Flinders welcomes rain
Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (15:40): As people in this place will be aware, I have a background as a grain farmer, and I awoke yesterday morning here in Adelaide to the sound of rain on the roof—and what a wonderful sound it was. My question almost instantaneously was: I wonder whether we have had that rain at home? And certainly we had.
Eyre Peninsula, which, of course, is a good part of the seat of Flinders, experienced good opening rains, I am going to call them—opening seasonal rains—particularly in the south and west, as is usual, In fact, a little place called Mount Hope topped the state during that last rain event. The rest of Eyre Peninsula did not go without. Much of the cropping belt received between 10 and 20 millimetres, so certainly, enough to give some encouragement to farmers.
The rain spread across Yorke Peninsula, the Mid North and the Adelaide Plains and the Hills. My understanding is that it did not push too far east of that, not too far into the Murray Mallee but, fingers crossed, they will get some rain soon. The paddocks across our grain belt here in South Australia are wafting with a combination of petrichor, paraquat and diesel. It is an unusual combination, but it is enough to warm the cockles of any farmer’s heart. Of course, what I mean by that is that the tractors are out in the field preparing and sowing this year’s crop.
We were pleased to welcome the Minister for Agriculture to Flinders and Eyre Peninsula just last week. I did take him out to a grain crop property, in particular to talk with one farmer about what he was planning to do with this year’s canola crop. Of course, for the first time here in South Australia the state’s grain growers have the opportunity to grow GM canola, thanks to the efforts of this parliament—a long overdue opportunity, I might add.
However, that aside, remember that canola is a particularly important crop on Lower Eyre Peninsula, the lower north and probably the Upper South-East across into the Wimmera. Those areas where canola production is intense will benefit most from this. Many canola growers, I understand, are dipping their toe into the water of GM canola. Some have decided not to try any this year. I did hear a report of another grower who has sown his entire canola crop to GM varieties.
That aside, a lot of growers have grown between 20 per cent and 25 per cent canola this year really just to, as I said, dip their toe in the water to try it out. The thing about GM canola in our farming system and situation is that it is tolerant of the chemical known as glyphosate, which means that farmers can sow canola even into a dry seedbed, and when the rains come the canola emerges, as do the weeds invariably and the farmers are able to use glyphosate to take out those weeds.
An interesting development—and we have been aware of this for the past few years—is that some weeds are developing resistance to glyphosate. There are other chemicals, too, which have had resistance issues, and rye-grass is the prime target here as the most difficult to manage in an intense cropping situation.
Rye-grass over a period of time has developed some resistance to glyphosate and some resistance to another chemical called clethodim. Used in isolation, those chemicals are problematic and they become less effective in a resistant population; mix those two chemicals together and all of a sudden it works again. These are the discoveries we are making through our R&D efforts, the latest technologies, and farmers will no doubt take advantage of continually evolving chemical combinations and other technologies such as GPS guidance.
Despite the vicissitudes of last year through many of our sectors and population, our grain farmers continued to produce. Last year’s harvest was slightly below average but, apart from challenges with the barley market into China, commodity prices remain strong and, fingers crossed, commodity prices will stay that way and seasonal conditions will be kind for our farmers this year.