Grains Research and Development

Date: 02.05.2016

Weeds research partnership gets to work

Photo of Bayer AG board member Liam Condon and GRDC chair Richard Clark

Liam Condon, Bayer AG board member (left), and GRDC chair Richard Clark opening the new research facility in Frankfurt, Germany.

PHOTO: Michael Rennertz

The Herbicide Innovation Partnership between the GRDC and Bayer officially got underway in March with a ceremony at Bayer’s global Weed Resistance Competence Center in Frankfurt, Germany.

Photo of Dr Ken Young, Dr Rick Llewellyn and Bill Long

A new report commissioned by the GRDC shows weeds cost Australian grain growers more than $3 billion annually. At the launch of the 112-page GRDC-CSIRO report entitled Impact of Weeds on Australian Grain Production were (from left) GRDC general manager of crop protection Dr Ken Young, principal report author CSIRO Agriculture farming systems scientist Dr Rick Llewellyn, and South Australian grower, consultant and GRDC Southern Panel member Bill Long. Dr Young said the report was commissioned to help understand the threat of weeds to Australian grain growers and direct investments into future weeds research, extension and development.

The event was marked by the company welcoming 39 scientists who will be employed at the centre to work on next-generation weed-control solutions. The GRDC is contributing $45 million over five years to the project, which was first announced in June 2015.

Bayer is providing newly renovated research facilities covering 1100 square metres. The site includes laboratories and offices for more than 30 chemists and technicians, including 11 postdoctoral researchers from Australia and New Zealand.

The initiative is seen as a measure of the seriousness of the challenge posed by weed control: in particular the dramatic increase of herbicide-resistant weeds across the globe.

In the past 15 years, global weed resistance has increased by 60 per cent, meaning many of the worst and most common weeds are already resistant. At the same time, no new herbicide mode of action has been discovered and none are expected to be discovered in the near future.

A member of the board of management of Bayer AG and the head of the Crop Science Division, Liam Condon, said collaboration models such as the partnership between the GRDC and Bayer would make the difference in the battle against weeds.

“In light of the challenges to increasing productivity and sustainability in crop production, it is even more important that we collaborate to accelerate research activities. This greatly increases the probability of success.”

GRDC chair Richard Clark, who attended the ceremony, said the Herbicide Innovation Partnership is an important milestone: “Growers have consistently told us that managing resistant and poorly controlled weeds is the biggest problem they face,” he said.

“By highlighting the significance of the challenge, through regional panels and cropping solution groups, growers have directly influenced the research focus of the GRDC and the global innovation company Bayer for the benefit of their local farming community. We believe this partnership will put Australian farms at the forefront of tackling herbicide resistance.”

Director of the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative Professor Stephen Powles says the world needs new herbicides as well as state-of-the-art herbicide-resistance knowledge and understanding to help growers mitigate, manage and minimise herbicide resistance.

The cooperation between Bayer and the GRDC includes a postdoctoral program to help expand scientific know-how among Australian researchers by providing training in advanced industrial research techniques. Nine postdoctoral chemists from Australia and two from New Zealand have commenced their two-year contracts at Bayer’s weed research centre in Frankfurt. 

More information:

Dr Ken Young, crop protection general manager, GRDC,
ken.young@grdc.com.au

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