John Hanrahan Scholarship Recipient Announced

28 March, 2019

Word Count: 508

Inaugural John Hanrahan Scholarship Awarded

Riverine Plains Inc, together with the Hanrahan family, are pleased to announce that the Inaugural John Hanrahan Scholarship has been awarded to second year Bachelor of Agriculture student, Mitchell Priestly, who is currently undertaking studies at the University of Melbourne.

The Scholarship presentation took place at the Riverine Plains Inc Celebration of Agriculture Dinner held on Friday 22 March, 2019, at Corowa RSL at which Riverine Plains Inc also marked its 20th year of operation.

Riverine Plains Inc Treasurer and Scholarship Fund Trustee, Mr Barry Membrey, described Mitchell as a standout applicant and a very worthy recipient.

“The John Hanrahan Scholarship is named in honour of the late John Hanrahan, a successful and experienced farmer from Coreen, who had a passion for agriculture, a thirst for knowledge and real sense of community” explained Barry.

“We also see a passion for agriculture, commitment to learning as well as community spirit reflected in Mitchell’s achievements to date, which made him the ideal recipient of the inaugural John Hanrahan Scholarship” said Barry.

“Not only has Mitchell worked hard to study in his chosen field of agriculture, he has demonstrated his commitment to community through an active involvement in numerous sporting and musical groups and other committees over a long period” added Barry.

Mitchell has also shown himself to be enterprising, hard-working and driven to support himself and his passions.

This drive and determination led Mitchell to begin working at Craig and Helen Reynolds’ grain farm at Congupna during his senior high school years in Shepparton. The experience provided an invaluable introduction to agriculture and reinforced his educational and career path

“Mitchell has a forward-thinking view of agriculture and I have no doubt that he will be a future leader” said Barry.

“We are thrilled that the John Hanrahan Scholarship will assist Mitchell further his studies and we look forward to helping him achieve his potential and the bright future that agriculture holds” concluded Barry.

As the 2018 recipient of the John Hanrahan Scholarship, Mitchell receives a bursary of $5,000, access to work experience opportunities through Riverine Plains Inc, access to Riverine Plains events and networks and mentoring from a current board member.

Riverine Plains Inc would like to thank the Hanrahan family for their generous donation which enabled the establishment of the Scholarship, as well as all those who have made financial or in-kind donations to ensure the Scholarship Fund continues in perpetuity.

Applications for the 2019 round of the John Hanrahan Scholarship will open in July 2019. Further details will shortly be available from

The Riverine Plains Scholarship Fund has been recognised by the Australian Taxation Office to provide Deductible Gift Recipient status.  For information on how to make a donation to the Scholarship Fund please contact the Riverine Plains Inc office on 03 5744 1713 or email

Riverine Plains Inc is an independent farming systems group specialising in farmer driven research and extension across north-east Victoria and southern New South Wales. For more information, or to become a member, please visit


More Information or Interview:

Fiona Hart, Executive Officer, Riverine Plains Inc on 03 5744 1713

Opportunities for grains profit to be explored in Dookie, Echuca and Warracknabeal  

March, 2019

Word Count: 357

Growers in the Dookie, Echuca, Warracknabeal and neighbouring regions will soon be given an insight into what makes top performing grain-growing businesses in southern Australia so successful.

According to a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) research investment, the top 20 percent of grain businesses are retaining 30 pc of turnover as net profit, while the average business is retaining closer to 10 pc.

So, what are these top businesses doing differently to achieve this? Three GRDC ‘Opportunity for Profit’ workshops at Dookie on March 25, Echuca on March 26 and Warracknabeal on March 27 will provide the answers and enable local growers to better understand the profit drivers in their own businesses.

The half-day workshops will delve into the results from the GRDC three-year national project investment titled ‘the integration of profit drivers and technical information for more informed decisions’.

The project was led by Rural Directions Pty Ltd in the southern region, in association with Meridian Agriculture and Macquarie Franklin.

James Hillcoat, of Rural Directions, says the research has benchmarked more than 300 grain businesses nationally to identify what drives profit in each agro-ecological zone and how the provision of technical information links with these profit drivers.

