Panel Profile: Chris Blanchard, deputy chair
Wagga Wagga, NSW
As an Associate Professor in Food Science at Wagga Wagga’s Charles Sturt University, Chris brings a wealth of scientific perspective to the GRDC Southern Regional Panel.
Chris, who serves as the panel’s deputy chair and has been a panel member since 2008, has a PhD in molecular biology and an honours degree in applied science. He has been involved in research projects related to grain quality and the nutritional traits of various grains, such as identifying strong antioxidant properties in faba beans and the suitability of Australian-grown chickpeas for overseas markets.
“I have had a real passion for grains research for most of my life and for me this involvement with the GRDC panel was really an opportunity for me to have some input into the direction of research in Australia,” he says.
He is not just concerned with what grains offer consumers, but also what value crops are putting back into growers’ farming systems. Chris is keen to promote more sustainable crop sequences and ensure farmers are using efficient rotations that will see them through in the long term.
“I’ve got a particular interest in grain quality because that’s the area I mostly work in. I’m also passionate about the general use of pulses in crop sequences, because around our area, there is a lack of pulses and that’s a real concern for me. Without a pulse in a farming system, it’s difficult to have a really sustainable system.
“GRDC is working on improving the profitably of growing pulses, so it’s investing in an understanding of how to improve the value of pulses. It’s investing in ways to improve some of the disease problems and yield constraints and making more profitable crop so farmers will be more able to include them in their rotations,” Chris says.
Chris had already been involved with GRDC through various research projects before joining the panel, but has since gained a greater appreciation of the time panel members spend meeting with growers and informing GRDC’s research, development and extension strategies.
“I knew quite a bit about GRDC because I had worked on GRDC-funded projects, and my PHD was supported by GRDC. They also funded me in a leadership program. So, I had a good idea of what GRDC did, but I didn’t have a clear understanding about the process of how GRDC developed priorities and strategies and came up with projects to address those priorities.
“I think I have a better impression of GRDC now because what I’ve learnt is that GRDC is really focused on outcomes for growers and that’s made me rethink how I do my research and made me focus more on making ways to benefit growers in my research.”
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