December 22, 2017

By Matt Gardner, Head of AMPS Research

I am still trying to work out where 2017 has disappeared to!


Despite disappearing extremely quickly the 2017 season will be etched in people’s memories for a long time as it broke a number of records, mostly bad ones. January and February saw sustained periods of extreme heat with some parts of the region recording more than 50 days straight of temperatures above 35oC. This extreme heat was coupled with extremely patchy storm events making for a very tough summer cropping season. Rain in March came too late for many summer crops and was really the first addition to fallow profiles since September 2016. Hence, we entered the 2017 winter crop with some of our lowest starting soil moistures for a number of years. There was no real widespread autumn break across the region to plant the winter crop, rather a number of small rainfall events which made planting difficult. All regions experienced record low rainfall in July, August and September, with some not even recording a drop of rain in September (a far cry from 2016!). These clear skies were the ultimate conditions for frost throughout the region. On a positive note the frosty conditions of 2017 provided the ideal opportunity (from a trial point of view) to put these early sowing dates to the test. The elevation x TOS sites at Premer provided the most extreme frost conditions of all with the bottom of the slope recording 92 frost events throughout the season that totalled 583 hours where the temperature was below zero. While the top of the slope at Gurley recorded grand total of 45 min of temperatures below zero. These numbers are truly phenomonal! As soon as the headers started to appear in October so did the rain, this was also coupled with very mild temperatures (one of the few similarities between 2016 and 2017). October conditions had a profound impact on grain quality, ensuring whatever yield that had been achieved was generally good quality. I don’t think any part of the region missed out on the stop start harvest conditions. However, it did allow for summer crops to be established well.

A comment I hear way too often is “can’t take too much out that season”, however I believe regardless of the season we can learn something every year and 2017 is no different with some exceptional trials results recorded. We have seen huge variation in trial yields in 2017 with wheat and barley yields ranging any where between 0.2-8.3 t/ha. Lack of moisture was a bigger threat to pulses this year rather than disease with our fababean, chickpea, fieldpea and lupin yields ranging from 0.3 – 3.4 t/ha, 0.4 – 2.9 t/ha, 0.3 – 1.5 t/ha and 1.1 – 2.5 t/ha, respectively. Canola trials yielded surprising well considering the impact of frosts with yields ranging from 0.5-2.6 t/ha. The best of the Safflowers at Moree were 1.2 t/ha, while the 2 safflower trials at Spring Ridge are determined to be our first trials harvested in 2018! I cant wait to get to the data analysed and ready for presentation at our Winter Reviews in 2018.

Records are made to be broken and 2017 was another record year for the trial program at AMPS Research. In 2017 we have planted 9184 winter plots and a further 2582 summer plots, which puts us over 11000 plots managed for the year. October this year was the first time we had planted trials in the Tamworth region and we look forward to working with a passionate group of growers in  that region  for years to come. So now Steve and I have trials within 10 mins from home to 4 hrs away! January, Fabruary and September are the only months we haven’t been planting trials this year!! In addition to our trials we have held a number of extension activities through the year including 9 crop reviews and 16 field days that have been attended by more than 750 people.

This is our fourth season since starting to run all our operations internally and I am happy to report that the continual improvement of our trial systems is making our job easier not harder! However this is primarily due to wonderful team of people. First and foremost Steve Towells must be acknowledged for another huge effort this year and his dedication is second to none. We have a large team of casuals including Sophie Clift, Sophie Willmott, Faye Temperley, Maddi Henry, Zoe McCathy and Sophie MacKenzie that have all made significant contributions throughout the year with logistics, particularly packing seed and processing grain quality samples. I am happy to report that the girls have already processed 75% of grain quality samples for 2017! Sarah Ball has been a very welcome addition to the team on a part time basis, focussed on better extending all the trial results being generated. She brings a wonderful enthusiasm and great perspective. Vicki Pettit also needs special mention for a big effort keeping all our administration in order. Georgina Mace has been instrumental in developing the new AMPS Agribusiness website and managing all the communications for AMPS Research. Also, I would thank the entire AMPS team for their help at various points throughout the year. Our research committees that are made up of growers and agronomists in each region need to be acknowledged for all their help and enthusiasm in 2017, their time is truly appreciated. Many thanks to our chairman Gordon Brownhill his passion and the time that he dedicates to AMPS Research is phenomenal and it is a pleasure to work so closely with him.

All our research trials are conducted on farms and there are a large number of co-operators that need to be acknowledged, as without good co-operators good research is not possible. All the growers that hosted trials this season are listed below and their time and effort throughout the year is very much appreciated. For the Liverpool Plains region Ed and Tom Simson, Gordy and Dave Brownhill, Dave Carter, Ben Clift, Rob Davidson, Glen Wilkinson, Angus Murchison, Doug Campbell/Class Family, Jamie Badgery, Hugh Simson, James Weston, John Traill, Duncan Ball and Jim Russell. For the Gulargambone region Mick Obrien, Dean Ferguson, Chris Roche and Grant and Ash Thomas. For the Walgett/Rowena region Will Winston-Smith, Duncan Ball, Chris Radford and Tim and David Cameron. For the Moree/Bellata region Rob McKenzie, Paul Slack, David and Max ONeill, Peter Albert, Michael Woods and Ben Stevenson. For the Tamworth region Gareth Rodgers and Josh Dowe.

Without appropriate funding none of the above accomplishments are achievable. Significant acknowledgment must be given to the ongoing support of AMPS Agribusiness. Their long term commitment to reinvesting in research allows us the freedom to undertake innovative and relevant research at a localised level in each region that is driven by growers. Furthermore, the significant investment in state of the art equipment gives us the capacity to undertake our research at the highest industry standard. GRDC investment in projects such as the phenology x elevation and National Paddock Survey have been a game changer for AMPS Research and have given great leverage opportunities and sustainability in to the future.

Currently we are busy with summer trials and processing all the data from this year’s winter trials. There are some amazing results coming in and despite a very different season we have some nice trends that are lining up between seasons.

It has been another amazing year and I truly cherish opportunity to work with such enthusiastic and innovative growers and agronomists. From all the AMPS Research team we would like to wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous New Year. We are thoroughly excited about working closely with you all next year!


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