April agricultural field days

The Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) with assistance from the Northern Territory Farmers Association (NTFA), Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), presented two agricultural field days on Tuesday 9 April 2019 at the Katherine Research Station (KRS) and Wednesday 10 April at the Douglas Daly Research Farm (DDRF). The theme of the field days was “NT Agriculture: Pathways to Potential”, which aimed to promote a range of agricultural industries to local pastoralists, farmers and interstate investors. It also provided an opportunity to learn about some of the recent research in horticulture, cropping, pasture/grazing and livestock industries. The field days sought to assist diversification of existing farm operations to enable agribusiness to adapt to new agricultural opportunities.

Relevant trade displays showcasing various agricultural machinery, livestock supplements, irrigation suppliers, rural suppliers, rural banking representatives, agricultural education sector representatives, research corporations, land care groups and industry groups attended both events. Both days followed a similar plan with the main presentations held in the mornings. Various presenters came from local areas and interstate (QLD and NSW). A focus on market opportunities occurred, due to initial requests from producers prior to the field days. The afternoons consisted of various farm and paddock tours to look at, and learn about current DPIR research trials and also to hear more from industry stakeholders via further presentations and discussions in the field.

Morning presentations

Minister’s address

Honourable Paul Kirby, Minister for Primary Industry and Resources attended both field days and took the opportunity to talk to attendees and industry members.

Keynote speaker: local producer sharing their experience of diversification

David Connelly, General Manager of Tipperary Group of Stations, gave an NT producer’s perspective of diversification and integrating cropping and horticulture into an existing pastoral lease. David discussed the success of the Tipperary cotton both irrigated and non-irrigated, new and past horticultural endeavours such as a potential lemon orchard and difficulties that he has experienced with the process of obtaining Non Pastoral Use permits, water licences and what in his opinion is “red tape” and lack of clarity in process and security.

Overview of the southern cotton industry and addressing misinformation

Adam Kay, CEO of Cotton Australia gave an overview of the southern cotton industry and addressing misinformation with a focus on pesticide use reductions, water use efficiency gains and producers’ involvement with “Best Management Practices” via the myBMP accreditation scheme.

Getting projects off the ground and information for producers considering development

Jason Hill, Director - Land Assessment Branch, Rangelands Division, Department of Environment and Natural Resources discussed how producers can get their project off the ground, what new knowledge has been gained from soil and water investigations between 2014 and 2018, and how this information benefits landholders considering development. He also gave an update on the “Mapping the Future program from 2018 – 2022.”

Export and import considerations

Peter Dummett, General Manager Port Development, Darwin Port, gave an overview of how the shipping industry works including potential considerations for exporters and importers. These included, principal trades, shipping services, potential trade expansion with reference to the high population densities in areas accessible to the NT.

Cotton market opportunities and Australian position in the global market

Tony Geitz, Managing Director of Cotton, Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), provided a presentation on cotton market opportunities, the Australian position in the global cotton market and an introduction to the pricing of cotton. World importers, exporters and pricing illustrated a strong opportunity for producers in the NT.

Grain market opportunities from northern Australia

Damian Bradford, Archer Daniel Midlands (ADM), discussed grain market opportunities for Northern Australia. Demographics and the opportunity, the global outlook for grains, market comparison for the NT, planning for the future, pricing, freight options, controlled traffic farming, cotton being an enabler for other commodities i.e. rotational grain crops in the mixed farming system, with a summary of markets, methods and resources.

National hay market and opportunities

Cieran Maxwell, Feed Central, discussed national hay market and opportunities for hay in the NT with reference to national size of the industry, exports, domestic opportunities, on farm use, specifications and quality assurance with long term influences and trends. Feed Central have an online hay marketing platform that may be relevant to NT producers in the near future.

Paddock walks and farm tours


The horticulture tour provided an opportunity for producers to learn about the National Mango Breeding Program varieties for production, responses to disinfestation, research to support exports, effects of rootstocks and environmental effects on flowering. DPIR Research Horticulturalist Cameron McConchie also shared the process to purchase the varieties.

