Australian Government - Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Annual Report 2004-05.  Meeting stakeholder needs through cooperative innovation
Home Contents Vision, Mission & Corporate Values 2004 -05 Highlights Letter of transmittal Contact details
Part 1 - Overview Part 2 - Our outputs Part 3 - Our organisation Part 4 - Financial statements Appendices Glossary

Part 2: Our Outputs

Environmental objectives

The GRDC seeks investments that address the environmental concerns represented in the Australian Government's National Research Priorities and the Minister's rural R&D priorities (described in Appendix 1), and provide both short- and long-term economic, environmental and social benefits for the corporation's industry and community stakeholders. Such investments have a strong focus on finding profitable solutions to environmental challenges, because they are the solutions that growers can and will adopt quickly.

The following sections describe some of the environmental successes arising from GRDC investments in 2004-05. The energy-efficient practices the GRDC applies in its own work are discussed in Part 3.

Balancing nutrient inputs

In 2004-05 the GRDC established a new national R&D initiative, the Nutrient Management Initiative (NMI) Program. As an essential first step to help graingrowers apply only what is needed by the crop, the program uses both space and time to better match crop nutrient requirements with fertilisers. It includes work conducted in each of the three GRDC regions to measure the mass balance for key elements - that is, to compare the nutrients removed in grain or other products with what is available in the soil and what is being added in fertilisers.

Other research components within the NMI Program are examining how nutrient requirements vary within a paddock (spatial variability), and how they vary over time as different rotation crops are grown sequentially in the paddock. This work addresses the crucial nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur, as well as some important micro-nutrients, including zinc. Results will enable current fertiliser recommendations to be updated for modern cropping systems where crop rotation, controlled traffic and no-till cropping are becoming the norm. This on-farm work is linked to assessment of nutrient flows at a catchment scale, to determine how the grains industry can play its part in helping to meet wider nutrient targets.

The NMI Program also includes a large communication project, which is developing and delivering training materials to enable graingrowers and their advisers to better understand and plan for applying nutrients to crops. This will achieve the aim of enabling graingrowers to manage nutrients for optimum soil fertility and profit, while preventing losses and unwanted environmental impacts.

Preventing and reversing dryland salinity

The GRDC has been a major investor in research to understand and quantify the causes of and potential solutions to dryland salinity. The results of this work, and investments by other organisations including CSIRO and the Murray - Darling Basin Commission, are now being used to put catchment planning for salinity control on a sound, scientific basis.

New projects have been funded within graingrowing catchments in Western Australia (the Wallatin catchment) and New South Wales (Billabong Creek), to use the results of past R&D and determine how changes in land use and land management can prevent or reverse the spread of salinity caused by rising groundwater. In each case the GRDC is a co-investor with the local catchment board or equivalent, with state programs and agencies, and with the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAPSWQ), which is supporting on-ground works. Different land use options (for example, agroforestry plantations, biodiversity plantings, perennial pastures or alley cropping), management practices (for example, opportunity cropping or phase farming), and engineering options (for example, banks to channel overland flows, local drains or evaporation ponds), are being tested and modelled to assess their value in salinity management.

The data and tools used in each project, and the processes of community engagement and participation, as well as the results, are being recorded in detail. They will provide a valuable guide for other grain-growing catchments where communities wish to tackle the problem of dryland salinity. The GRDC funds these projects as a means of showing how growers, working with catchment groups, can make good use of past investments to help decide how best to meet and manage the salinity threat.

Top of the page Top
Page last updated: January 3, 2006
© Grains Research and Development Corporation 2005