New era of collaboration to address N knowledge gaps

Author: Sharon Watt | Date: 30 Jul 2014

people standing in a room facing an individual talking on the right

The foundations have been laid for a unique industry collaborative effort to address gaps in nitrogen (N) management knowledge and adoption in the southern cropping region.

Research organisations, state departments of agriculture, farming systems groups, advisers, growers and other grains industry personnel have come together to determine the key questions that need to be answered by existing and future N-related research, development and extension (RD&E).

A first-of-its-kind forum in Bundoora, Victoria, driven by industry and facilitated by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), has identified a range of knowledge gaps which are ultimately impacting on crop yield and grower profit.

The forum attracted widespread industry support and engagement and its outcomes will shape and direct future research investments.

Andrew Rice, GRDC Manager Regional Grower Services – South, says providing growers with the solutions they seek in relation to what is their biggest single input cost will require a fresh RD&E undertaking that involves broad input from existing and potential new research partners.

“The Australian grains RD&E sector is constrained by available resources, finite dollars to invest and fewer people operating over vast distances, so it is imperative that collaboration needs to be the hallmark of the way we deliver RD&E,” Mr Rice said.

“We need to create more accessible opportunities for growers, advisers and researchers to have input into the identification, design and delivery of RD&E that is going to have the most impact on-farm, and the nitrogen management forum is part of that approach.

“It is important to recognise that while the GRDC is the largest single funder of grains RD&E, significant and valuable investments are being made by other players in the grains industry and we must fully harness their resources, skills and expertise to broaden the basis of engagement.”

Facilitated by consultant Cam Nicholson, the forum involved presentations from researchers, farming groups and advisers who outlined collective thought from their peers throughout the southern cropping region on past and present research and understanding, as well as existing and future gaps in knowledge and adoption.

The 95 participants defined and discussed RD&E gaps in N management in the areas of soil processes, legumes, crop breeding, crop management, farming systems and business management.

RD&E gaps identified during the forum were reviewed the following day by the GRDC’s four southern Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSNs).  Further consideration and analysis of gaps will be conducted by the GRDC Southern Regional Panel and through the GRDC investment process.

Outstanding gaps will considered for additional investments by the GRDC and research partners.

It is proposed that follow-up activities will involve key research, grower and adviser personnel progressing collaborative efforts in RD&E focused on N management in the southern region.

N management has been identified by the GRDC Southern Regional Panel, the RCSNs which support the panel and the broader industry as being one of two priority agronomic issues in the southern region (Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and central and southern New South Wales). The other issue is herbicide resistance.

“Considerable RD&E work has already been undertaken in the area of N management, but there are still some important unmet needs that translate into lost income to growers,” Mr Rice said.

“A targeted, strategic and collaborative approach to future investments is needed so we can deliver practical solutions to growers.”

The forum was in alignment with commitments of stakeholders under the national Grains Strategic Research & Development Plan 2012-17 and was the first of what is proposed to be annual industry-driven RD&E events, topics for which will be determined on the basis of regional priorities.

“The goal of this first forum was to enable key stakeholders to contribute to designing a way forward to address the gaps identified in N management RD&E and how they may be involved in the solution,” Mr Rice said.


Caption: Nitrogen management forum participants defining and discussing N management gaps in the southern cropping region.

Contact details

For Interviews

Andrew Rice, GRDC
0427 965 469  


Sharon Watt,  Porter Novelli
0409 675100

Region South