This insightful information will be explored in detail at the workshops, by the end of which Mr Hillcoat (who is delivering the workshops) says participants will be well placed to identify opportunities for profit within their individual businesses.

“They will go away with an enhanced understanding of the performance of the top 20 pc growers in their region and will also be able to identify the management traits of a top 20 pc grower,” he says.

Kate Burke of Think Agri, who will co-deliver at the Dookie and Echuca events, says attendees will build their knowledge around the profit drivers that really make a difference in a grain business and will have access to diagnostic tools and processes to easily assess their own business performance.

Registration for the event is essential. To register or for more information, phone 08 8841 4500, email or visit


Contact Details


James Hillcoat, Rural Directions

Phone 08 8841 4500


Sharon Watt, GRDC
Phone 0409 675 100

GRDC Media Release: Cassie Schefe: an ‘asset’ to the grains industry rewarded

The contribution of Cassandra Schefe to the Australian grains industry has been officially recognised by way of the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s 2019 Southern Region Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award.

The award, voted upon by the GRDC Southern Region Panel, acknowledges Dr Schefe’s input and commitment to the grains industry.

In presenting the award at the GRDC Grains Research Update in Bendigo, GRDC Southern Region Panel chair John Bennett described Dr Schefe as “an asset to our industry” – not just in the region where she works as a research co-ordinator for Riverine Plains Inc and as an independent soil science consultant, but well beyond.

“Cassie is in an elite class,” Mr Bennett said. “She is one of those researchers who has a rare ability to undertake cutting-edge scientific research and then extend the outcomes of that work to growers and others in an engaging and easy-to-understand fashion, that results in on-farm impact.”

Prior to commencing work with Riverine Plains, Dr Schefe’s career was with what is now known as Agriculture Victoria, where she was first employed as a DPI Cadet in 1996 while studying Agricultural Science. She then became a research scientist in soil chemistry, working on several GRDC investments.

After completing her PhD studies through a GRDC-funded scholarship, which included study at the University of Naples, Italy, Dr Schefe collaborated with technical experts to develop synchrotron techniques to better understand nutrient reactions in soil.

Dr Schefe began working for Riverine Plains in March 2014 in the capacity of extension officer. One of the key tasks of this newly-created position was to instigate four grower discussion groups across the Riverine Plains area as part of a GRDC investment to improve the adoption of no-till stubble retained systems in the region by overcoming some of the constraints associated with these systems.

“Over the life of what has been known as the Stubble Initiative, Cassie organised discussion groups and facilitated interaction,” Mr Bennett said. “She also assisted in the extension of research results from the project through other means, including through presentations at seminars and field days.”

In 2015, Dr Schefe was instrumental in securing additional investment from the GRDC to measure the impact of different stubble treatments on in-canopy temperatures at three large-plot stubble trial sites for the 2015-17 field plot trials.

This investment linked the project into the GRDC’s National Frost Initiative, with all data generated being submitted into the national frost research database for review and analysis.

Dr Schefe has also worked on a number of other GRDC investments and various agricultural industry research programs, while continuing professional development as a Certified Professional Soil Scientist (CPSS).

Through her private consultancy, Dr Schefe works with universities, councils, catchment management authorities, industry, farmers and other organisations, providing soil science advice. She is the interface between Australian farmers and the international food industry for the Australian Cool Farm Initiative (ACFI), which aims to promote the long-term productivity and quality of broadacre cropping systems in Victoria and New South Wales using low carbon management practices.

“Her collaborative approach allows her to work with people across disciplines, organisations and even international time zones,” Mr Bennett said.

“Cassie is an academic who has made a conscientious effort to ensure that her work translates into tangible benefits for growers. She utilises cutting-edge technologies to address fundamental soil productivity issues.

“According to those who know her well, she is thorough to the nth degree, she is dedicated to supporting growers in their quest to improve profitability and she’s not afraid to go the extra mile to ensure her research message hits the target.

“If there’s a knowledge or research gap, or an obstacle to practice change, Cassie will identify it, understand it and work hard to have it addressed.”

Dr Schefe is the author of an exhaustive list of publications, including journal and conference papers and various reports, holds an adjunct Senior Research Fellow position at Monash University and in her spare time co-supervises PhD students at Monash University and The University of Melbourne.

