LOOKING FORWARD: GRDC Southern Regional Panel chair Keith Pengilley says there will be plenty of great information at the GRDC update in Adelaide.

Handsfree farm on GRDC update agenda

Once considered a notion of futuristic fantasy, the era of hands-free farming has arrived.

Once considered a notion of futuristic fantasy, the era of hands-free farming has arrived.

Bringing that reality even closer to South Australian graingrowers will be Martin Abell, a research engineer from the United Kingdom who has successfully completed the world’s first autonomous full cultivation of a crop of barley.

Mr Abell, Precision Decisions Ltd, will headline the GRDC Grains Research Update in Adelaide on February 20 and 21.

The future of automated grain growing will be explored at the update by Mr Abell, who worked on the Hands Free Hectare Project – a one-year precision farming feasibility study based on automated broadacre agriculture and the accompanying remote agronomy required to accomplish the project’s ambition of “automated machines growing the first arable crop remotely, without operators in the driving seats or agronomists on the ground”.

Mr Abell’s achievement will be among the latest grains industry advances to be showcased at the Grains Research Update at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

GRDC Southern Regional Panel chair Keith Pengilley says the update will present information critical to informing growers’ tactical decision-making for the 2018 cropping season and into the future.

“The update each year plays a key role in influencing practice change and uptake of new technologies by growers, to underpin continued improvements within their farming systems and opportunities for profit growth,” Mr Pengilley said. 

With the theme of “strategic steps – enduring profit”, Mr Pengilley says the update will be attended by hundreds of agronomists, consultants, researchers, growers and other grains industry personnel.

Keynote speakers include Pulse Australia chair Ron Storey, who will provide his thoughts on the status of the nation’s rapidly expanding pulse industry, a large portion of which is based in SA.

Mr Storey will discuss the sustainability of demand and prices for pulses, new opportunities and key messages from recent global forums. 

Another keynote speaker whose insights will be eagerly anticipated is Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative communications leader Peter Newman.

Mr Newman, from WA, will offer the latest thinking on the most effective harvest weed seed control strategies based on a combination of methods tailored to individual situations.

The art of communicating science and maintaining peak performance will be the subjects of additional plenary sessions during the update, presented by Jennifer Metcalfe,Econnect Communication, and former AFL player and high performance coach Mark McKeon, MMA TEAM Pty Ltd, respectively.   

Other topics from day one include canola harvest management, weed-competitive cereals, new knowledge on Russian wheat aphid, herbicide resistance, pulse crop management, optimal performance from inoculants and getting the best from barley.

Agronomic topics to be delved into on day two include controlled traffic farming in the low rainfall zone, practical use of agricultural machinery technology, brome grass and other emerging problem weeds, management of septoria tritici blotch and powdery mildew, improving productivity on sandy soils, and countering blackleg disease in canola.

Would you like to comment on this article?
Thanks for providing feedback.