Growers shape record northern research investment

Image of various ministers and GRDC members

(From left) GRDC Northern Panel chair James Clark, former Queensland Minister for Agriculture,
Fisheries and Forestry, John McVeigh, Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce and GRDC chair
Richard Clark announce investment in grains R&D worth $14 million for the northern region.

PHOTO: Gary Alcorn

Research priorities identified by GRDC levy payers in the northern region will become the focus of a new $14 million investment in the region’s grains R&D capability.

The investment includes 17 new research and technical positions in Queensland and recognises the need to increase postdoctoral research capacity to drive the science needed to expand northern grains.

It comprises three separate projects, unveiled on 22 January by the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, and his Queensland counterpart Dr John McVeigh.

“The first project, receiving almost $5 million, will increase the grains sector’s research capacity by funding 11 researchers to address the emerging challenges to productivity, profitability and sustainability specifically in the fields of soils, nutrition, pathology, entomology, weeds, agronomy and farming systems,” Mr Joyce said.

“The second and third projects, receiving $2.9 million and $6.4 million respectively, will facilitate a network of regional agronomists and local growers working together to assess the performance of current farming practices and trial new or modified cropping systems and crop sequences tailored to the northern region.

“This research will identify the current constraints to production and help local growers to identify and develop the best systems for their own farms.”

The projects are being funded over the next five years by the GRDC, the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, CSIRO and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.

GRDC chair Richard Clark noted that the planned investments were identified in the northern grains industry strategic plan, driven by the GRDC over the past 12 months and developed collaboratively by growers, researchers and government.

Mr Clark said it was the largest single grains research investment made in the northern region and underpinned the GRDC’s philosophy of investigate priorities expressed by growers: “This investment will now deliver a 20-year benefit as we see a generational change,” he said.

“We must provide career paths to attract future scientists who will benefit our grains industry and our growers.”

GRDC Northern Panel chair James Clark said the funding would support capacity building and succession planning: “We must renew the skills pool by funding new positions and ensuring years of current knowledge are not lost as scientists retire,” he said.

“The GRDC is keen to negotiate with state governments to fund postdoctoral studies so we have first-rate scientists who are also great communicators.

“We are creating pathways for careers. This industry must get the right people during the next 18 months to two years to have an impact over the next 20 years.”

Dr McVeigh said the new projects showed confidence in Queensland’s direction in grains research, and the government’s goal to see agricultural production double.

Minister Joyce said Australia’s grain, pulse and oilseed industries had an estimated gross value of production of about $15.7 billion in 2013-14, with exports worth about $12.3 billion to the Australian economy.

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