“Cassie, we are truly grateful for all that you have done and continue to do, to further our industry,” Mr Bennett said when presenting the award.

“As a most worthy recipient of this Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award, you receive a financial scholarship that can be used for travel or another agreed activity to further your skills and expertise.

“You will be provided with an opportunity to network and strengthen linkages with other world-leading researchers to identify relevant research and technologies for potential adoption here in Australia”.


Sharon Watt, GRDC
0403 675 100

Mixed Farming Forum, Rutherglen – 13 March

4 March, 2019

Word Count: 479

Mixed Farming Forum for Rutherglen

Addressing some of the challenges and advantages of mixed farming systems in the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Southern Region will be the focus of a Mixed Farming forum hosted by Riverine Plains Inc at Rutherglen on Wednesday 13 March 2019.

“Over the past few years we have seen some grain growers capitalise on strong meat and wool prices by introducing stock for the first time or by re-introducing or expanding their individual livestock enterprises” said Riverine Plains Inc Executive Officer, Fiona Hart

“There are a number of potential advantages that come from integrating both livestock and cropping enterprises into a mixed farming system, including reduced input costs, the potential to reduce climatic and economic risks, greater income diversity and increased resilience” explained Fiona.

“However, these changes also require more complex decisions, a greater range of skills, a higher level of management and additional labour demands for mixed farmers compared to operations with a single focus” she added.

The GRDC Mixed Farming Forum at Rutherglen aims to address a number of issues specific to mixed farming systems in the Riverine Plains region and will feature several highly regarded speakers.

These include Kristy Howard, from Inspiring Excellence, who will speak on sheep requirements in the cereal – sheep zone for optimal productivity, while Matt Mahoney of Agridome will speak on the importance of sown fodder on a mixed farm. Josh Buerckner of I K Caldwell will talk about grazing crops and Alison Frischke from BCG will speak on stubble grazing values.

A focus of the day will also be the discussion of information and results generated from the highly successful Grain and Graze programs, as part of a two-year project investment by GRDC to increase awareness of the outcomes of the project, which is being managed by Ag Ex Alliance.

“The Grain and Graze programs ran nationally from 2010 – 2016 and involved a lot of collaboration between researchers, advisors and farmers around mixing livestock and cropping programs” said Project Coordinator Danielle England of AgInnovate

“Most of the agricultural research projects in both the Australian grain and livestock industries looked at each enterprise in isolation, while in Grain & Graze they were considered together and we invite local farmers, agronomists and livestock advisors to join us as we unwrap these results in Rutherglen” said Danielle.

The Mixed Farming Forum will be held on Wednesday March 13, 2019 at the Agriculture Victoria Rutherglen Centre, 124 Chiltern Valley Road, Rutherglen, from 8:45am-1:30pm.  The workshop is free. RSVPs are requested to assist with catering.

For more information, or to register please contact Fiona Hart at or phone (03) 5744 1713 or visit

Riverine Plains Inc is an independent farming systems group specialising in farmer driven research and extension across north-east Victoria and southern New South Wales. For more information, or to become a member, please visit



More Information or Interview:

Fiona Hart, Executive Officer, Riverine Plains (03 5744 1713)

Sykesy’s Buraja Meeting – Thursday 7 February

31 January, 2019

Word Count: 360

Sykesy’s Buraja Meeting 2019

Riverine Plains Inc will host Sykesy’s Buraja Meeting on Thursday February 7, 2019. This event continues the tradition started by the late John Sykes and is an opportunity for local farmers to discuss the 2018 season results as well as the challenges likely to arise in the season ahead.

“The Buraja meeting is long-standing and well-known event involving a post-harvest debrief, presentations on new varieties, market updates and key issues for the coming season, which together provide an important planning opportunity for the 2019 grain growing season” explained Riverine Plains Inc Executive Officer, Fiona Hart.

“The 2018 season was tough for Riverine Plains region growers, with the dry conditions, and severe frosts having a big impact on the profitability of the 2018/2019 winter grain harvest” said Fiona.

