Strong interest in risk-management cropping at Dookie Campus Field Day

Vic Drought Hub - Farmland 1

** Check out this exciting drone footage from the field day. 


1 Dr Dorin Gupta-Navya Beera-Waseem Ashfaq-Jamal Khan IMG 8808-LR
L-R: Dr Dorin Gupta, Senior Lecturer (Sustainable Agriculture), and Future Drought Fund  project leader; Navya Beera, PhD student; and Research Assistants Waseem Ashfaq and Dr Jamal Khan.

Diversified farming, silicon fertiliser, and native vegetation were three areas discussed at the Dookie Campus Field Day on Tuesday 4th October.

Drone footage credit: Chris Warrior of Wiru Drone Solutions

Local farmers, consultants, researchers and students gathered at The University of Melbourne (UM) Dookie Campus, to hear Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Agriculture Dr Dorin Gupta, and her research team and project partners, talk about their studies into redesigning broadacre farming systems to improve risk management under drought and other stresses.

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Professor Tim Reeves AM.

Project team member Professor Timothy Reeves AM opened the event, explaining the field day’s theme of how a diversified farm can be profitable and productive, but a less-risky option under drought stress. He also gave an overview of the project, which is funded by the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund (FDF).

“Risk is a large factor – whether that’s from climate, pandemics, markets or supply chains – so how can we make a farming system more diverse and less risky?”

In describing the results so far of their research, Dr Gupta – who was assisted by research staff Dr Razlin Azman, Dr Jamal Khan and Waseem Ashfaq (main photo) – explained that better management helps to diversify risk, with diversifying options a strong part of that.

She said, “Diverse farming options can make current farms more efficient and resilient, while on-farm diversification can be a promising strategy for farming communities to prepare for and recover from stresses such as drought.”

7 Tariq Gerardi IMG 8802
Tariq Gerardi from Birchip Cropping Group.
5 Dr Sara Hely IMG 8804-LR
Dr Sara Hely of Riverine Plains Inc.

The project had several aspects:

  • Incorporating more legumes in an existing cereal-oilseed crop rotation
  • dual-purpose wheat for grain and grazing
  • foliar application of plant-available silicon to mitigate drought stress in crops, incorporating new legumes (including currently more risky options) in crop rotations
  • incorporating native vegetation on less-fertile paddocks and non-farming areas of the farm

Dr Gupta spoke about the importance of growing legumes – such as fababean, lentil, chickpea and lupin – in and around the region, while Mr Ashfaq detailed findings around silicon fertiliser for cropping.

Tariq Gerard, from project partner Birchip Cropping Group, spoke about silicon and micronutrient fertiliser, grazing and grain wheat varieties, along with “risky” legumes to reduce yield penalties; Dr Sara Hely from project partner Riverine Plains Inc. talked about how farming systems groups, such as Riverine Plains, drive innovation with farmers, explaining such groups help to take risk out of farming by seeing what’s on the horizon and trialling it.


6 Prof James Hunt-Ed Harrod, Baker Seed Co IMG 8816-LR
Prof James Hunt (left) from the University of Melbourne with Ed Harrod of Baker Seedco.

After a good Q&A session where discussion included whether silicon could be “overdone”, the applicability of commercial products in Australian broadacre, the benefits of soil versus foliar application and practicality of tank mixing, the group moved to look at trials in new and current cereal varieties, delivered by Ed Harrod of Baker Seedco.

Project team member Prof James Hunt from UniMelb rounded out the field day, presenting early results of his work in the nitrogen bank and in-field management of nitrogen fertiliser in canola.

Other partners in the project with UM are Gap Flat Track – Native Foods, Black Duck Foods and Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority.



Dr Gupta said the take-home messages from the Dookie Field Day were:

  • diversified farming is less risky than specialised farming systems and ensures multiple sources of income,
  • silicon fertiliser can help crops cope with stresses such as drought, and sustain crop yields of otherwise-risky crops, and
  • including native vegetation on the farm can enhance overall farm biodiversity, soil carbon, soil health and resilience over time.

In wrapping up, Prof Tim Reeves said, “Dookie Campus is flourishing. We’ve currently got over 100 students on campus – including postgraduate and PhD students. In the past 12 months, we’ve made 12 new research and academic appointments and have gained many competitive research grants.

“We know that Dookie is really important for the region, really important for the State. Being able to teach the next generation of agronomists, farmers and others in the industry is critical, and being able to do so in a paddock like this at Dookie is absolutely perfect.”