• The 2011 crop – our best so far
  • North America Study Tour 2010
  • The 2011 crop – our best so far
  • China-Vietnam study Tour 2013
  • The 2011 crop – our best so far
  • 13 T/Ha wheat crop in England, 2015 Ag Tour
  • The 2011 crop – our best so far
  • Factory tour, China-Vietnam 2013
  • The 2011 crop – our best so far
  • Finding ANZAC relations graves, Ypres Belgium, European Ag Tour 2015
  • Harvesting the 2009 crop
  • Cotton Rondonopolis, Brazil, South America 2016
  • Iguazu Falls, South America, 2016
  • On the Amazon, South America, 2016
  • The late James Crabtree (92) enjoying the fruits of our labour
  • North America Study Tour, 2010
  • Factory tour, China-Vietnam 2013

Past Tours

Our focus has shifted to working in Africa through Arise African Agriculture – empowering Africa to feed itself. Please see more at www.ariseafricanag.com

2014 North America

North America

4 July–1 August

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2014 North American Agricultural Study tour Summary

Canola yielding higher than wheat!

In the Alberta province of Canada, we learned Canola can yield higher than wheat in t/ha which has encouraged many farmers to grow continuous Canola crops. Researchers have tried to encourage farmers to include wheat and barley in rotation however it is very difficult for farmers and researchers to go against what is most profitable.
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Canadian farmers are also challenged by city people wanting them to feed and care for cattle in feedlots in a certain way with regards to cattle health.
City people are suggesting no antibiotics should be used. However, feedlot owner Martin explained that he can’t leave a sick animal, he needs to treat it.
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In early July, central and eastern Canadian prairies were flooded, particularly the city of Brandon, Manitoba.
The prairies had a late start to the season for sowing spring wheat and canola due to flooding and the coldest winter on record, then were flooded again.
Western Canada has had 8 years of wet conditions. This has encouraged some strategic tillage even among the passionate no-till farmers in some regions.

Cover crop adoption explodes in mild and wet climates

Our visit to champion cover crops farmer, David Brandt, in Colombus, Ohio, was a highlight of the trip. Learning how he incorporates many cover crops species into his cropping program was both entertaining and educational. He has excess water and enough heat units to ensure that cover crops are not just successful but are critical to sustainability of his cropping system.
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In contrast, at the Dryland Research Station, in Akron, central Great Plains near Denver, it was a pleasure to spend time with dedicated and passionate scientists who understand the challenges of very dry dryland farming systems. They also understand heat and drought crop agronomy. Their work has shown that cover crops have limited, if any, role to play in maximizing no-till crop agronomy profits in low rainfall areas. Indeed cover crops showed significant crop yield loss when they were included in the crop rotation and no significant benefits.
This is a similar situation for those of us in dryland farming in Australia. We commend these scientists for their patience and dedication to science during a period of time when cover crops are seen by many as the next big thing in no-till agriculture.
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Corn adoption soars and wheat falters

The US Wheat Associates in Kansas are very concerned about the lack of competitiveness of wheat compared to corn. This has seen a replacement of the wheat area to corn - which has drought tolerance through a surprising and unexpected consequence of GM technology. Rootworm resistance through GM technology has ensured that corn roots can grow more efficiently and undamaged in dry areas due to better root health. So why would a US farmer grow 30 bushels of wheat in a dry area when he can grow 60 bushels of corn in the same area for a slightly reduced price?
This has got the US Wheat Industry concerned about the sustainability of wheat. Consequently they are keen, as am I, to promote biotech wheat. Unfortunately Australian farmers don’t have the luxury of being able to switch to corn and this makes us less competitive than the Americans farmers who can switch.

Herbicide Resistance - Palmer Pigweed

We spent time with farmers in Kansas state who for the first time have been devastated by the invasion of Palmer Amaranth (Palmer Pigweed) in their soya bean crops (for more info google Matt Hagney, pigweed). While the weed is widely adapted in the corn-belt, it appears to be moving into the dryer areas.
Poor crop and herbicide rotations and over-reliance on glyphosate (Roundup) have allowed Pigweed to be selected for glyphosate tolerance. A pigweed plant can produce a million seeds and grow several metres tall. In many ways this is an exciting thing for Australian farmers. We are acutely aware of herbicide resistance and tools for managing it.
It will create a flurry of research and development activity that can help us also. One such tool is mRNAi technology (messenger RNA-i).
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Farmers enjoyed talking to each other, learning from each other and climbing all over machinery.
They marvelled at the Smithsonian space museum in Washington DC, Chicago Board of Trade and John Deere Harvester Works.
A farmer dinner at the house of Colorado no-till farmer, Scott Ravenkamp, was a great opportunity for Australian farmers chin wag with Colorado farmers and hear their challenges and success.
Calgary Stampede was a celebration of everything Albertan, including the bucking horse. We learnt the rules for Chuck Wagon racing. Also saw the best of watercolour and oil painting artists, quilting and crafts.
A bonus for many was visiting the Indian Village at the stampede and talking to the tribes represented and watching them compete in their traditional dances and drumming.
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The Ladies enjoyed the picturesque Canadian and Colorado Rocky Mountains, quilting show and quilting store visits.
The interaction with the Amish people in Pennsylvania was informative and we had a delightful walk through Monet and Van Gogh paintings at the National Art Gallery in Washington DC.
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