“While unusually extreme, last year’s conditions created a unique set of experiences and learnings and the Buraja meeting provides an opportunity for farmers to share and reflect on these experiences with the aim of using this information into the future” added Fiona.

Chris Minehan from Rural Management Strategies will facilitate a harvest debrief session, which will involve discussions around any likely flow-on effects for 2019, as well as other issues for 2019.

Using results from the local National Variety Trials (NVT) and the Riverine Research Centre at Yarrawonga, Michael Straight from FAR Australia will speak on regional wheat variety performance and options for planting in autumn 2019.

Information on the performance of new barley and canola varieties suitable for the region will also be presented, along with a grain marketing update.

Sykesy’s Buraja Meeting will be held on Thursday 7 February, 2019 at the Buraja Recreational Ground Hall, from 9am – 12:30pm. This event is free to attend and all are welcome. A BBQ lunch will be provided afterwards and no RSVP is necessary.

For more information please contact Fiona Hart at or phone (03) 5744 1713 or visit the website at

Riverine Plains Inc is an independent farming systems group specialising in farmer driven research and extension across north-east Victoria and southern New South Wales. For more information, or to become a member, please visit


More Information or Interview:

Fiona Hart, Executive Officer, Riverine Plains (03 5744 1713)

Stubble Management Guidelines available for the Riverine Plains region

27 November 2018

Word Count: 427

Stubble Management Guidelines for the Riverine Plains region

Managing the stubble left over from cereal crops is a perennial problem for grain growers in the Riverine Plains region.

While stubble loads in 2018 are generally much lighter than usual due to the impact of the dry conditions and the salvaging of frost damaged crops, stubble management remains an important consideration heading in to next season.

“Farmers know that stubble retention has many benefits, including rainfall capture and storage over the summer fallow, protection from wind and water erosion and the improvement of soil structure” explained Riverine Plains Inc Research and Extension Officer, Dr Cassandra Schefe.

“But on the other hand, high stubble loads can also increase the frequency of blockages at sowing, affect establishment and increase disease carryover between crops” she said.

“For this reason, Riverine Plains Inc undertook a significant amount of research into the effectiveness of stubble management techniques as part of the GRDC investment Maintaining Profitable Farming Systems with Retained Stubble in the Riverine Plains project said Cassandra

The project, which ran from 2013-2018, delivered a number of key findings, including that no-till stubble retained systems generally yielded as well, or better, than stubble management systems which involved burning, cultivation or additional nitrogen at sowing with cultivation, except where stubble loads were extremely high at some location (as in 2016).

To support the outcomes of the project, Riverine Plains Inc has developed a series of stubble management guidelines specifically for grain growers.

The guidelines cover topics such as how to manage stubble at harvest, techniques for successfully sowing into stubble, the strategic management of crops grown in stubble-retained systems, as well as the impacts of stubble on soil carbon.

The guidelines also refer to results of the trials undertaken throughout the life of the project, which makes them especially relevant for farmers in the Riverine Plains region.

“In terms of stubble management, we often talk about the need for sowing preparation to start at harvest time, so now definitely is a good time to be accessing these Guidelines in preparation for 2019” added Cassandra.

The guidelines are available for download from A limited number of hardcopies are available by request from the Riverine Plains Inc office by phoning 03 5744 1713 or emailing

Riverine Plains Inc acknowledges the support of the GRDC and our project partner FAR Australia in delivering this project and the resulting stubble management guidelines.

Riverine Plains Inc is an independent farming systems group specialising in farmer driven research and extension across north-east Victoria and southern New South Wales. For more information, or to become a member, please visit


More Information or Interview:

Dr Cassandra Schefe, Riverine Plains Inc (03 5744 1713)


Evan Moll Gerogery Field Day – 8 November 2018

31 October 2018

Word Count: 338


The Evan Moll Gerogery Field Day will be hosted by Riverine Plains Inc on Thursday 8th November, 2018.

“The day, previously known as the Gerogery National Variety Trial and Agronomy Field Day, is an important one for growers in the region, with a key aspect being the inspection of the cereal and canola varieties included in the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) National Variety Trials (NVT)” explained Riverine Plains Inc Executive Officer, Fiona Hart.

