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Crop competition

By 26 March 2022April 8th, 2022No Comments

AgXtra holds an annual crop competition providing a fun and interactive way for students from high schools and universities to learn about broadacre cropping. Since 2019 the project has received funding support from SAGIT, which has enabled us to extend the reach of the competition, and deliver better outcomes.

Falling tertiary enrolments and difficulty in finding skilled labour to fill jobs in agriculture, poor perceptions of agriculture in Australia, a lack of understanding of the opportunities which exist in Agriculture today, and a disconnection between urban and rural areas are some of the issues facing our rural industries at this time. AgXtra, in contributing to the correction of these issues, has evolved an annual crop competition. Open to High Schools and University of Adelaide students, the site is currently located at Roseworthy, South Australia, enabling ease of access for most participating students. As entrants, the students learn how climate and their management decisions such as choice of variety, seeding rate, and fertiliser regimes can impact crop development, yield and gross margin. In its eighth year in 2021, the competition offered a hands-on crop management experience for 18 teams of between three and five students from High Schools from Balaklava, Urrbrae, Kadina and Kapunda, as well as Trinity, Xavier and Rostrevor colleges.  In addition,  four University of Adelaide teams competed in the senior section of the competition.  Balaklava High School teacher Ms Sue Pratt has been a great supporter of the competition since its inception, and offered the following summary:

“The competition structure provides benefits that may not translate directly in to careers in Ag. Many of our students are very disconnected from the process of food production. It is one of my main goals – to provide the connection between where their food and fibre comes from so they make educated decisions as consumers, not emotional decisions. However, even those who do know a bit about food production have very little concept of what is involved in developing new varieties or new techniques of primary production. When they can have direct connection with a professional company who specialise in this field it is very illuminating. Many genuinely do not even know that there are different varieties and to see the link between the scientific method and food production can be a real light bulb moment. And there are big benefits in having someone other than me tell them this. But the best bit is the competitive element. Boys in particular respond to this aspect and it immediately ramps up the engagement. If I set them an assignment to select a wheat variety etc etc – they would do it and not really buy in to it too much. But when someone from outside of the school is actually going to sow it and it will actually be compared with other schools – then they dive in with gusto! The heated discussions about yield and disease resistance are a sight to see and I cannot stress enough how much the competitive element enhances the learning experience. 

So from my perspective, it is a VERY beneficial program in increasing awareness of food production systems that can also influence some students to pursue careers in agriculture. Winner, winner.

Students visit the site during the growing season, with a field day, held in September.

“The judging is based on objective measurements with entrants judged on grain yield, grain quality and gross margin,” Managing Director Mr Richard Porter said.

“AgXtra is eager to ensure the future of agriculture in this State and we see this as a good and fun opportunity to promote ongoing learning in broadacre cropping to the next generation.”

In 2022 AgXtra is planning to extend the opportunity to participate in the competition to more schools in South Australia, with new sites proposed at Jamestown in the mid north of the state, and at Lock on the Eyre Peninsula.

For more information please contact the competition convener, Steph Lunn