CSI participants discuss GHG emissions, tour Mars Petcare

Cool Soil Initiative participants from the Riverine Plains region recently met to discuss their on-farm greenhouse gas emissions and tour the Mars Petcare factory in Wodonga.

Mars Petcare is a founding partner of the Cool Soil Initiative, which has been joined more recently by Kellogg’s, Manildra Group, Allied Pinnacle, Charles Sturt University and the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre.

The Cool Soil Initiative project supports wheat and maize growers to monitor and manage their greenhouse gas emissions, while also exploring how different farming practices can provide long-term carbon and soil health benefits.

As part of the Initiative, farmers submit crop input and paddock history data, which when combined with soil test data and yield results, allows greenhouse gas emissions to be calculated for each paddock.

Being involved in the Initiative helps farmers pinpoint areas of inefficiency and production constraints within their farming systems, which has the potential to generate significant input cost savings and production gains. It has also helped highlight the factors driving on-farm emissions and the factors that can influence the spectrum of results season-to-season.

Mars Petcare is a significant purchaser of grain from southern NSW and north-eastern Victoria and the day also provided an opportunity for farmers to tour the Mars Petcare manufacturing facility at Wodonga and hear how the company is working to reduce the environmental impacts of the business.

The importance of quantifying on-farm emissions is only likely to increase over time as a result of government and consumer pressure, and Riverine Plains is excited that this project is leading the way in providing a framework for local farmers to start considering their emissions.

Wheat and Maize farmers interested in learning more about monitoring their emissions through the Cool Soil Initiative are invited to contact Riverine Plains’ Project Officer Jane McInnes, by phoning (03) 5744 1713 or emailing jane@riverineplains.org.au

Further information about the Cool Soil Initiative is available at https://riverineplains.org.au/cool-soil-initiative/

The Cool Soil Initiative is funded by Mars Petcare and the Sustainable Food Lab, Kellogg’s, Manildra Group and Allied Pinnacle, in partnership with Charles Sturt University and the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

Inaugural Innovation EXPO a success!

Riverine Plains inaugural Innovation Expo a resounding success

The Inaugural Riverine Plains Innovation Expo was held over three days last week, from the 27-29 July, 2022 and attended by over 700 people from across Australia.

The three-day event had a focus on bringing innovation to the region under the theme ‘Farming Ahead of the Curve’ and provided an opportunity for farmers and businesses to showcase new and emerging technologies, create connections, challenge the status quo and share insights.

Riverine Plains’ CEO Catherine Marriott said that agriculture as an industry has always chased opportunities to produce more with less, in a sustainable way, and this event was designed to help farmers capitalise on new technologies, research and ideas to help them continue to achieve prosperous and sustainable businesses.

“The event exceeded all our expectations – the quality of the exhibitors and speakers was incredible and the number of people from our region who engaged with and supported the event was mind-blowing” said Ms Marriott.

The event featured agronomy and animal-technology focused Farm Tours, an Innovation Field Day showcasing the latest in AgTech from across Australia, an Innovation Conference, as well as networking events and a Gala Dinner, which raised over $15,000 for the Riverine Plains’ Scholarship fund.

“It was a particular privilege to host the National Farmers Federation and Victorian Farmers Federation Towards 2030 Forum, where we bought the nation’s brightest policy minds to our region and gave our members an opportunity to engage directly with our elected leaders,” said Ms Marriott.

The Innovation Conference event hosted a plethora of brilliant speakers, including Mary O’Brien from ‘Are you Bogged Mate?’, brought to us by Seed Force. Mary presented an important message around men’s mental health; shockingly, seven people succeed at suicide daily in Australia, with a large proportion being rural men. Mary explained that this isn’t a problem with men, it’s a problem with the environment we create for them to resolve challenges.

“Mary also spoke of how important it is for us all to lean in and ask the difficult questions if we are worried about someone, as scary as it may seem, because it’s hugely important (so don’t wait for RUOK day),” added Ms Marriott.

