Progressive third-generation farmer and industry advocate, Tony Single, is the recipient of the 2023 Award for Excellence in Innovation.
A previous trials agronomist, Tony returned to the family farm near Baradine, southeast of Coonamble, New South Wales in 2011 and now farms alongside his parents John and Mary, with wife Sharon and their two daughters.
Cropping about 4400 hectares, Tony grows a mixture of winter cereals, oilseeds and pulses, along with sorghum over the summer. The Singles also have a trade cattle enterprise, utilising native and improved sub-tropical pastures.
Tony believes in following best practice agriculture, based on scientific research.
"I employ a risk management strategy based around pre-determined stored soil moisture targets to trigger planting and rotation choice," Tony said.
"Timeliness, a zero-tillage farming system, rotations aimed at maintaining ground cover and tools to provide effective weed control drive our profitability and sustainability. Implementing the latest research recommendations and using technology and data sets underpins how we farm."
Tony uses the Singles' proprietary drone-based weed mapping system to scout for and map weeds, helping them to better plan for and implement herbicide applications, through both broadcast and spot spray technology.
"We were concerned there wasn't an accurate, cost-effective solution for managing hard to control weeds and we didn't want to revert to ploughing," Tony said. "With my brother Ben leading the project we developed a drone-based weed mapping system."
"The Single Shot system scouts and maps weeds with the final output being a shape file ready to be uploaded to compatible sprayers with GPS boom section control enabling spot spraying. This helps us better plan for, and implement, herbicide applications."
Throughout the recent drought, Tony's cropping strategy paid off, reducing crop frequency limited failures and while yields were significantly lower-than-average, there was a profit across the period.
When it did rain, Tony's paddocks had very low weed seedbanks, low disease levels and good nutritional status to take advantage of what turned out to be three exceptional years from 2020 to 2022.
Recent investments increasing on-farm grain storage and installing a drying silo were particularly valuable over the last three bumper years.
The underlying strategy is to ensure crop rotation choices aren't tied to access to delivery points at harvest. Through a combination of innovative thinking, strategic planning, and reliance on the best science and information available, Tony and his family run a resilient and successful farming business.
Ben White, Kondinin Group General Manager of Research, said Tony's forethought and planning ensured his farm was able to withstand environmental changes and continue evolving as a progressive cropping and livestock enterprise.
"Innovative farming doesn't have to be the biggest changes or the greatest implementation of technology or R&D on farm," Ben said. "Innovative farming is thinking ahead, considering what is on the horizon and what is most appropriate for the individual needs of the farm, then employing strategies to help fortify the business and make it both profitable and resilient."
Tony is chairperson of the Grain Orana Alliance (GOA) board. GOA is a not-for profit research group, guided by a group of industry leading growers and advisors, conducting research under the auspice of the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
"Giving back to the industry is important to me, and I am proud of the outcomes GOA has achieved. Supporting farmers in the region to implement best practise, engage in R&D, and ultimately operate successful farms, is what it is all about."