Local agronomist learns from America’s best

NEW IDEAS: Elders agronomist Justin Elliott has recently returned from America after taking part in an international training and study tour.
NEW IDEAS: Elders agronomist Justin Elliott has recently returned from America after taking part in an international training and study tour.

MORE communication and region-specific research are just some of the areas to improve in the agriculture industry throughout the South East, according to local agronomist Justin Elliott.

Travelling to America recently on an international training and study tour, the Elders employee learnt from industry leaders about advancements they are making and ways to emulate this in Australia.

“Here in Australia we see a lot of the research collected from dry areas being broadly used across the country, but in the little pocket called the South East the conditions are so different,” he said.

Seeing firsthand the dedication to agriculture throughout America, Mr Elliott said the relationship between farmers and universities was outstanding and could be the answer to improving agriculture in the region.

“They have an incredible extension – the state universities, including those in Alabama, Tennessee and Iowa undertake region-specific research which is a great benefit to farmers,” he said.

“Unfortunately agriculture in Australia is still very young compared to the rest of the world and we have often tried to use technologies and information from another part of the world and it doesn’t work.

“The water table can rise above the ground significantly in this region, unlike other areas of the country.

“We’ve got to have the ability to look at information relative to the area we live in and make better decisions based on that.”

With farmers able to speak directly with the researchers, Mr Elliott said results and feedback can be gathered in a shorter time with a lot more efficiency.

“The farmers have a need for highly accurate responses and the universities make sure they are working at that level,” he said.

“I think initially for it to work here we would need some sort of regulation around the science that is presented so if someone comes out with a new product it is tested and statements are compared to what is known to be true.

“Problems solved in America could, at the moment in Australia, take significantly longer because the gap is too big between researchers and farmers – there are too many people in between in that chain.”

Mr Elliott also commended America’s advancement in technology and willingness to explore new ideas.

“They are undertaking billions of dollars in research, the advancements they can make are at such high intervals because there are more people, so more money,” he said.

“Some of the farms we visited did imaging in the fields, on the pivots they had cameras which would take photos of the crops as it goes around, this way they could regularly measure things such as heat units.

“They also do soil testing on every two acres, which means they can make more accurate and relevant decisions on what to do in different parts of the paddock – it was fascinating.”

Seeing Australia and the South East’s potential for growth in the agricultural industry, Mr Elliott said he had a better understanding of how to reach those goals.

“I think agriculture is at the point of explosion of knowledge and the tour opened my eyes to what we could achieve,” he said.

“Our farmers’ knowledge of standard soil constraints is much better than America’s and our animal husbandry would be the best in the world by far.

“The South East is also getting recognised as producing a really high quality product.

“This is a very exciting time for farming in Australia, not just our district.”