Local input vital in determining research priorities
Author: Natalie Lee | Date: 07 May 2014
Prioritising investment to provide the best possible returns to growers is the primary aim of Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts.With the GRDC spending more than $50 million on western region research, development and extension (RD&E) annually, it is a job the Dunn Rock farmer takes very seriously.
To receive input on investment priorities at a local level, Mr Roberts helped oversee the establishment of Regional Cropping Solution Networks (RCSNs) - an achievement he is particularly proud of.
Each of the five networks, comprising between 15 to 18 farmers, agronomists and agribusiness people, provides a local view of how research dollars should be spent in their area.
“We ask the networks to identify the priorities from their area and we take them back to the western panel so we get a very good validation process and to date they have been very successful,” Mr Roberts said.
“The RCSNs, based in WA’s port zones, also invest limited discretionary GRDC funds into seasonally focused trial work relevant to their regions. This is already delivering useful results for growers.
“For instance, Geraldton RCSN trial work on herbicide control of wild radish identified ways of controlling populations previously thought to be uncontrollable.
“Certainly from a GRDC perspective the RCSNs add a lot of value to the investments that we make in the western region.
“They are helping to ensure that growers have early access to technologies, tools and information that improve their whole farm profitability, and that research results are communicated at regional and local levels.”
Mr Roberts said GRDC western research priorities were also refined through ongoing, direct consultation with growers and the inclusion of five farmer representatives on the regional panel.
“The number one priority for the western panel is research into frost, which can have a devastating impact on farmers and their equity,” he said.
“Other key western research priorities are non-wetting soils; weed management and herbicide resistance; more profitable break crops; subsoil constraints; water use efficiency; farming systems; and decision support tools.”
Mr Roberts said making sure all research hit the paddock and provided the best possible return to farmers was in the back of panel members’ minds in any decision they made.
“To make sure that growers get value for their GRDC levy, the panel is committed to ensuring that the focus of the research is on the grower and is regionally relevant.
“Before we start any RD&E we have the paddock in focus. I want to know how that research looks in a paddock at Westonia or at Esperance or at Geraldton, and I want to know the results for the different regions.”
Mr Roberts, who began farming with wife Julie at Dunn Rock, in the Esperance port zone, in 1984, believes that RD&E is vital in any industry, but particularly in agriculture where there are so many variables.
“Our methodology and RD&E investment in areas such as herbicides, new varieties and farming systems has certainly allowed us to farm in a much tougher environment and a much drier climate and we have to continue to work hard to maintain that,” he said.
Mr Roberts believes strongly that the GRDC grower levy provides value for money for WA growers and squarely addresses key western region issues.
“A number of big new GRDC investments have been into core WA issues since I became chairman in 2011,” he said.
“The GRDC has more than doubled its investment into frost - to more than $3 million per year - and has considerably increased its investment into non-wetting soils and subsoil constraints research.
“The GRDC has also made a big investment into break crop agronomy – to improve understanding of the value of break crops in our system and the agronomy based around that.
“Investment into weed management research is significant and ongoing, with a major component of this investment being through the GRDC’s ongoing partnership with the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI).
“There has also been a very big investment by the GRDC into lupin breeding over a number of years.”
Mr Roberts said representation on the GRDC’s regional panels was vital for the effective operation of the panels.
“The mix of people on the panels is very important and I believe that the western panel is working extremely well and represents a wide range of relevant skill sets,” he said.
Peter Roberts, GRDC western panel chairman
0428 389 060
Photo caption: As chairman of the GRDC western regional panel, Dunn Rock farmer Peter Roberts aims to help deliver to growers the technology, tools and information that will keep them profitable.
The video is also available on the GRDC YouTube channel www.YouTube.com/theGRDC.