thursday, March 12, 11 am: Inoculation and nodulation of pulses – Ross Ballard, South Australian Research and Development Institute. Register:
  • Monday, March 16, 11 am: Growing pulses on sand – Michael Moodie, Frontier Farming Systems. Register:
  • Tuesday, March 17: 11 am: Pulse markets for Victoria and SA, pre-season 2020 – Francois Darcus, AgriOz Exports. Register:
  • Tuesday, March 17, 2 pm: Pulse Markets for New South Wales, pre-season 2020 – Adam Robinson, Robinson Grain. Register:

Enquiries can be directed to Amy Harwood at BCG on 0456 979561 or email

Breaking up with brome grass

Wimmera growers will have the chance to hear from a leading expert about managing brome grass during a series of forums being coordinated by Agriculture Victoria this March.

Plant Science Consulting’s Sam Kleemann will speak at Murtoa, Noradjuha and Dimboola, to help growers develop system-based tactics to tackle the weed.

Brome grass is the third biggest grass weed problem for grain growers in southeast Australia.

Agriculture Victoria Land Management Extension Officer, Heather Drendel, said the level of grass weed infestation in Wimmera crops increased in 2019, with brome grass becoming more prevalent.

“It has been a challenge for growers,” she said.

“The weed is evolving to no-till farming and the dry seasons have exacerbated the problem.”

Ms Drendel said growers were adapting to a drying climate by sowing crops earlier, but this makes weed control a bigger challenge, as they rely more heavily on in-crop weed control.

Dr Kleemann will discuss how growers can reduce the seedbank of brome grass to manageable levels within three years by including break crops and different control tactics.

“Brome grass has developed increased seed dormancy in cropped paddocks,” he said.

“Seeds with greater dormancy can escape pre-sowing weed control tactics such as knockdown herbicides.”

Dr Kleemann said light can also inhibit brome grass seed germination.

“This allows seeds to remain ungerminated on the soil surface until after sowing and it prevents seedlings from being killed before sowing,” he said.

“This also helps explain why brome grass has proliferated in no-till cropping systems.”

Dr Kleemann’s research while working for Adelaide University, with support from the GRDC, showed it was possible to significantly reduce brome grass levels with combinations of pre- and post-sowing herbicides and seed-set control tactics using certain crop rotations.

The Wimmera workshops will be presented by Agriculture Victoria and Wimmera Farming Network with support from Wimmera Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator and the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

The aim of the workshops, and the partner-based approach, is to increase awareness and adoption of land management practices that improve and protect the condition of the soil, biodiversity and vegetation in the Wimmera.

Workshops will be held at the following locations:

  • Murtoa and District Neighbourhood House, Monday 16 March, 4.30 to 7 pm, followed by light snacks
  • Noradjuha Memorial Hall, Tuesday 17 March, 8.30 to 11.30 am, morning tea included
  • Dimboola Rowing Clubrooms, Tuesday 17 March, 1 to 3.30 pm, lunch included.

To register or for more information, go to: or phone Heather Drendel, 0427 868 705.

Expressions of Interest: Rural Minds Training

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) can now deliver Rural Minds training to your community.

Rural Minds is a comprehensive program designed for people living and working in rural Australia by people living and working in rural Australia.

We are currently seeking expressions of interest for anyone who would like to attend a Rural Minds mental health and suicide prevention workshop.

Rural Minds training aims to:

  • Improve your awareness and understanding of mental health issues
  • Make the connection between mental health and personal safety
  • Give you the confidence, strategies and pathways to support your mental health and that of your family and friends.

Rural Minds Training options:

Rural Minds Community Workshop: This three to four-hour workshop combines practical, culturally relevant information about risk factors to mental health, signs and symptoms of mental health problems, advice about self-help and coping strategies where and how to seek support via local referral pathways.

Rural Minds Briefing: This one to two-hour workshop builds knowledge, understanding and confidence in participants about the prevention of mental illness and suicide. The briefing provides opportunities to identify and promote local pathways to support and clinical care.

A minimum of eight attendees are required to run these workshops in your community. Participants are required to pay a small fee of $15 to cover the costs of materials provided in the session.

