A year of milestones
In August, industry representatives met in Melbourne for the annual Grains Industry Conference, It gave me an opportunity to recount some of the significant developments that the GRDC, as the industry’s research manager, has achieved already this year.
Of major significance is the CSIRO-Bayer-GRDC joint venture to lift wheat yields. This partnership will build on an exciting CSIRO discovery showing that such a yield breakthrough is achievable by ‘switching off’ the Glucan Water Dikinase (GWD) gene. In the glasshouse, yields were lifted by up to 30 per cent. The GRDC and CSIRO have provided the initial research funding and now Bayer CropScience has joined the partnership to support the technology’s commercial development. Increasing wheat yields under Australia’s water-limited environments is a major driver for GRDC investments, and this technology could go a long way to achieving this goal.
Other recent and important partnerships include the Crop Biofactories Initiative, also with CSIRO, to develop a super high oleic industrial oil from safflower.
As previously reported, the GRDC-supported Harrington Seed Destructor is now being commercialised, and we have licensed the much-anticipated DGT phosphorus soil test to the Back Paddock company. The DGT test mimics plant roots in the way they remove phosphorus from the soil, making it far more accurate and reliable than current methods in terms of plant-available phosphorus.
Within the GRDC itself we have been streamlining our structure and processes, including introducing the new Innovation Investments process to better capture new ideas and opportunities like those mentioned above.
Our new management structure incorporating investment themes is in place, ready to implement our next five-year Strategic Research and Development Plan taking us to 2017. This has been developed with the whole grains industry, and in particular with growers and researchers.
A key change to the plan’s implementation is the creation of nine Regional Cropping Solutions (RCS) Networks across the western and southern regions that will make sure the overarching research agenda can, where necessary, be customised to meet specific regional needs.This adds a powerful new mechanism for identifying research needs at a more local level and understanding the difference that addressing these needs would make to enterprise productivity and profitability.
Grain Producers Australia (GPA) and most of the state farming organisations attended the regular six-monthly GRDC consult meeting in August.
Key matters raised by industry were:
- independent market trend information;
- GRDC’s project management and administration resources;
- GRDC’s funding processes;
- evaluations of extension projects;
- consultative mechanisms;
- program logic and engagement with producer groups;
- barley breeding in Australia;
- national rationalisation of research;
- National Variety Trials Tasmania update; and
- industry feedback that the GRDC levy rate should remain the same for 2012-13
GPA director Andrew Weidemann reported on GPA’s funded projects. GRDC managing director John Harvey outlined the implications of the Rural Research and Development policy statement and GRDC management reported on strategic highlights for 2011-12. GPA acknowledged the launch of the GRDC’s Strategic R&D Plan 2012-17 and the new website, recording it as a significant milestone.