By Peter Reading, Managing Director, Grains Research and Development Corporation
The depth of expertise that exists at so many levels in the grains industry has been clearly on display in recent weeks during the appointment of new faces to a number of representative bodies. The GRDC received more than 100 applications for 28 vacancies on our regional panels, which play a crucial role in determining grains research priorities. It was heartening to see such a show of enthusiasm and commitment to the industry"s future and the pivotal role that the GRDC plays.
The high calibre of applicants means the three panels representing the northern, southern and western regions will have a solid body of expertise from research, production and agribusiness. This can only strengthen the direction and management of grower and government-funded research at this crucial time in the grains sector"s history.
At the same time we have also been putting together - at the request of the Grains Council of Australia - an interim board whose job it will be to keep the Single Vision Strategic Plan moving forward.
The interim board has been appointed and represents expertise from a number of areas. It comprises: Murray Rogers (value chain and logistics, marketing, food manufacturing), Christine Hawkins (a GRDC board member with expertise in finance and venture capital, corporate structures, auditing and accounting), Grant Latta (food manufacturing, supply chain logistics, legal and governance expertise), Ian McKinnon (Tasmanian grower) and Phillip Young (grain production, international consulting, plant breeding, agribusiness). A sixth person is to be appointed by the board itself.
The GRDC has agreed to provide funding for two years to keep the Single Vision strategy progressing to address industry issues and to gain its pan-industry support.
During this time the interim board will work on key issues identified by the task forces already set up for R&D, infrastructure and transport, communications, biotechnology and new end-uses, and environmental and economic sustainability.
While these appointments have been happening, selections have also started for new GRDC board members. This is still continuing, but as with the panels and the Single Vision interim board, there has been a high level of interest in being involved with the GRDC.
Importantly, this is also reflected among growers. The results of our recent grower survey show a steadily rising level of awareness and appreciation of the role that GRDC is playing as an independent R&D manager.
We are still analysing the feedback, but a few early figures show that top-ofmind awareness of GRDC now exceeds 90 per cent, and over the past 12 months the number of growers that rate GRDC"s performance as high to very high has risen from 72 to 74 per cent. This is pleasing, but of course our aim is 100 per cent.
The principal areas in which growers see GRDC playing a major role include new varieties, cereal rust management, herbicide resistance management, soil health and biology and new grainbased products. The survey also talked to agronomists and consultants who all indicated they have a high reliance on the GRDC directing research priorities.
More than 1000 growers were telephoned in the survey and we sincerely appreciate the time and thought that they put into their responses. This is extremely valuable and is important for setting both R&D priorities and our own performance benchmarks.