Grains Research and Development

GRDC Western Regional Panel

Panel Chair


Regional Zone Characteristics

Peter Roberts - Dunn Rock, WA GRDC 2015 Western Region Map
  • Mediterranean climate
  • Low soil fertility
  • Yield depends upon good winter rains as spring rainfall is generally unreliable
  • Large enterprise size
  • Narrower range of crop options
  • Export market dominant, domestic market smaller
  • Leader in grain storage practice
  • Transport advantage to SE Asia

Panel Members

Mike Ewing, Deputy Chair - Perth, WA
Gemma Walker - Munglinup, WA
Greg Rebetzke - Canberra, ACT
Julie Alvaro - Merredin, WA
Chris Wilkins - Badgingarra, WA
Bill Ryan - Perth, WA
Darrin Lee - Mingenew, WA
Paul Kelly - Mingenew, WA
Andrew Duncan - Ravensthorpe, WA

Panel Support

Rachel Lowther - Secret Harbour, WA

The GRDC’s focus has moved from research results to on-farm adoption. This means our research priorities must have project outputs that will be relevant to the needs of Western Australian grain growers.

For example, if a gene that provides frost protection is found, it must be embedded in lines that will meet grower and market requirements of the future, not the past.

We need to understand what the research outputs of a project will look like on a grain farm in Yuna as well as in Esperance.

As a panel we want to hear more about what is happening in our region and the needs of our stakeholders.

The regional location of a GRDC manager for regional grower services (Roger States), the presence of a GRDC Western regional office and our panel support team will help the panel spend more time at events and activities in the region, while remaining in close contact with GRDC staff in Canberra.

In addition to the 10 members of the Western Panel and the GRDC executive manager, we now have five WA regions in the GRDC Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSN) initiative. One panel member is associated with each network.

The networks play a key role in capturing research ideas and prioritising short-term issues. This leaves more time for the panel to work on strategic investments that require longer-term strategies.

Peter Roberts, Chair

Portrait of Peter Roberts

Panel Profile video

Peter Roberts, who farms at Dunn Rock, in the Esperance port zone, was appointed western panel chairman in 2011. Peter places a strong emphasis on ensuring that all GRDC-funded investments are squarely targeted at addressing the most important issues facing growers. Another key focus is for the panel to have a strong level of engagement with the WA grains industry.

M: 0428 389 060

Dr Mike Ewing, Deputy Chair

Portrait of Mike Ewing

Panel Profile video

Mike Ewing brings a background in farming systems science to his role on the western panel. In a career spanning more than 40 years - working with or leading key research organisations - he concentrated on identifying break crop technologies that improve the profitability and sustainability of crop sequences and rotations. He has tackled constraints associated with a variable climate and hostile soils.

M: 0409 116 750

Gemma Walker

Portrait of Gemma Walker

Panel Profile video

In addition to her hands-on farming experience, Gemma worked for many years managing farming systems groups to deliver development and extension activities. These included Mallee Sustainable Farming and the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association. Gemma has a Bachelor of Agribusiness (Hons) from Curtin University.

M: 0428 751 095

Dr Greg Rebetzke

Portrait of Dr Greg Rebetzke

Panel Profile video

Greg Rebetzke is a wheat geneticist with CSIRO, and is committed to delivering traits and germplasm for improving crop variety water productivity. He works closely with commercial breeders to understand the relative benefits of one trait over another, and how to integrate new genetics more efficiently in the development of higher-yielding, more robust cereals.

M: 0429 994 226

Jules Alvaro

Portrait of Jules Alvaro

Panel Profile video

Jules Alvaro is involved in all aspects of the 5400-hectare cropping business she operates with her husband at Merredin in WA’s central grainbelt. She is the WA sub-coordinator for Partners in Grain and a founding member of Agricultural Women Wheatbelt East. Jules is a firm believer in farm businesses keeping up with technology while keeping an eye on the bottom line.

