A key strength of the GRDC, the Region Panels play a critical advisory and strategic role in informing GRDC investments in research, development and extension (RD&E) to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers.
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Low soil fertility
Yield depends upon good winter rains as spring rainfall is generally unreliable
Large enterprise size
Narrower range of crop options
Export market dominant, domestic market smaller
Leader in grain storage practice
Transport advantage to SE Asia
Darrin Lee, Panel Chair
Mingenew, Western Australia
Darrin Lee is Managing Director and partner in Bligh Lee Farms, a mixed cropping and livestock farming operation, 17km north-east of Mingenew. He has a keen interest in digital agriculture, implementing a wifi network across the whole farm with the adoption of moisture probes, weather stations, remote sensing devices and digital analytics. Darrin also has a value-adding project with albus lupins through a ‘paddock to plate’ joint venture initiative. He has a background in banking and finance, and is a past member of the CBH Group Growers Advisory Council and previous Board member of Mingenew Irwin Group. Darrin is passionate about family, rural life, food production, technology, and agriculture in general.
Juliet currently works for Summit Fertilizers as an Area Manager for the Perenjori, Carnamah, Three Springs, Morawa, Mingenew and Coorow shires. In this role she is in charge of agronomy based fertiliser sales in the North Midlands, nutrient recommendations based on soil and plant analysis and research and demonstration on-farm to assist growers and grower groups with better fertiliser decisions. Juliet lives on a family farm west of Marchagee with her husband and three children, and has a passion for agriculture and a wealth of experience, having worked as sales agronomist with Elders, as Area Manager – Kwinana West for GrainPool, Marketing Manager with Coorow Seeds and a Research Agronomist and Extension Officer with the Department of Agriculture. Juliet holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Western Australia and is qualified as a Fertcare Accredited Adviser. In addition to farming, Juliet has a passion for hockey and is a life member of the Coorow Hockey Club.
Merredin, Western Australia
Jules Alvaro is involved in all aspects of the 5400-hectare cropping business she operates with her husband at Merredin in WA’s central grainbelt. She is the WA sub-coordinator for Partners in Grain and a founding member of Agricultural Women Wheatbelt East. Jules is a firm believer in farm businesses keeping up with technology while keeping an eye on the bottom line.
Dr Fiona Gibson is an applied economist with The University of Western Australia, School of Agriculture and Environment, and a farmer at her family’s 6000 hectare crop and livestock operation in Mingenew. Her expertise is in designing decision tools for environment and agricultural management and identifying the adoption drivers of management practices in agricultural landscapes. Fiona is an active member of Mingenew Irwin Group and the Australasian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, and sits on the Board of Management for the Mingenew Midwest Expo. Fiona has a Doctorate and Bachelor of Science from The University of Western Australia.
Chris Wilkins is an agronomic and agribusiness adviser based in Badgingarra. He has 24 years’ experience in WA agriculture, including 17 years offering farm business, agronomy, farming systems and crop protection advice through his Vision Agribusiness Services company. Chris is also a director of agricultural consultancy business Synergy Consulting WA, and chairs the Council of Grain Grower Organisations Ltd.
Rohan Ford farms east of Binnu with his wife Carol, growing wheat, lupins and canola in a low rainfall zone with highly variable precipitation. They have been control traffic farming for more than 15 years, and involved over many years in trial work and projects related to a variety of areas that help to improve farming outcomes and increase knowledge in what is an ever-evolving industry. Rohan is also involved closely with the local grower group, holding various positions over many years and helping to provide mentoring for younger farmers.
Gemma Walker and her husband run a 4000 hectare mixed cropping and sheep property near Munglinup, in the state's south-east. In addition, she has worked for many years managing farming systems groups to deliver development and extension activities. These included Mallee Sustainable Farming and the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association. Gemma is on the Board of Partners in Grain, and on the Southern Biosecurity Group, and has a Bachelor of Agribusiness (Hons) from Curtin University.
Andy Duncan is managing partner in a mixed broadacre family farming business in the West River area on the south coast of WA, producing wheat, malt and feed barley, canola, lupins and field peas. He has been involved with several organisations including the Grains Industry Association of WA (GIWA) Barley Council, the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association, the GRDC Esperance Regional Cropping Solutions Network, and the Ravensthorpe Agricultural Initiative Network.
Greg Rebetzke is a wheat geneticist with CSIRO, and is committed to delivering traits and germplasm for improving crop variety water productivity. He works closely with commercial breeders to understand the relative benefits of one trait over another, and how to integrate new genetics more efficiently in the development of higher-yielding, more robust cereals.
Michael Lamond is an experienced hands-on agronomist who started his career in discovery and innovation related to agricultural systems, including herbicide resistance, herbicide systems with minimum tillage, legume rotations, pasture systems, soil acidity and crop variety evaluation. He has run or been a partner in contract research organisations conducting or managing projects for many of the companies that operate in Australia. Michael has worked with many talented agricultural graduates from universities around Australia and has a passion for capacity building for the future in agriculture.
If grains industry affinity, knowledge and experience are key requirements to serve on the GRDC’s northern panel, Brondwen MacLean is extremely well qualified. Ms MacLean has spent the past 20 years working with the GRDC across a variety of roles and is currently serving as general manager for the Applied R&D business group. She has primary accountability for managing all aspects of the GRDC’s applied RD&E investments and aims to ensure that these investments generate the best possible return for Australian grain growers. Ms MacLean appreciates the issues growers face in their paddocks and businesses. She is committed to finding effective and practical solutions `from the ground-up’.
The GRDC has established the Regional Cropping Solutions Networks to better plan and design local activities of the greatest benefit to an area within a region.
The networks provide a structure for a region' growers, advisers, researchers and agribusiness to come together to identify, collate and prioritise research needs, as well as to feed information back to growers. The networks also nominate representatives to the National Variety Trials Advisory Committee. An important objective of this structure is to reduce the time taken for new varieties, practices and technologies to be adopted.
In the west, there are five networks, each supported by facilitators. A Western Panel member is associated with each network. As well as prioritising research ideas and providing feedback to the region, each has a small budget to fund short-term projects. Generally, these projects will be in response to a seasonal issue and provide a pilot for a larger, longer investment by the GRDC.
Industry members are all encouraged to contact their local network representatives to help drive local research priorities and to express interest in being involved when vacancies arise. The names of network members are listed on the RCSN page of the GRDC website.
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