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Australian agronomist shares canola successes

Australian agronomist John Kirkegaard delivers a seminar on conservation agriculture Jan. 23 at Washington State University .
Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Published on January 15, 2014 10:42AM

An Australian researcher who’s seen canola become a major crop in his home country will speak about conservation agriculture at Washington State University.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization farming systems agronomist John Kirkegaard’s seminar begins at 1 p.m. Jan. 23 in WSU’s Veterinary and Biomedical Research building, Room 305, 1815 Ferdinand’s Lane in Pullman, Wash.

Kirkegaard will also address the Direct Seed and Oilseed Cropping Systems Conference Jan. 20-22 in Kennewick, Wash.

Kirkegaard’s work to improve canola production and soil health and productivity in Australia gives a different perspective to Pacific Northwest farmers and researchers, said Bill Pan, professor and director of biofuels and cropping systems research at WSU.

“Canola is definitely a mainstream crop now in Australia,” Pan said, noting Australian farmers were quick to adopt the crop over the last 20 years. In the United States, “we’re still in the early phases of it.”

Washington acreage more than tripled in the last few years, Pan said. He estimates 30,000 acres of canola are grown in the state.

“It’s not huge, but it’s a start,” Pan said.

WSU research associate Karen Sowers said CSIRO’s work is similar to research studying climate and crop rotations in the PNW. The two areas have similar cropping systems, she said.

“He’s a big draw,” she said of Kirkkegaard. “Australia seems to be ahead of the curve in terms of accepting changing agricultural processes.”

Sowers recommends the seminar to researchers, students and faculty interested in cropping systems, soil health and sustainable agriculture.

“Conservation agriculture can be successful,” she said. “I’m not talking about a night-and-day shift in farming methods, but at least making the steps toward becoming more sustainable.”

Improved soil health, reduced erosion and improved water and fertilizer efficiencies will help improve the financial bottom line for farmers, Sowers said.

The seminar is free and open to the public. It’s slated to last roughly 45 minutes. There will be an hour afterward for questions and discussion, she said.


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