Bilateral agreements build research momentum

Picture of John Harvey

John Harvey - Managing director, Grains Research and Development Corporation

It is a modern reality that cereals production has become an intricate operation, not just in terms of managing inputs, but also in achieving the best sequence of crop rotations.

Today it is widely accepted in most cropping regions that pulses are crucial to the crop mix – for breaking cereal disease cycles and for their nitrogen-fixing traits. These break crops also need to be profitable in their own right, not just through indirect gains to associated cereal yields.

Lifting the profitability and geographic range of pulses is therefore becoming a major research priority for the GRDC and is a central component of the $60.5 million bilateral research agreement that we have recently signed with the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI).

This latest bilateral agreement – the second after the deal struck with Curtin University to establish the Centre for Crop and Disease Management in Western Australia – will be centered around the world-leading research precinct at Horsham, Victoria.

The five-year partnership will focus on developing the next generation of pulse crops making sure they have the necessary quality for our markets and the necessary profitability for our growers. So while the research agreement is with Victorian DEPI, the outcomes will have national impact – in keeping with the Grains Industry National RD&E Strategy. In particular, we are striving to develop more robust and profitable pulse options for growers in WA where to-date the crop options have been limited.

The bilateral research agreements such as those signed with Curtin University and Victorian DEPI are an important industry development for several reasons.

The five-year time frame provides sufficient security for our research partners to invest their own funds and resources in grains research, and this in-turn helps our industry retain experienced researchers and attract talented graduates into grains research. This human capital is absolutely vital to our industry’s sustained production capacity.

Bilateral agreements also move us away from the traditional project-by-project funding that can too often lead to a fragmented effort. Today we need a far more holistic approach to RD&E because our cropping systems need integrated research able to factor in the whole breadth of influences – crop type, soil biology, climate, pests, disease, new technologies and market drivers.

Research and its management is integral to our industry as a whole and must accommodate the needs of a large number of stakeholders across the country. This requires ongoing engagement by the GRDC, as reflected in our support of the annual Australian Grains Industry Conference, which this year coincided with the GRDC–Victorian DEPI announcement. 

For me, as managing director of the GRDC, the conference is a great opportunity to hear firsthand some of the issues that might be arising, particularly in the marketplace.

This gives us a ‘heads-up’ on any matters that might require adjustments to research programs, or even new research.

We know growers take a keen interest in research and how levies are allocated and this is reflected in the Independent Strategic Governance Review by Marsden Jacob Associates. If you are interested in studying the review it can be found at the Marsden Jacob Associates website (


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