Richard Heath, from the Australian Farm Institute, spoke on sustainability markets (carbon credits) and how they will impact people on farm. He was able to demystify the complexity that surrounds the carbon and environment, social and governance (ESG) space by clearly defining what is a fad, a trend and a principle. His key message for farmers was to start benchmarking your properties as pressure will commence from banks and insurance institutions before it starts to inevitably impact markets.

Decision making in farm businesses was the focus of a presentation by Cam Nicholson (Nicon Rural), who highlighted the difference between a good decision and a right decision (a good decision is informed, a right decision is one where you roll the dice and end up in the right spot). He described decision making as a skill that can be learned; it takes discipline, but it can be done. Key to Cam’s messaging was the importance of slowing down and understanding the metrics surrounding your decisions.

The Innovation Conference also provided a forum for John Hanrahan Scholarship recipients Lachlan Quibell, Sophie Hanna and Jess Ryan, as well as Uncle Tobys Scholarship recipient, Tom Hatty, to share their aspirations in agriculture and was a terrific showcase of their potential as future leaders in agriculture.

“We were thrilled that we had so many people engage with us over the course of the EXPO and that we were able to bring so many people to the region to explore together how farming businesses can grow and adapt through innovative ideas, products and services,” concluded Ms Marriott

Riverine Plains would also like to thank all our partners for their support and in particular; Seed Force, Upton Engineering, New Edge Microbials, AgriFutures Australia, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and Destination NSW.

2022 John Hanrahan and Uncle Tobys Scholarships now open!

John Hanrahan and Uncle Tobys Scholarships Now Open for Riverine Plains’ Region Ag Students.

Riverine Plains is inviting applications for the 2022 John Hanrahan and Uncle Tobys Scholarships.

The Scholarships recognise and encourage agricultural excellence in the Riverine Plains region by supporting local students through their studies.

The John Hanrahan Scholarship was established by Riverine Plains in honour of the late John Hanrahan from Coreen, whose community spirit, passion for agriculture and thirst for knowledge was renowned. The Scholarship is now coming in to its fourth year, and has already supported local students Mitchell Priestly (2019), Sophie Hanna and Lachlan Quibell (both 2020), and Jessica Ryan (2021).

Riverine Plains is also partnering with Uncle Tobys to deliver the 2022 Uncle Tobys Scholarship. The Inaugural Uncle Tobys Scholarship was awarded to Thomas Hatty during 2021, and we are excited to offer this Scholarship in support of agriculture’s future leaders.

Applications for the 2022 John Hanrahan and Uncle Tobys Scholarships are open to first year Agriculture or Agribusiness Degree or Diploma students beginning their second year of study in 2023. Applications close on 15 June, 2022.

Each Scholarship include a $5,000 bursary, work experience, networking and mentoring opportunities with Riverine Plains (through the John Hanrahan Scholarship or with Uncle Tobys (through the Uncle Tobys Scholarship).

Students aged between 18 and 30 from the Riverine Plains region of north-eastern Victoria and the southern Riverina region of NSW are eligible to apply.

Click on the following links for further details about the John Hanrahan and Uncle Tobys Scholarships.

Major Drought Resilience Innovation Grant Funding Announced at Dookie

Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia, David Littleproud MP, has announced a major Innovation Grant of nearly $2m for a drought resilience project led by Dookie Campus, University of Melbourne researcher, Dr Dorin Gupta, which also involves Riverine Plains Inc.

Minister Littleproud made the announcement during a visit with the Member for Nicholls, the Hon. Damian Drum MP, to the University of Melbourne’s Dookie Campus on Wednesday 2 March and said that the funding demonstrates the Australian Government’s commitment to harnessing innovation to better prepare for periods of drought.

Dr Gupta’s project, ‘Whole-system Redesign of Broadacre Farming of SE Australia’, is looking to redesign the whole system of broadacre farming in south-eastern Australia to plan for, cope with, and recover from drought, through an inclusive systems approach that brings together individual proven practices into diversified farming systems.

