New $42 million partnership to unlock the potential of WA’s problematic soils

Author: | Date: 13 Feb 2019

image of John Woods and Steve Jefferies
At the announcement of major new soils research projects are GRDC Managing Director Steve Jefferies, left, GRDC Chairman John Woods, WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan and DPIRD Director General Ralph Addis.

A historic $42 million research partnership aimed at unlocking the potential of Western Australia’s problematic soils was announced today between the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), and the State’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).

A further $6 million will be invested jointly in three exploratory projects aimed at boosting oat, canola, lupin and pulse production and value for WA growers.

The soils-focused research partnership seeks to deliver transformational impact to WA grain grower profitability. Its aim is to develop new farming practices to overcome soil constraints and thereby improve water use efficiency, nutrient use efficiency and ultimately the profitability of grain production in the State.

This part of the research partnership is made up of a suite of three large projects aimed at managing the most important soil constraints in WA including non-wetting, compaction, sub-soil acidity, sodicity and salinity. It will see a combined investment between GRDC and DPIRD of $42 million over the next five years.

The first and largest of the three new soils research projects will focus on overcoming multiple soil constraints, by using combinations of various soil amelioration techniques, while also considering the feasibility and potential benefit of ameliorating soils to a much greater depth than what has been attempted before. This project will focus on the 12 million hectares of sand plain soils in the medium to high rainfall areas of WA where multiple soil constraints, such as sub-soil compaction, sub-soil acidity and water repellence, regularly occur.

A second soils project will focus specifically on the 2.5 million hectares of sodic and transient saline soils of the low rainfall areas of WA’s eastern grain belt. This project aims to reduce the risk and improve the profitability of grain production on these often-hostile soils. It will assess new options for improving the capture and infiltration of rainfall through novel furrow formation and management techniques. This project will also assess the potential and financial feasibility of targeted root zone subsoil amelioration and/or application of soil amendments on these eastern grainbelt soils.

The final of the three soils projects will focus on how WA grain growers can best ensure the long-term benefit and profitability of new and previously developed soil amelioration and amendment techniques. This will include assessing options for reducing the risk of poor crop establishment and soil erosion, both problems commonly associated with new soil amelioration practices.

“These three new projects, in partnership with DPIRD, address specific key investment targets outlined in GRDC’s new five-year RD&E plan launched last July,” GRDC Chairman John Woods said. “There are 30 key investment targets in the new plan, almost all of which are relevant to WA grain growers”.

GRDC and DPIRD have also announced that they have entered into partnership in the delivery of three new pilot research projects focused on some exciting new opportunities for WA grain growers and important key investment targets in GRDC’s new five-year RD&E plan. These pilot projects address specific needs while GRDC plans how it can best deliver transformational impact in these key investment areas. The projects, with a combined budget of over $6 million, will focus on optimising yield and expanding the area of high value pulses – lentil, faba bean and chickpea – in WA as well assessing options for expanding the sowing window of oats, canola and lupins in WA.

“The new five-year RD&E plan has re-focused the direction of GRDC’s investment strategy,” Mr Woods said.

“The underlying theme of the plan is the recognition that GRDC needs to take greater risk and to deliver more transformational impact.  More of the same will simply not cut it going forward.

“GRDC is committed to investing in RD&E to create enduring profitability for WA grain growers and deliver on its new five-year R&D plan. The priority for GRDC is delivering a return on investment for our grower levy payers.”

Contact Details

Contact

Kylie Dunstan, GRDC Head of Corporate Affairs
(02) 6166 4500, 0428 864 934
kylie.dunstan@grdc.com.au