The study was conducted in the South Burnett District of Queensland to investigate how formally farmers handle the record keeping, planning and decision making side of farm management at this time and their likely future needs to improve these skills. As well changes in land preparation and crop rotation practices were also studied at four localities in the context of the farming system.
A questionnaire was mailed to 254 farmers who were crop growing members of four Queensland Graingrower Association Branches; Kumbia, Wooroolin, Cloyna-Murgon and Durong Boondooma, Fifty percent of the farmers contacted replied to the
The overall results highlight the complex dynamic nature of the farming system in the South Burnett and the range of crop management strategies employed.
On the physical record keeping side 62 percent of respondents kept a diary while only 30 percent keep paddock records. Overall physical records have mainly been a self introduced, self administered management tool. By contrast the spouse was much more involved in financial record keeping and 46 percent of respondents keep a cash
Around 70 percent of respondents sometimes use budgeting when planning their crop activities with the cash flow budget being the least popular overall compared with crop and whole farm budget. The majority of respondents (59 percent) always use their own records for financial planning while the accountant's tax records (21 percent) are the next most common source of information.
A group of very advanced record keepers (18 percent of the sample) who kept the three formal records; diary, paddock record and cash book found the records they kept more useful for planning their cropping activities and
more frequently used budgeting than non recorders (22 percent of the sample who kept none of the above three records).
A discriminant function analysis of the very advanced record keepers and the non recorders was highly significant (P<001). The function indicated that the very advanced recorders do cash flow budgets more frequently, prepare their land less conventionally, rely more on contractors to harvest their summer grain, have owned their farms for a shorter period of time, are less likely to not plan their crop rotations and are on average a younger group (aged 39 years) than the non recorders by seven
The needs of farmers to improve their planning and decision maid.ng skills were closely related to their current stage of development in record keeping, Non recorders saw financial record keeping as a priority and were less interested in computers compared with the -very advanced recorders who could see a use for computers now and were more interested in training courses and advanced decision analysis techniques.
On the practical side, at
one locality Kumbia, farmers grow a variety of up to six crops following some planned rotations on relatively small farms (278 ha) with an average area of 163 ha under dryland cultivation, with very little diversification into non crop enterprises. By contrast at Durong-Boondooma the range of crops and intensity of cropping is restricted by the drier climate and. heavier soils and beef is an important enterprise on relatively large farms (109I ha) with an average area of 232 ha under dryland cultivation.
In general it was found that where the crop rotation system was relatively simple, the adoption of innovative
land preparation practices (e.g. reduced tillage and stubble mulching) could be largely explained by the current stage of farm, development on a locality basis. Where the crop rotation system was more intense and complex (e.g. involving growing 3 crops in two years - peanuts, wheat and maize) the very advanced recorders were the early adopters of reduced tillage and stubble mulching practices.
The implications of these findings for whole farm raanagem.ent extension in the South Burnett are discussed. The complementary nature of the 'practical' and 'academic' sides of farm management cannot be ignored and it has been shown that by more closely examining and understanding a situation target groups for
specific innovations can be identified as an aid to more effective planned extensions.