CSIRO Boorowa Ag Station weeks away from opening

The new $11.5 million CSIRO Boorowa Agricultural Research Station is weeks away from opening its doors, nearly four years since the government-run agency announced it would shut down its Ginninderra centre.

A farming systems meeting is due to be held at the Boorowa site in the first week of June and the 290-hectare farm should be fully commissioned and open by July, research station manager Stuart Brown told the Tribune.

Five employees will transfer from Ginninderra to Cunningar Road, Boorowa while two employees will remain at the old station to manage the existing 1100 sheep until they are transferred in 12 to 24 months' time, Mr Brown said.

Cropping trials will also continue at Ginninderra until the end of this year.

The Boorowa station will be a practical digital farm, Mr Brown said, testing emerging technologies in crop science, agronomy, farming systems and genetics.

There are two large warehouses at the station for research. Building four - one of the two, at 1500 square metres - contains a series of temperature-controlled rooms that can drop as low as -20 degrees Celsius, as well as processing rooms for studying phenomics.

The farm will grow wheat, canola, grain legumes and pastures, with 3ha allocated to testing GM crops. Researchers will be looking for plants more tolerant to disease, drought and heat.

The station is currently looking for proposals to conduct research into drought. The farm has 36 soil probes that can measure temperature, moisture and electrical conductivity for soil salinity and fertility and 100 above-soil temperature and humidity sensors.

"Information from those can then be used to tailor farming systems to better manage prolonged periods of drought," Mr Brown said.

There is also a Bureau of Meteorology standard weather station on-site, which Mr Brown hopes to publish the findings from on a website for local farmers.

"We want to share as much information as possible," he said.

The farm could also be among the first to trial swarms of drones (ten to 30) to carry out targeted sprays of insects and weeds, Mr Brown said.

There will also be a 130-megalitre dam on the property for irrigation and water research. Water will be drafted from Boorowa River when it's flowing over Boorowa weir and Prossers Crossing.

CSIRO has a number of its own research projects, however, most of the research is commissioned by organisations such as Grains Research and Development Corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia or Australian Wool Innovation, which then pass beneficial findings onto farmers.

The station will likely benefit the farming village's economy. Mr Brown said researchers would need somewhere to eat and stay.

The station will also employ local contractors and may run a local apprenticeship/trainee scheme, Mr Brown said. He will also engage with local schools to support STEM education.

CSIRO's Ginninderra Experimental Station was built in 1958 and has supported pasture and animal research. However, it has become challenging to carry out activities such as crop spraying as surrounding suburbs have grown, the organisation said.

CSIRO has proposed selling the older station.