“The NVT trials provide an excellent opportunity to assess new varieties before their commercial release and the day also allows some of the issues that are developing in the lead-up to harvest to be addressed” said Fiona.

The cereal NVT session and discussions will be led by Peter Matthews (NSW DPI), while Don McCaffery (NSW DPI) will lead the canola NVT variety discussions. Don will also speak about frost damage and how this can be influenced by variety.

A presentation around the best forage options and seed availability for 2019 will be made by Peter Matthews (NSW DPI) and David Leah (Seed Force). James Whiteley (AGT) will also lead a paddock inspection of the new dual purpose wheat, Illabo.

Adrian Clancy (AC Ag Commodities) and Lachy Herbert (Riverina Oils) will also discuss cereal and canola grain marketing.

The field day will be held from 12.30pm – 4.15pm on Thursday 8 November at The Moll family property, “Elderslie”, Fielder-Moll Road Gerogery, commencing with a free BBQ lunch provided by Seed Force.

“The day is always strongly supported by the local community and we encourage farmers to come along for what will be an informative and social day” concluded Fiona.

For more information please contact Fiona Hart on 03 5744 1713 or email or download the Evan Moll Gerogery Field Day flyer from

Riverine Plains Inc is an independent farming systems group specialising in farmer driven research and extension across north-east Victoria and southern New South Wales. For more information, or to become a member, please visit



More Information or Interview:

Fiona Hart, Riverine Plains Inc (03 5744 1713)


GRDC investment supports new Riverine Plains Northern Pulse Check Group

23 October 2018

Word Count: 422

GRDC funding for Northern Pulse Check supports new Riverine Plains group

An increase in the tools, knowledge and confidence of growers and advisors across the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Northern Region to optimise pulse crop yields is the aim of a new GRDC investment Pulse Check – local extension and communication for profitable pulse production in South East NSW.

FarmLink is working with Pulse Australia in co-ordinating the GRDC Pulse Check project across five GRDC sub-regions in NSW, with Pulse Check groups in southern NSW facilitated by Riverine Plains Inc and FarmLink in the Riverina.

The Pulse Check Discussion Groups will allow growers, advisors and researchers to address the challenges and opportunities created by pulse crops in the rotation. The groups will direct their own learning by tapping into information and tools being delivered through GRDC and other pulse investments.

Groups will meet two to three times each season and remain connected through social and other media. A program of interactive seasonal activities will be conducted by each group to include all aspects of the pulse value chain.

Guest presenters will include marketers, researchers and experienced growers who will contribute their knowledge on production to help increase the capacity for greater production in the region.

The first meeting of the Riverine Plains Inc Pulse Check group will be held on Friday 26 October, 2018 at the Hamilton Family property ‘Granview’ at Rand from 8:30 am to 11:30am. A workshop will be held at the sheds before visiting a faba bean and lentil crop. Speakers will include; Phil Bowden (Pulse Australia), Roy Hamilton (Rand), James Madden (Madden Consulting) and Gary Drew (Lupins for Life).

If you would like to be involved, or for further information, please contact Riverine Plains Inc Pulse Check Group facilitator, Kate Coffey, on 03 5744 1713.

Pulse Australia’s Phil Bowden said that despite poor seasonal and market conditions this season for pulses, fundamentals remain strong globally with factors such as Indian economic growth in demand for chickpeas and lentils, increased Chinese demand for peas and faba beans, and short supply of pulses in Pakistan all contributing.

“In addition, the current drought in eastern Australia, along with the high prices for livestock and wool are increasing demand for pulse based stock feed particularly lupins, field peas and faba beans,” Mr Bowden said.

Riverine Plains Inc is an independent farming systems group specialising in farmer driven research and extension across north-east Victoria and southern New South Wales. For more information, or to become a member, please visit


More Information or Interview:

Kate Coffey, Riverine Plains Inc Northern Pulse Check Facilitator, (03 5744 1713)

Gerogery farmer Tony Chaston wins Riverine Plains Inc crop competition

18 October 2018

Word Count: 374

Riverine Plains Inc is pleased to announce Tony Chaston of Gerogery as the winner of this year’s inaugural Riverine Plains Inc Crop Competition, with his outstanding paddock of RGT Accroc wheat.