The benefits of different wet season cover crops for melon cropping systems were discussed. Crops included forage sorghum, Pearl millet, Caliente, Lab-Lab and a mixture of species. The efficiency of these cover crops was discussed in reference to improving soil health and reducing nematodes and other soil pathogens.


Select Brahman and composite bulls were presented for viewing before the annual bull sale which is planned for the Tuesday 18 June 2019, via the AuctionsPlus website.

Producers had the opportunity to hear about the select Brahman females and where the herd is heading next from DPIR Livestock Researcher Whitney Dollemore.

Producers learned about calf watch sensor technology, to improve knowledge of the causes of calf loss and how to reduce these losses. They also learned about rotational grazing of Gamba grass; to 1) control grass and 2) to increase livestock performance from Tim Schatz, Senior Livestock Researcher.

Kieren McCosker, DPIR Senior Livestock Researcher was also on hand to discuss phosphorous supplementation, the effect of maternal phosphorus status and subsequent weaner performance. At Douglas Daly the fly tag trials were also discussed and how they are performing in the Douglas Daly region.

Improved pasture and pasture for seed production

A range of pastures such as: Mulato, Jarra, Katambora Rhodes, Splenda Setaria, Premier Digit and Megamax were visually assessed and discussed. A Heritage Seeds representative was on hand for paddock discussions alongside DPIR Pasture Agronomist Arthur Cameron.

Irrigated Cropping – Cotton

The 2018 -19 research program in the NT is investigating planting cotton to utilise wet season rainfall to further reduce crop water requirement. The research trials demonstrate best practise agronomy of cotton on a range of territory soils using our current irrigation systems, and the viability of cotton as part of diversified mixed-cropping systems. The dryland cotton trials were also viewed on the tour. DPIR Senior Technical Office Nick Hartley and Senior Research Agronomist Ian Biggs where on hand to discuss trial parameters and outcomes so far. Paul Brady and Mark Dawson from Bayer, Sam Lee and James Quinn from Cotton Seed Distributors were also at the trial site to talk to producers and answer questions along with a range of cotton commodity specialists.

Irrigated Cropping – Soybeans

Attendees were able to view different Soybean varieties grown under irrigation such as Hayman soybeans from Seednet and variety A6785 from PB Agrifoods. Soybean can be utilised for hay or for grain and offers valuable soil health benefits in a mixed cropping system and may be suitable as a rotation crop with rice amongst other options. Damian Bradford from ADM on behalf of Seednet, Ian Biggs (DPIR) and Nick Hartley (DPIR) where available in the field to discuss the potential of this valuable grain crop and current demonstrations.

Dryland forage, grain sorghum, rice and cotton

The dryland cropping component of the farm tours consisted of viewing Pioneer Seeds’ varieties of forage and grain sorghum, including Mega Sweet and Graze-N-Sile.  The dryland cotton and rice areas were also viewed by attendee’s; it was noted the below average rainfall this season had a negative effect on the crops.

Irrigated Leucaena/grass pasture system

Leucaena is a deep rooted perennial leguminous tree or shrub with foliage of very high nutritional value for cattle production. It is palatable, nutritious, long lived and drought tolerant. Attendees had the opportunity to view the Leucaena/pasture trials at Douglas Daly.

Stuart Buck from Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Bron Christensen from The Leucaena Network gave an introduction to Leucaena. Peter Shotton, Farming Systems Officer from DPIR discussed the productivity and viability of an irrigated Leucaena/grass system in the Katherine Daly basin, by measuring seasonal live weight gain over a three year period.

Nucal and Mulato

Arthur Cameron from DPIR was available in the Nucal paddock to discuss and show attendees the new varieties of grasses, Nucal and Mulato. “These are promising new grasses that provide options for pasture improvement. Fodder crops in the top end are grown for hay as well as grazing and supply the live cattle export yards and produce cubed pelleted hay. There is significant interest in expanding the production window and these grasses have performed well in the current demonstration and previous trials”.

Pasture Legumes

Desmanthus, lucerne, cowpea, blue pea, burgundy bean, mung beans and also a range of grasses where on show both under irrigation and in a dryland system at DDRF. Heritage Seeds where on site to discuss their varieties of legumes and grasses. Mung beans onsite at DDRF were investigated.

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Last updated: 20 September 2019


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