A PROJECT is underway to develop a reporting tool which would communicate the risks and benefits of new farming technologies and practices, enabling grower groups and extension agencies to better deliver information to farmers so they can make well informed decisions.
Funded by Soil CRC, the project has been driven by growers groups, with West Midlands Group (WMG) and Corrigin Farm Improvement Group, in WA, and Central West Farming Systems, in New South Wales, taking the lead and working with Charles Sturt University.
Often when farmers are looking to adopt new practices or technologies, they have very limited data available to work out whether it's worthwhile.
Through working with farming members, WMG executive officer Nathan Craig said they knew there were lots of different parameters which farmers needed to assess before choosing what to adopt and when.
"While profitability is often the driving force behind adoption of new farming practices, there are many other factors that affect adoption," Dr Craig said.
"These can include emotional, social, community, environmental and other emerging business risk factors."
The project has been designed to develop more than just a gross margin tool, but a framework which would allow for research on new farming practices and technologies to be shared in a standardised way, allowing for better evaluation and balance between the short and long-term benefits.
Sometimes it may not be the right time for them, with factors such as risk management and the amount of capital needed also playing a part.
"It would allow farmers to sit down and look at different pieces of technology or farming practices and critically evaluate them side-by-side, not just based on profit but also based on the potential impact to the likes of business risk and carbon emissions," Dr Craig said.
"Going forward, farmers will be able to make broader and better decisions on needing to focus on improving their environmental credentials, for example.
"They would be able to use the framework to select technologies which may be higher in those areas, rather than just profitability."
Led by grower groups, the project is taking a grassroots approach which starts with working with farmers to understand what they need.
Once a framework has been developed, it will be road tested on new practices with farmers to make sure a practical and pragmatic tool has been developed.
"As opposed to many other research projects, this is producer led and we're taking a ground-up approach," Dr Craig said.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what we can deliver to farmers as we're starting off at that level with what they want and need."
The project is due to start later this year and road testing will occur using trial data from the 2023 season.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.