Grain growers needed to help build on-farm resilience

Researchers in grain field. | Newsreel
Researchers at Southern Cross University are seeking help from grain growers for a major regenerative agriculture project. | Picture: Supplied by Southern Cross University.

A gun team of agricultural researchers has assembled to unearth useful methods for assessing how different practices are improving the health, resilience and profitability of our farms.

Southern Cross University is bringing together experts in soil health, agronomy, ecology, cultural geography and natural capital accounting to help build new paradigms around regenerative agriculture.

The research will be informed by a survey of at least 500 farmers to ensure the project delivers balanced, evidence-based outcomes.

It has been prompted by the realisation that regenerative agriculture techniques have gained popularity in recent years, but they lack a “regulatory or widely accepted definition”.

Southern Cross University lecturer and researcher Adam Canning, who is leading the project, said the university would work with growers to establish key metrics for the research.

“These are expected to include profitability, natural capital accounting, soil health, biodiversity and social factors,” Dr Canning says.

“We will identify and trial indicators that demonstrate the extent to which grain growers are reaching defined goals. Trialling the indicators will let us identify any farm-specific factors that could influence the results.”

The survey is supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) as part of the Regenerative Agriculture: Understanding the intent, practices, benefits and disbenefits project.

Southern Cross researcher Dr Hanabeth Luke said the research would help to establish the “what, as well as the why or why not” of regenerative agriculture in Australian grain production.

The findings would help build an enhanced understanding of grower goals and practices, as well as their perceptions of regenerative agriculture.

“This survey aims to understand farmer goals and their alignment with practices in the regenerative agriculture toolkit,” Dr Luke said.

“We seek to gauge current perceptions of regenerative agriculture amidst diverse farming systems. We are seeking around 500 grain growers from around the country to complete the online survey.”

After the survey, the Southern Cross University research team will recruit 75 crop farmers for a broader, three-year project to establish effective ways to monitor regenerative agriculture outcomes.

GRDC Manager Sustainable Cropping Systems – South Giacomo Betti said the investment in the project aimed to provide Australian growers with clarity regarding the integration of regenerative agriculture into cropping systems.

“Crucially, the success of the project hinges on the active participation of growers in implementing a diverse range of practices,” Dr Betti said.

“This will enable the development of a balanced dataset and facilitate the drawing of meaningful conclusions.”

The online survey takes about 20 minutes to complete. It can be accessed via the survey website.

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