Innovators set to tackle crop loss perpetrators

Author: Sharon Watt | Date: 19 Mar 2013

Paul Meibusch and Kelly Hill

New-age thinking is about to be applied to some age-old cropping constraints in a bid to find solutions that benefit Australian grain growers.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has just announced the start-up of five novel research projects under its new Innovation Investment program.

These projects will tackle emerging and established issues such as slugs and snails, fungus in crops and stored grain, blackleg disease in canola, and pre-harvest sprouting.

GRDC Manager of Commercial Farm Technologies, Paul Meibusch, says the five individual projects are the first to secure funding through GRDC’s Innovation Investment program, which is designed to capture ideas and concepts from any field that have the potential to improve the Australian grains industry.

“The GRDC is aiming to invest up to $1.5 million per year in this program, with up to 10 short-term, proof-of-concept type projects to be contracted annually,” Mr Meibusch said.

The first five successful applications are for:

  • The development of a cost-effective and accurate instrument for assessing pre-harvest sprouting – Dr Mandeep Kaur, University of Tasmania.
  • The development of highly specific, environmentally-sensitive novel bait for slug and snail control – Associate Professor Derek Russell, University of Melbourne.  
  • Harnessing molluscan neurohormones (hormones that can trigger key physiological changes) to develop new molluscicide controls for snails and slugs – Michael Stewart, University of the Sunshine Coast.   
  • Verifying the commercial potential of the platform technology EzyCross to introduce into canola varieties new genes for blackleg disease resistance from wild relatives of the oilseed crop – Dr Iain Searle, Australian National University.
  • Developing a new system for the rapid detection of fungal spores in crops or stored grain – Dr Richard Glatz, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).

Mr Meibusch said the Innovation Investment program – which involves a streamlined application and contracting process due to the nature of the projects – would complement and in some cases lead into GRDC’s longer-term investment portfolio.

“GRDC is heavily focused on investment in projects that deliver real-time solutions to issues that are impacting on yield and profit, and the Innovation Investment program is an exciting new concept designed to enhance our capacity and ability to make a real impact at the grass-roots level,” he said.

“In the past, a number of initial concepts for research projects originated from well outside the usual scope of agricultural research, from engineering to nanotechnology, medicine and backyard inventions,” Mr Meibusch said.

“We want to hear from anyone who has an idea for a novel product, service or technology that will be of value to the grains industry, either displacing previous solutions or clearing the way for processes not previously possible. This new program will ensure that good ideas that could potentially benefit the grains industry are not lost.”

The Innovation Investment program operates two rounds per year (February and August) with each round remaining open to applicants for 60 days. Applications for round two of the current program are now being sought from private or public organisations as well as individuals, including potential co-investments with private companies.

Concept forms will be evaluated by a panel of experts and GRDC stakeholders. Successful applicants from the initial screening are then invited to submit a full proposal that provides significant detail around the concept, including budgets.

Mr Meibusch said proposals would be evaluated on their novel content and approach, likelihood of success, as well as the importance of the problem they address or opportunity they create.

“We also welcome completely novel ideas that have the potential to create a step-change improvement,” Mr Meibusch said.

Further information about the Innovation Investment program is available via


Caption: GRDC Manager of Commercial Farm Technologies, Paul Meibusch, with SARDI’s Dr Kelly Hill who will be working with Dr Richard Glatz on a project to develop a new system for the rapid detection of fungal spores in crops or stored grain. Image courtesy SARDI.

For interviews:

Paul Meibusch, GRDC
02 6166 4532 or 0408 505566


Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
0409 675100

Region National, North, South, West