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Producing food for the world

Associate Professor Guy Roth, Director of Northern Agriculture at the University Sydney in Narrabri, explains how his team decided to contribute to National Agriculture Day to help the community understand some of the technology used to produce food.

On Australia’s first National Agriculture Day we celebrated Australian farmers producing food for the world.

Research and technology have allowed Australian grain growers to be among the most efficient, innovative, productive and sustainable food growers in the world.

In Narrabri, in the heart of the North West NSW grain belt, the University of Sydney’s Institute of Agriculture’s Plant Breeding Institute undertakes key research and puts the innovations into the practice on its own research farm and with local farmers.

Associate Professor Guy Roth, Director of Northern Agriculture at the University Sydney at Narrabri said "We wanted to do something to contribute to the National Agriculture Day to help the community understand some of the technology used to produce food.”

“It is a very busy time of the year for us.  Various teams have been harvesting around 40,000 plots of unique types of wheat, chickpeas, faba beans and other crops. We also have 1000 hectares of wheat, canola and chickpeas in our larger farming systems research paddocks.  Harvest takes our team about a month’s work, seven days a week and we have about one week to go.”

“I was talking with our cropping supervisor Kieran Shephard and we came up with the idea of cutting the word FOOD into the wheat which we were about to harvest.  After all, agriculture is all about food production. The word food is only four letters, and maybe we could manage that with our larger state of the art 12 meter wide header."

“We devised a plan. Kieran put the metrics into the header’s high tech navigation system and harvested the letters.”

 

We wanted to do something to contribute to the National Agriculture Day to help the community understand some of the technology used to produce food.
Associate Professor Guy Roth, Director of Northern Agriculture at the University Sydney at Narrabri
"We devised a plan. Kieran put the metrics into the header’s high tech navigation system and harvested the letters," Dr Guy Roth

The University of Sydney is proud of its long association with the world’s most innovative grain farmers.  In the 1950’s a group of grain growers banded together to buy a farm at Narrabri for research and they invited the university to lead a research effort on this farm.

“This partnership with the Wheat Research Foundation and Grains Research and Development Corporation has been highly successful, delivering key new, high quality, high yielding, and disease resistant wheat varieties."

“This is a crop of durum wheat. Durum wheat is used to make pasta and compared to bread wheat has more protein and excellent cooking qualities.  One of the special features of this specific variety being harvested is its brighter yellow colour which has market appeal for many consumers.  People like a naturally yellow pasta as opposed to a white pasta.  For growers, it has a better grain quality and bigger seed size."

This paddock is 280 hectares and is on track to produce 840 tonnes of durum wheat. That could be around 1 million packets of pasta.

“We use a lot of innovative technology and farm practices; crop rotations, soil maps from electromagnetic sensors, soil fertility tests, climatically adapted varieties, minimum tillage and stubble retention for soil health, a professional agronomist, yield maps, UAV or drone images, and GPS guidance systems on the machinery so that we have a controlled traffic system.

“The University recently expanded activities to allow larger scale trials and to answer other farming systems research questions.  Future work will continue to increase wheat yield and grain quality and its climatic adaptation especially to heat and drought, water use efficiency.  Increasing the area planted to grain legumes like chickpeas and faba beans is another key research focus.  In the future we want to amplify agriculture’s productivity, food provenance, resilience, and harness digital technologies and connectivity for the benefit of consumers, producers, agribusiness and the environment.”

“Food comes from farms via supermarkets.  Whether it is a loaf of bread or a fresh cherry; plant genetics, the soil, water, environment, and a lot of technology and management combine to produce the best produce in the world. Hopefully, the photograph with the help of local photographer Josh Smith helps remind people of the linkage between farms, the environment and all the skill and technology that enables them to enjoy great food.”

Beautiful image taken by Joshua J. Smith Photography - http://www.joshuajs.com/

A few facts on the letters and FOOD!

  • The paddock where it is located is on “Llara”, The University of Sydney’s newest research farm at Narrabri. This paddock is 280 hectares and is on track to produce 840 tonnes of durum wheat.   That could be around 1 million packets of pasta.
  • The dimensions of the word FOOD is 216 meters long and the letters 60 meters high.
  • The harvester (“header”) had a 12 meter front on it, which is the letter width. 
  • The header is a state of the art machine equipped with GPS navigation for precision harvesting. It can also produce yield maps that show the variability across the paddock, which in future years enable continuous improvement.   The header can harvest about 8-12 ha an hour or 50 tonnes of wheat an hour.
  • This is a crop of durum wheat. Durum wheat is used to make pasta and compared to bread wheat has more protein and excellent cooking qualities.  One of the special features of this specific variety being harvested is its brighter yellow colour which has market appeal for many consumers.  People like a naturally yellow pasta as opposed to a white pasta.  For growers, it has a better grain quality and bigger seed size.
  • We use a lot of innovative technology and farm practices; crop rotations, soil maps from electromagnetic sensors, soil fertility tests, climatically adapted varieties, minimum tillage and stubble retention for soil health, a professional agronomist, yield maps, UAV or drone images, and GPS guidance systems on the machinery so that we have a controlled traffic system.

Associate Professor Guy Roth is the Director of Northern Agriculture at the University Sydney at Narrabri  

Kieran Shephard is the Commercial Cropping Supervisor, The University of Sydney Plant Breeding Institute (and driver of header here)

Joshus J. Smith, Photographer

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