Darren Hughes’ first role with the Grains Research and Development Corporations (GRDC) was as a member of the western regional panel, which he joined in 2012.
In subsequent years, he has held different roles as a staff member in Perth and Canberra.
Today, as western region systems and agronomy general manager based back in Western Australia, Dr Hughes is largely focused on projects that fall into the GRDC’s three-to-eight year investment strategy.
“We are directing and developing a strategy around the GRDC’s investments in farming systems, soils and agronomy and what is the best return for growers,” Dr Hughes said.
“My role is to continue building our relationships and to work alongside our traditional research partners, such as the CSIRO, the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA), Curtin University, The University of Western Australia and Murdoch University, but also to work closely with grower groups and consultants across the western region.
“Maintaining close relationships with these parties ensures that the strategic allocation of funding we have in the three-to-eight year timeframe best delivers increased profitability for growers.”
Dr Hughes said he is particularly excited about the GRDC’s large investment in soil projects across the western region and what they will deliver for growers.
“The GRDC is investing nearly $4 million per year in a range of soils projects for the benefit of WA grain growers, with a significant focus on non-wetting soils, soil compaction, acidity and sodicity,” he said.
“These areas have been a real focus for the GRDC’s Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSN) and have been identified as one of the biggest constraints to production.”
Agronomy is also high on the investment agenda in the west, with a number of projects underway for different crops.
“There are large agronomic investments for wheat, including timings for sowing - particularly early sowing opportunities,” Dr Hughes said.
“Nitrogen application rates and timing is also part of this research into wheat agronomy.
“There are also two large GRDC-funded barley and canola agronomy research projects being conducted by DAFWA and other stakeholders.”
Dr Hughes has been given the task of recruiting new staff members for the new western region office, as part of the recent GRDC restructure.
“There will be a total of five staff members based here in the west, which will allow the GRDC to get much closer to growers and to engage with them on a continuous basis,” he said.
“Growers will be able to interact directly with GRDC staff members at a range of occasions such as field days, updates and other events, which will ultimately benefit how we manage the investment portfolio on their behalf.”
Dr Hughes encourages growers to contact GRDC staff members and western regional panel members and to ask them about the organisation’s investment portfolio.
A video interview of Dr Hughes - talking about his role as GRDC western region systems and agronomy general manager - is available on the GRDC YouTube channel.
The GRDC plans and invests in RD&E for the Australian grains industry. Its primary objective is to support effective competition by Australian grain growers in global grain markets, through enhanced profitability and sustainability.
Darren Hughes, GRDC western region systems & agronomy general manager
0409 249 420
Melissa Williams, Cox Inall Communications
0428 884 414