GRDC takes a 'ground up' approach to RD&E

Author: Sharon O’Keeffe | Date: 19 Mar 2015

Image of Sharon O’Keeffe, GRDC Manager Regional Grower Services

By Sharon O’Keeffe, GRDC Manager Regional Grower Services – North, Boggabri

Issues identification and research prioritisation are core business for the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). Defining an issue at ground level, whether it is production or profitability focused, is the first step in finding a solution.

Working from the ground up is the key philosophy of the GRDC to ensure that grain levies are invested as effectively as possible.

An example of an issue that may require research, development and extension (RD&E) is soil sodicity which is constraining grain yield.

`Fleshing out’ the issue requires asking questions such as ‘is it affecting emergence in some crops more than others’; ‘is it reducing production by inhibiting the exploration area of the plant roots’; or ‘is the effect nutritional or due to restricted water uptake or both’?

Then, to gauge the priority of the issue and its significance to the northern grain-growing region, the area affected needs to be identified and the cost and future cost to production and profitability determined. Assessing what research work is already in the pipeline and what, if any, gaps are apparent is also critical.

The process then flows into identifying possible solutions or research questions. These may be longer-term genetic solutions such as looking for germplasm with adaptive traits that increase tolerance to sodic soils, or they may be medium-term research questions such as ‘are there more effective crop rotations to increase water use efficiency under sodic soils?’.

Alternatively, the issue may have a short-term solution such as developmental work that builds on previous research to adapt it to the local farming system - for example, investigating adaption of current varieties in the local area.

Or the solution may be extension-driven, such as ensuring adequate communication of the results of previous research into crop tolerance and recommendations made.

Most often an issue requires work at all levels. Issues can be local, regional or national and all are equally important.

The issues identification and prioritisation process enables the scope of the issue to be clearly understood and the best type or types of responses to be determined.

It is through this rigorous process of gathering and assessing issues locally that GRDC can make well-informed and strategic investments on a regional and national scale.

The GRDC has recently released From The Ground Up – Northern Region report which can be downloaded from the Resources section of the GRDC website.

This report outlines the processes and means by which the GRDC sources and addresses local issues in the GRDC northern region.

It also outlines how these issues are addressed in the shorter term – specifically through the GRDC Northern Regional Panel, the four GRDC Grower Solutions projects across the northern region and GRDC Regional Grower Services.

The GRDC has been investing in grains-related RD&E for more than 20 years. During this period, the GRDC, with its partners, has generated a mass of information from research outputs and findings, much of which remains relevant today.

It is the role of GRDC Regional Grower Services to oversee the packaging of this information into easy-to-use products and services tailored to growers in their local region. As the regional manager for the north, my role is to identify and oversee regional RD&E needs, as well as manage the regional delivery of information and promote the GRDC’s products and services. This would not be possible without direct feedback from growers within the region.

The GRDC relies on industry input to help shape the future of grains research and development in Australia and always welcomes feedback or queries on research issues via any of the northern panel members or myself by email or phone 0409 279 328.


Caption: Sharon O’Keeffe, GRDC Manager Regional Grower Services – North, Boggabri NSW.

Contact Details

For Interviews

Sharon O’Keeffe
GRDC Manager Regional Grower Services – North
Boggabri, NSW
0409 279 328


Sarah Jeffrey, Senior Consultant Cox Inall Communications
0418 152 859

Region North