Several years of insights and knowledge are being channelled into the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Western Regional Panel, as chairman Peter Roberts continues for his fourth term.
Mr Roberts, who farms at Dunn Rock, in the Esperance port zone, joined the panel in 2008 and was appointed chairman in 2011.
He 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 Western Australian grains industry.
“We have a recently appointed panel with four fantastic new members, being Merredin grain grower Jules Alvaro, West River grain grower Andy Duncan and wheat geneticist Greg Rebetzke from CSIRO, as well as grower services executive manager Stuart Kearns, who comes to the panel in an executive role,” Mr Roberts said.
These newly appointed members join other returning panellists including agronomy and farming systems specialist Mike Ewing (deputy chairman), Mingenew growers Paul Kelly and Darrin Lee, agricultural consultant Bill Ryan, Esperance grower Gemma Walker and agronomic and agribusiness adviser Chris Wilkins.
“The role of the panel is important in ensuring growers’ issues are the focus of GRDC investment,” Mr Roberts said.
“It brings those issues to the investment process, and uses the GRDC’s Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSN) across Western Australia to ensure we have growers’ priorities in the right order.”
Mr Roberts said the grower levy system was an important part of grains research, development and extension (RD&E) in Australia and was unique, as most other countries had a government-funded system or relied on the private sector.
“Australia only makes up about 2 per cent of the world’s RD&E, so it is important that we use our position to leverage international investment in grains, to make sure that our growers have access to the latest technology,” he said.
“An example of the GRDC putting this principle into action is the $45 million five-year agreement signed by the GRDC and Bayer CropScience to establish the Herbicide Innovation Partnership.
“This aims to increase the probability of a new mode of action/herbicide becoming available in the next 10 to 15 years – addressing the key issue of weeds which cost WA growers on average $25.50 per hectare.”
Mr Roberts said that in addition to weeds, some other key WA issues being addressed by significant western panel investments included farming systems; frost; soil constraints; crop agronomy; farm management; break crops; disease; and pests such as nematodes.
He said the recent decision by the GRDC board to relocate staff from Canberra to the regions would benefit growers.
“The move has given the northern, southern and western regions an opportunity to have general managers placed within them,” Mr Roberts said.
“With the move, there will be five new staff in the western region, which is really good for growers.
“It will make the investment process much more transparent for growers, as well as for researchers who can be closer to GRDC staff.
“The move is also a better process for the panel, as we can interact with GRDC staff in the regions, without having to head to Canberra, and vice versa.
“For me, it’s a win-win all round.”
The GRDC plans and invests in RD&E for the Australian grains industry. Its primary objective is to drive the discovery, development and delivery of world-class innovation to enhance the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Australian grain growers and benefit the industry and the wider community.
Peter Roberts, GRDC
0428 389 060
Toni Somes, Cox Inall Communications
0427 878 387