Tony was announced as the winner at the Baker Seed Co Annual Field Day on Friday 19 October and won 5 tonnes of new proprietary cereal seed valued at $5,000 kindly provided by crop competition sponsor, Baker Seed Co.

“The competition took place under very challenging conditions during 2018, with many farmers across the southern NSW and north east Victorian judging area heavily affected by drought conditions and frost” said Riverine Plains Inc Chairman, Ian Trevethan.

“Despite the conditions, we received a strong response from local growers, with entries from Berrigan, Boweya, Brocklesby, Daysdale, Gerogery and Howlong” he said.

“All of the crops entered were of a high calibre, which made it very difficult for the judges to determine the winner and only a few points separated the top three crops” added Ian.

Judging was determined across a number of categories, with the effects of the season taken into account.

Tony’s crop was rated very highly by the judges for weed, pest and disease control, as well as for crop purity and nutrition.

“Having only received 302mm of rainfall for the year, and 215mm for the growing season, the crop was estimated to have a yield potential of 5.7 t/ha, which is outstanding given the season we’ve had” said Ian.

The crop was sown at 80kg seed/ha and received nitrogen at sowing and twice during the season (June and August).

At the time of judging, the crop was quite even and still very green, showing only minimal signs of moisture stress while the hill-side location of the paddock also meant the crop avoided frost damage.

“On behalf of Riverine Plains Inc I would like to congratulate all entrants on the quality of their crops and thank Baker Seed Co for their generous sponsorship of the competition” said Ian.

Riverine Plains Inc is an independent farming systems group specialising in farmer driven research and extension across north-east Victoria and southern New South Wales. For more information, or to become a member, please visit


More Information or Interview: Fiona Hart, Executive Officer, Riverine Plains Inc (03 5744 1713)

The Australian Cool Farm Initiative: reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Date: 4 October, 2018

Word Count: 354

The Australian Cool Farm Initiative: reducing greenhouse gas emissions while driving efficiencies

NSW and Victorian grain farmers interested in monitoring or reducing their greenhouse gas emissions are invited to take part in the Australian Cool Farm Initiative being delivered by Riverine Plains Inc and Central West Farming Systems, through a partnership with the USA-based Sustainable Food Laboratory.

Riverine Plains Inc Research Officer, Dr Cassandra Schefe explained that the Australian Cool Farm Initiative is supported by global food company Mars Incorporated, as part of an effort to reduce the environmental impacts of their business. In Australia, Mars Petcare is a significant purchaser of grain from southern NSW and north east Victoria.

“Grain growers produce greenhouse gas emissions in a number of ways and the Australian Cool Farm Initiative provides an avenue for growers to monitor and manage their emissions, while also exploring how different farm practices can provide long-term carbon benefits” said Cassandra.

“The Initiative can also help growers identify inefficiencies and production constraints within their systems, which has the potential to lead to significant input cost savings and production gains” added Cassandra.

Farmers who participate in the program will receive support in the use of the Cool Farm Tool greenhouse gas calculator as well as soil sampling of up to five wheat paddocks annually. Farmers will also receive technical support and information on management options for the key limiting factors in their farming systems.

The Cool Farm Tool has been tested and adopted by a range of multinational companies including Nestle, McDonalds and Unilever through their membership of the Cool Farm Alliance. The Cool Farm Alliance works with their suppliers to measure, manage, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the effort to address global climate change.

Farmers are encouraged to contact Riverine Plains Inc or Central West Farming Systems to learn more about the program.

For more information, please contact Cassandra Schefe, Riverine Plains Inc 0419 238 798;

Riverine Plains Inc is an independent farming systems group specialising in farmer driven research and extension across north-east Victoria and southern New South Wales. For more information, or to become a member, please visit


More Information or Interview:

Cassandra Schefe, Research Officer, Riverine Plains (03 5744 1713 or 0419 238 798)

Photo Caption: Juliette Caulkins, Global Sustainable Sourcing Director, Mars Petcare, speaking about the Australian Cool Farm Initiative at the recent Riverine Research Centre Open Day.