If you are interested in attending/running one of these workshops in your community, please contact Molly Stilo at or call on (03) 8412 0430.

Young farmer business network

Young Farmers of Victoria – this is your network to talk about farm business management with other like-minded young farmers through social media, articles, online and face to face forums.

Click here to join and learn more about the Young Farmer Business Network Facebook group.

What's on
Brome grass management workshops – 16 and 17 March
Event details

Murtoa and District Neighbourhood House – Monday 16 March,
4.30 to 7 pm

Noradjuha Memorial Hall – Tuesday 17 March,
8.30 to 11.30 am

Dimboola Rowing Club – Tuesday 17 March,
1 to 3.30 pm


Wimmera growers will have the chance to hear from a leading expert about managing brome grass during a series of forums being coordinated by Agriculture Victoria this March.

Plant Science Consulting’s Sam Kleemann will speak at Murtoa, Noradjuha and Dimboola, to help growers develop system-based tactics to tackle the weed.


  • Identification of brome grass species
  • Brome grass resistance and management
  • Tillage system pre-emergent
  • Resistance testing
  • Q and A discussion.

To register or for more information, go to: or phone Heather Drendel, 0427 868 705.

Fox bounty collections for March
Collection dates

5 Vickers Street, Sebastopol
Monday, 6 April
1 – 3 pm

180 Horsham-Noradjuha Road, Vectis
Wednesday, 18 March
1.30 pm – 3.30 pm


The Victorian Government’s fox and wild dog bounty will resume this month.

Agriculture Victoria Biosecurity officers will be at designated collection centres, including at Ballarat on 10 March and Horsham on 18 March.

Program participants should check the collection schedule website as there have been changes for 2020.

It’s important that everyone participating knows the requirements, so they can benefit from the bounty.

For full details on bounty collection times and locations, terms and conditions, and frequently asked questions, visit or call the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

Pre-sowing update for Horsham East Farmers - 24 March
Event details

Date: Tuesday, 24 March

Time: 9 am for a 9.30 am start 

Venue: Taylors Lake Hall, St. Helen's Plains


A pre-sowing update will be held at Taylors Lake Hall on Tuesday 24 March.

The event is presented by Horsham East Ag and Landcare Group and Agriculture Victoria.

Speakers include:

  • Agriculture Victoria Seasonal Risk Agronomist Dale Boyd
  • Agriculture Victoria Grains Pathology Project Officer Luise Fanning
  • Horsham agronomist Travis Hair (Crop Opti)

The event is open to all local growers and advisers and registration is not required. For more details, please contact Keith Fischer on 0417 691 000.

NLIS database management workshops – 31 March
Horsham workshop

Date: Tuesday, 31 March

Time: 9.30 am

Venue: Grains Innovation Park, 110 Natimuk Road, Horsham


Topics include:

  • Setting up, navigating and using the NLIS database - practical exercise. Computers will be provided on the day or you can bring along your own laptop
  • Management of livestock movements onto your property
  • Property to Property (P2P) transfers on the NLIS database.
  • Sessions will run for up to five and a-half hours, with light meal and refreshment provided.

Numbers are limited to allow for a hands-on practical session. please register early at

If you have any problems with registering online please call (03) 5761 1647.

Farm safety forum - 31 March
Event details

Date: Tuesday 31 March

Time: 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm

Venue: Goroke Bowling Club, Camp Street, Goroke

Cost: Free, registration is essential for catering

Light supper provided


With farm and livestock theft on the increase, join us and learn about improving on-farm safety and security.


Sergeant Simon Grant is a Farm Crime Liaison Officer at Victoria Police with skills in livestock theft and farm-related crime investigation.

Senior Constable Max Mudge is a Divisional Firearms Officer at Victoria Police.

Craig Martell, Senior Game Officer at the Game Management Authority.

David McDonald is an Antenna Engineer at Jim’s Antennas with expertise in on-farm security system installation.


  • Role of Farm Crime Liaison Officers
  • Reporting livestock and farm theft
  • Tips and tricks to prevent farm theft
  • Safe storage of firearms
  • Disposal of unwanted firearms
  • Role of Game Management Officers
  • On-farm security and water trough monitoring systems

Register via Eventbrite:


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