M: 0429 141 668

Chris Wilkins

Portrait of Chris Wilkins

Panel Profile video

Chris Wilkins, based in Badgingarra, is an agronomic and agribusiness adviser. He has 24 years’ experience in WA agriculture, including offering farm business, agronomy, farming systems and crop protection advice through his Vision Agribusiness Services company for the past 17 years. Chris is also a director of agricultural consultancy business Synergy Consulting WA, chairs the Council of Grain Grower Organisations Ltd and is a member of WA Agriculture Minister Ken Baston’s Ministerial Agricultural Advisory Council.

M: 0427 940 925

Dr Bill Ryan

Portrait of Dr Bill Ryan

Panel Profile video

Bill Ryan has had a long career in agriculture’s research and corporate sectors.He spent 21 years with the WA Department of Agriculture and then seven years with the Heytesbury Group. He was CEO of the Kondinin Group from 2003 to 2008. He chairs the Agricultural Produce Commission and is on the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation board as well as providing independent consulting services.

M: 0409 791 997

Darrin Lee

Portrait of Darrin Lee

Panel Profile video

Darrin Lee worked for the National Australia Bank before taking up farming in 1998 north-east of Mingenew, WA. His background in the finance has equipped him well for farm business analysis and agribusiness. A special area of interest includes precision agriculture. Another area of interest is value-adding, which he has achieved with his albus lupin production through a ‘paddock to plate’ joint venture initiative. Darrin is also a member of CBH Group’s Grower Advisory Council.

M: 0427 281 021

Paul Kelly

Portrait of Paul Kelly

Panel Profile video

Paul Kelly and his wife, Sue, farm 3100 hectares in the mid-west of WA. He is an active member of the Mingenew Irwin Group and has a strong interest in both farm safety and encouraging young men and women to embrace agriculture. Paul has completed two terms with the Western Panel and is keen to promote innovation that will drive profitability, productivity and sustainability for all grain growers.

M: 0427 275 022

Andy Duncan

Portrait of Andy Duncan

Panel Profile video not available

Andy Duncan is managing partner in a mixed broadacre family farming business in the West River area on the south coast of WA, producing wheat, malt and feed barley, canola, lupins and field peas. He has been involved with several organisations including the Grains Industry Association of WA (GIWA) Barley Council, the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association, the GRDC Esperance Regional Cropping Solutions Network and the Ravensthorpe Agricultural Initiative Network.

M: 0428 996 334

Rachel Lowther, Panel Support

Portrait of Rachel Lowther

Panel Profile video not available

Rachel Lowther joined GRDC as Panel Support Officer for the Western region in January 2016. Rachel grew up on a dairy, sheep and beef farming operation in the Yorkshire Dales before pursuing a career in communications and event management. In 2004, Rachel made the move to New Zealand where she worked as Communications Manager for the Foundation for Arable Research. Here she developed and delivered an array of extension activities to New Zealand grain growers and industry personnel before making the move with her family to WA in 2012.

M: 0472 515 079

Regional Cropping Solutions Networks

RCSN west map

The GRDC has established the Regional Cropping Solutions Networks to better plan and design local activities of the greatest benefit to an area within a region.

The networks provide a structure for a region' growers, advisers, researchers and agribusiness to come together to identify, collate and prioritise research needs, as well as to feed information back to growers. The networks also nominate representatives to the National Variety Trials Advisory Committee. An important objective of this structure is to reduce the time taken for new varieties, practices and technologies to be adopted.

In the west, there are five networks, each supported by facilitators. A Western Panel member is associated with each network. As well as prioritising research ideas and providing feedback to the region, each has a small budget to fund short-term projects. Generally, these projects will be in response to a seasonal issue and provide a pilot for a larger, longer investment by the GRDC.

Industry members are all encouraged to contact their local network representatives to help drive local research priorities and to express interest in being involved when vacancies arise. The names of network members are listed on the RCSN page of the GRDC website.