Historic shifts for RD&E

Photo of a smiling man

The GRDC's John Harvey

In May, GRDC chairman Keith Perrett and the Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Peter Walsh, turned the first sod to ceremonially mark the start of construction of the new Australian Grains Genebank at Horsham, Victoria. The GRDC and Victorian Government are partners in what will be a world-class national plant genetic resource centre.

It was a historic moment for several reasons. First, this will be a national facility responsible for seed collection, curating, regeneration and distribution for a globally significant plant breeding resource.

The facility will be the primary resource for our plant breeders in their ongoing development of varieties that have the traits necessary to keep growers ahead of constantly evolving production constraints, and also in sync with the changing needs of our buyers and end users.

The ceremony at Horsham was also noteworthy because it marked the progress being made in implementing the Grains Industry National RD&E Strategy. This strategy is based around strategically located research hubs and the Australian Grains Genebank is the third hub to be put in place.When construction is completed in November it will be the southern hub complementing the University of Sydney’s I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre at Narrabri, New South Wales, (the northern hub) and the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) in Perth (the western hub), which is a partnership between GRDC and the Western Australian Government.

The Narrabri facility features state-of-the-art breeding glasshouses, regional phenotyping capacity and – like all the hubs – links with grower groups and private agronomists to ensure research results are tailored for grower adoption. Initial GRDC-supported research projects at the I.A. Watson Centre are covering higher heat and drought tolerance in wheat, and plant-microbe interactions in soil.

The AEGIC is all about accurately capturing market signals and feeding these into our genetic research and breeding programs. It also has a critical follow-up role in making sure we have the technologies to process, handle and protect grain quality so that it is delivered in the condition sought by buyers and attracts the highest possible price.

These first three hubs will continue to build on the international research links that the GRDC has already established with bodies such as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, and the major global companies whose business is the development of advanced crops, products and services. Relationships built around our advanced research capabilities will ensure Australian growers have access to the best possible varieties and enabling technologies from around the world.

The three facilities represent a step-change in the management and delivery of grains research. All three bring together both private and public research partners working for a common cause – a sustainable and profitable Australian grains industry able also to contribute to global food security. Collectively the new research hubs represent a new highly coordinated, efficient and effective grains research capability for the whole industry.

As national facilities they house the essential infrastructure and science disciplines needed to address national industry challenges. But, through each centre’s partners, they also have the capability to respond rapidly and effectively to regional issues. When networked with the GRDC’s Regional Cropping Solutions Networks, we can see a historic shift being put into practice; one that will inject unprecedented resilience into Australian grain production, and one that will ensure we achieve the industry’s total factor productivity goal of 2.5 per cent per annum within a decade.

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