New project to explore broadacre cropping options in the Northern Territory

The largest Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) research collaboration to date, could deliver a boon for new broadacre cropping developments across the Northern Territory (NT).

The two year, $1.4 million project is being co-funded by the CRCNA, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) and fourteen other partners.

Researchers from the NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) will lead a project team of experts from CSIRO, universities, natural resource groups, industry associations, seed distributors and ten producers from across the Territory.

Dr Ian Biggs, Senior Research Agronomist at the DPIR, said the project is focused on developing a complete cropping system for growers by building on earlier studies about the agricultural potential across the Katherine/Douglas Daly region, southern and central NT, and CSIRO’s Northern Australian Water Resource Assessment study for the Darwin regions.

“This means undertaking trials that target high value crops like cotton and peanuts, and developing a farming system that incorporates crop rotations like sorghum, maize, pulses or pasture.

“Our physical small-scale trials will be complimented by larger, commercial demonstration trials and supported by crop simulation tools like APSIM (Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator) and OZCOT.

“Advances in these crop simulation programs provide a powerful tool which can be used to extend learnings from field research, build an understanding short and long term risk profiles, identify key management decisions, determine irrigation water demands and incorporate grower experience while developing an overall picture of the cropping potential of a region,” he said.

Data collected as part of the trials will be added to the APSIM, OZCOT applications and the University of Southern Queensland’s CROPARM website to ensure producers, agronomists and investors have access the latest information about the various growing regions.

CRCNA Chief Executive Officer, Jed Matz said this information will help these stakeholders decide which crops to grow and when and where to grow them.

“This collaboration is about gathering the brightest minds in northern Australia cropping systems and setting the starting points for the development of NT broadacre cropping systems by giving producers, investors and development decision-makers the information they need to realise the region’s potential and all the economic benefits that flow from realising that potential,” he said.

The NT Farmers Association predicts that over the next decade development of a broadacre cropping industry in the NT will see a dramatic increase in the production of crops like sorghum, soybean, pulses and peanuts (current production for soybeans and peanuts is zero). While cotton is likely to have an exponential increase in the number of producers growing the crop and the number of bales produced annually.

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