The Top 10 in agriculture for 2018

2018 was a tumultuous, tough yet exciting year for Australian agriculture. Farmers on the east coast were stricken by dry conditions that turned into one of the worst droughts in living memory, while strawberry farmers around the country were hit by a needle contamination scare right at peak season. Yet the response by the Australian public and even globally was something inspiring. We saw thousands of bales of hay donated by WA farmers and trucked in convoys across the country, millions of dollars donated by people around the country and the world and even “adopt-a-cow” type projects gain significant support. The country rallied behind strawberry farmers, trending #smashastrawb and slogans such as “cut it up, don’t cut it out”. While the impacts of these events were significant the response has been fantastic.

We saw a number of other positive developments too, such as industry wide accreditation by the Ag Institute Australia, the launch of the #ThisIsAusAg initiative from the National Farmers Federation and the announcement of the first hybrid wheat variety by Sydney University researchers. So, sit back, relax and enjoy our top 10 events, discoveries, industry influencers and more for 2018.

10. Successful, inaugural AgriEducate Essay Competition

While certainly not ones to toot our own horn, we were very excited to successfully hold our first cross-disciplinary essay competition. We received entries from 14 different universities around Australia, covering topics from anthropology and medicine, to construction and macroeconomics.

The competition will be back in 2019 too, with even more on offer than before! So stay tuned and follow our social media accounts for more.

9. Young people and women boost Australia’s agricultural workforce

According to the Insights snapshot released in December by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics Sciences, the Australian agricultural workforce is getting younger and with a larger percentage of women now involved as well. Of the young people becoming involved, 30 per cent are women, which is up 2 per cent from 2011.

8. Response to the strawberry needle contamination scare

The strawberry industry was hit hard by a needle contamination scare that hit during peak season. But an inspiring support campaign right around the country resulted in many people actively including more strawberries in their shopping. So, while many thousands of tonnes were discarded, consumers rallied and did their best to help where they could. Sales figures even bounced back noticeably as a result of the positive campaign.

7. #ThisIsAusAg

Support for young people in agriculture appears to be at an all time high with the peak farming representative body, National Farmers Federation, developing a group of young, motivated people to help put forward views and opinions on agriculture not typically seen or heard. They have hit the ground running with a series of podcasts and videos on various aspects of agriculture.

Click on the link above and listen to some of their first podcasts!

6. Launch of the CGIAR GARDIAN platform for big data

Imagine being able to access thousands of scientific datasets free of charge, on-demand and digitally. Well now we all can with the launch of the CGIAR GARDIAN platform. CGIAR are leading the way in generating information so that everyone can have the “…power to predict, prescribe, and produce more food sustainably”.

5. Launch of the first whole-of-agricultural accreditation program CAg

As the industry modernises and secures its place within the wider community, it needs appropriate ethical, professional and technical accreditation. The Ag Institute Australia launched the very first whole-of-agriculture accreditation scheme in what is a major step forward for the industry. The scheme encompasses all technical areas of expertise enabling people from any walk of professional agricultural life to jump on board. If you’re an agronomist, consultant, advisory, or policy expert (plus many more) then check it out and take your career to the next level.

4. Announcement of the first F1 hybrid wheat breeding system

The University of Sydney launched the first hybrid wheat variety at its Narrabri-based Plant Breeding Institute’s field day in September. The discovery stems from over 30 years research in developing a scalable system for effectively producing commercial quantity of F1 hybrids. Hybrid varieties offer the potential to increase yields through hybrid vigour, an opportunity for yield increases not possible in conventional plant breeding approaches.

Typical hybrid production approaches are incredibly labour intensive, requiring plant breeders to manually transfer pollen from sterile ears of wheat, and the removal of male stamen from those sterile ears.

3. Announcement of first new herbicide mode of action in over 25 years

In a development that’s sure to excite weed scientists, farmers and consultants alike, BASF announced a new mode of action at the Australasian Weeds Conference in September. It is currently under evaluation by the APVMA, but is expected to be released in 2019 for a world-first release in Australia.

The chemical compound named Luximo “was designed as an active ingredient which provides pre-emergence, residual control against a broad range of grasses, including difficult-to-control blackgrass and ryegrass in winter cereals”.

2. Inclusion of compulsory agricultural subjects in NSW curriculum from 2019.

NSW school students will soon be learning about agriculture as part of its introduction as a compulsory component of the curriculum.

It comes after the 2013 Pratley review recommended inclusion of agricultural topics and examples in everyday classes, to ensure students knew about opportunities in the ag industry.

Very exciting developments, hopefully other states follow suit!

1. Response to the 2018 drought

The 2018 drought was one of the worst in living memory for farmers across the eastern states. Its impact on agriculture in the region has been terrible, with many forced to destock, not plant any crops or in the worst cases move on altogether. Yet in the midst of this despair emerged a community-led movement to support farmers and livestock through hay donations, transport, food and family support and general appreciation of the hard work involved in producing food and fibre. So whilst the impacts of the drought were devastating, the banding together of Australians and people from around the world to support Australian farmers was undeniably an influencing and important part of 2018 in agriculture.

…to the future, and beyond!

Not to remain in the past, we’ve closed out our top 10 with a list of where to look for inspiration and from-the-horse’s-mouth news this year. So if you’re someone who has dabbled in the @Twittersphere, here is a list of our 19 accounts to follow for 2019 (inspired by @AnikaMolesworth).

@peterdnewman

@camparker62

@OzFarmers

@AgInstituteAus

@AnikaMolesworth

@careerharvest

@FarmTableAU

@agoftheworld

@art4ag

@oscarthefarmer

@thoughtforfood_

@littlebrickpast

@jonewton89

@afsnsw

@CrawfordFund

@HickeyLab

@FarmingForever

@TheChadColby             

@FAotC

So with 2018 done and dust(y)ed, here’s to 2019 with the current shearing season, upcoming summer crop harvest, as always the ongoing milking of dairy herds and planning for the winter season already happening. We’re looking forward to all the new developments that 2019 will offer!

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