A JOINT approach between Tasmanian grain growers, the dairy industry and a farming systems group has the potential to significantly boost the state’s wheat crop.
Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) southern regional panel chair Keith Pengilley, of Conara, said Tasmania once had a foremost position in wheat production.
“We used to produce enough grain in Tasmania to feed the colony in Sydney,” he said.
Now, there are plans to reduce Tasmania’s reliance on grain imports, particularly for the dairy sector.
“In July, the GRDC committed to a five-year research investment project, with the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) Australia, DairyTas and Southern Farming Systems to look at finding the best wheat and barley genetics from around the globe for high-yielding feed grains which would perform reliably in Tasmania,” he said.
“We want to get the agronomy and management right. How do we – as growers and advisers – maximise the yield potential around some of those varieties, which may not even exist in Tasmania at the moment.”
He said Southern Farming Systems would help to ensure the right agronomic package was available by looking at plant growth regulators, fertilisers and weed control.
Tasmanian grain could see a boost through partnerships and collaboration between industry bodies.
DairyTas is involved to provide advice on what kind of cereal to grow.
“There’s no point in growing something, at the end of the day, if it doesn’t suit the dairy farmer’s system,” Mr Pengilley said.
Tasmania imports 200,000 tonnes of feed grain, “which gives you some idea of the market potential, to start with, before you even look at any growth in dairy”.
Lachstock Consulting’s Lachie Stevens addressed a forum about new and emerging markets for Tasmanian grain.
“It’s probably not as big as it once was, compared with other states – we have more options in Tasmania, the poppy industry has grown and the vegetable industry has really grown,” Mr Stevens said.
“Freight equalisation doesn’t necessarily help grain growers, as grain coming in is subsidised at $40 a tonne.
“We are spoilt for choice and sometimes that can distract you from doing a few things well.”
Mr Stevens said the industry could grow significantly but needed capital.
“We need to find capital partners; we can’t borrow the money and there are not that many local investors – so we need to find other options to get capital into the state
“The ground is there, the infrastructure is there, the water is there, the market is there – we just need the desire and capital to make it work.”
Micro brewer Dave McGill, of Moo Brew in Hobart, said there was a role for supplying the local industry with malting barley.
“I talked about branding,” he said. “Farmers have a unique story, with lots of history, and as a brewer, we can leverage quite heavily off that agricultural side of things.
“The craft beer sector has a growing need for quality, malting-grade barley, along with the Tasmanian distilling industry.
“It is receiving some serious accolades around the world and we are trying to get an appellation tag, showing it is only Tasmanian barley used in the whisky.”
He acknowledged malting barley was an expensive crop to grow, and processors needed to be prepared to pay a premium price in order to support farmers.
In the same way as brewers were encouraging the hop industry, they were also locking in forward contracts for sale.
Moo Brew would take between 800 tonnes and 1000 tonnes of malting barley a year, which was too small for many of the larger operators.
“Hopefully, we can appeal to some of the smaller farmers, who have a lower yield but higher margin,” Mr McGill said.
The craft beer industry was growing at 10 per cent a year, which should encourage farmers to continue to grow the barley it needed, he said.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.