“This project will demonstrate how pulses can be used as an integral part of crop rotations in mixed and grain farming systems where farm resilience is further enhanced by incorporating native crops and grasses,” said Dr Gupta.

Alongside collaborators from the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, several Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub partners will be involved in the project, including Riverine Plains and Birchip Cropping Group, along with the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, Black Duck Foods and Gap Flat Track Native Foods.

The project and the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub are funded by the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.

Co-Director of the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub, Professor Timothy Reeves said he was pleased that all Innovation Hub Regional Node leaders from across the state were in attendance for the Minister’s visit.

“This is indicative of the trust and teamwork which has been built across the Victoria Innovation Hub to better serve our stakeholders, on farms, in the environment, and in rural communities” he said.

“We were honoured to have Minister Littleproud and Damian Drum MP visit and hear more about our activities in the Innovation Hub, including our unique approach to enhancing future drought resilience by focusing on the four key stages of drought – in the ‘good times’ before drought hits; in the period when drought is on the horizon; during drought – where most past work has focussed; and in the immediate drought recovery period,” said Professor Reeves.

“We’re continuing to build trust among government and industry that the Hub is where innovation and agribusiness can work together,” added Professor Reeves.

Riverine Plains is leading the North East Regional Node of the Victoria Drought Resilience and Innovation Hub and Chief Executive Officer Catherine Marriott said that it was lovely to hear how genuinely excited the Minister is about the collaborative, grass roots model operating in the Victorian Hub.

“We were able to showcase the collaboration we have with the other nodes and universities, as well as share examples of how the decentralised model is working, while bringing state and federal government, universities and the farming systems groups together,” she said.

“Riverine Plains is particularly excited about the Victorian Innovation Hub because it has enabled us to employ a livestock officer and launch our first-ever livestock project, which is a shift in focus that has been asked for by our members” added Catherine.

The Innovation Hub’s South West Regional Node Leader, Southern Farming Systems, was also awarded an Innovation Grant that involves the participation of other Hub partners, while a proof-of-concept grant of over $100,000 was announced for another University of Melbourne project that seeks to design and test a Drought Resilience Facilitation and Leadership Framework that identifies, builds, and sustains community capacity to implement strategic resilience planning.

For a full list of projects funded through the Drought Resilience Innovation Grants, visit: https://www.awe.gov.au/agriculture-land/farm-food-drought/drought/future-drought-fund/research-adoption-program/drought-resilience-innovation-grants

Meat & Livestock Australia Survey

2021 GSR & YTD Rainfall Summary for the Riverine Plains

Riverine Plains rainfall deciles and soil moisture probe readings 

There’s been some very significant rainfall totals across the Riverine Plains during November and early December, especially in the northern part of the region (the Henty Riverine Plains network weather station at the Field Day site recorded 212mm for November).

Growing season rainfall (GSR, April-October) for 10 sites across the Riverine Plains was generally average – slightly below average, with decile 3 rainfall at Euroa, Rutherglen and Lockhart at, decile 4 at Dookie, Albury, Corowa and Urana, decile 5 at Yarrawonga, while Cobram and Henty received decile 6 GSR.

Year to date (January – November) rainfall deciles ranged from 5 at Euroa to 9 at Henty and Cobram, with higher deciles in the northern part of the region.

Soil moisture probe readings showed the drying out of the profile during October, and the November rains have topped these up, but perhaps not as much as expected in some regions. As at 7 December, soil moisture probe readings showed the profile to be around 50 % full at Burramine, 65% full at Rand (site not flooded), around 60% full at Coreen and Culcairn, and 90% full at Rutherglen.

As of 7/12/21, the Agriculture Victoria Youanmite moisture probe was sitting at 65% full from 30-100cm. Dookie Land Management Group probes show 45, 62, 78 and 91 per cent full from 30-140cm.

NB Monthly rainfall sourced from a combination of Bureau of Meterology stations and Riverine Plains weather station network sites