Key drivers of change in the next five years for the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) include water availability, productivity growth, grower terms of trade, grain market dynamics, customer expectations and farm demographics.
GRDC Board Chairman Terry Enright emphasised that the GRDC’s fourth five year strategic plan, “Prosperity Through Innovation”, would encourage stakeholders and research partners to meet clearly defined performance measures and outcomes so that growers could adopt technologies and practices to remain globally competitive.
Acknowledging climate change was a reality growers had to deal with, especially in accessing declining water sources, he said the GRDC had targeted a 10 per cent increase by 2012 in water use efficiency in certain agro-ecological zones.
Other five year plan performance targets include:
• Proportion of growers taking up Precision Agriculture represents 60pc of growers surveyed.
• Area of cropping land with retained stubble increases by 10pc.
• Proportion of growers with improved confidence in managing pests, weeds and diseases averages 90pc of growers surveyed, up from 80pc.
• Annual yields, as measured in National Variety Trials (NVT), increase by:
• 1.0pc for wheat and barley
• 1.5pc for a canola
• 2.0pc for pulses
• 1.5pc for sorghum
• By 2010, 90pc of wheat entries in NVT meet minimum disease standards for rust resistance.
• By 2010, 90pc of canola entries in NVT have blackleg resistance scores of 7 or above.
Mr Enright said that when developing a business case for investments, the GRDC would ensure proposed new products and services had sufficient market demand to justify the investment.
“The GRDC’s primary objective in commercialising research outputs is to make new, improved technology and crop varieties available to Australian grain growers as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible,” he said.
Likely highlights in 2007-08, the first year of the five year plan, include:
• Newly developed farming practices successfully tested and integrated into existing farming systems.
• Precision agriculture training packages for growers, advisers and tertiary students.
• New advanced germplasm, with associated molecular markers, developed and used by relevant Australian breeding programs.
• New breeding technologies developed and made available to researchers and breeders.
• Analysis of delivery pathways for genetically modified crops in Australia.
• Further investment in research on industrial feed stocks in Australia.
• Screening program established for contact and short-residue herbicides.
• Cross grains industry research effort on grain hygiene, through CRC for National Plant Biosecurity.
• Develop protocols for registration of microbes for bio-control and bio-inoculation.
• Develop and commercialise a new ethyl formate–based grain pest fumigant.
ABARE’s most recent Crop Report predicted a 10pc increase to 20 million hectares in this year’s winter crop, with a likely production of 37 million tonnes, up by 21 million tonnes on the drought affected 2006-07 season.
Noting the report, Mr Enright said that with GRDC’s major levy funding source being wheat, which may double to up to 25 million tonnes this year, the GRDC would, hopefully, begin its five year plan with a positive outlook.
“Our reserves policy has helped the GRDC sustain a significant level of R&D investment across Australia in the last couple of tough years,” he said.