What’s front of mind in 2016

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John Harvey, managing director

Grain growers have affirmed that our grains industry is in good shape and confidence is high, but production constraints remain front-of-mind in 2016. If you look across the whole scope of Australia, in recent years we have had a run of reasonably good, albeit patchy, seasons. This is consistent with overall growth from an $8.5 billion industry to a $13 billion industry.

This rate of growth in productivity is always a key theme when economic forecasts are presented at events such as the recent ABARES Outlook and the GRDC Grains Research Updates.

This is the background to the GRDC’s core business – to assist growers to maximise their returns by adopting technology and advanced practice change. So we are ramping up our emphasis on not only guiding and overseeing the research, but also packaging the findings into a range of traditional and new information delivery formats such as smartphone and tablet apps.

The Updates are also an opportunity for the GRDC to directly connect with stakeholders across the industry’s value chain and take a reading on how the industry is tracking: what is changing and what growers are thinking with respect to the future of their cropping systems.

Our cropping landscape continues to change, in terms of climate, technology, market conditions and local economies, compounded by unforeseeable environmental impacts such as last season’s frost, heat, fires and flooding. Despite these challenges, growers tell us they are increasingly confident about the future. Through our grower surveys we have seen rising optimism about grains, with the percentage of growers rating the industry as being in ‘extremely good shape’ increasing from nine to 51 per cent in the past five years.

I attribute this positive outlook to each and every one of us who embraces change, who makes informed decisions by seeking out the innovative thinkers and doers, who listens and takes calculated risk, and who adopts new products and practices. All this translates to a cycle of increasing productivity and profitability for growers and their communities.

However, despite the wins and best efforts, the big issues relating to crop protection still confront us. Therefore weeds and herbicide resistance remain key target areas for the GRDC in 2016.

We know that about $3 billion every year vanishes in lost production and the cost of controlling weeds, making it one of the greatest constraints to grower profitability. 

Through our Panel and Cropping Solutions network we continually consult with growers on the extent of this problem, which is multifaceted and evolving. To explore the issue more broadly, we commissioned a comprehensive industry study with input from grain growers, agronomists, consultants, agribusiness data experts and weed researchers.

The report is entitled Impact of weeds on Australian grain production: The cost of weeds to Australian grain growers and the adoption of weed management and tillage practices (the Impact of Weeds Report). 

The Impact of Weeds Report is the most comprehensive review to date into the cost of weeds, including yield loss and the costs of weed-management practices. It will help guide future decisions on cropping systems research, development and extension.

The GRDC is driving an integrated weed-management approach with public/private/industry stakeholders, which comprises research, technology development and awareness programs. Our largest research investment to date is the Herbicide Innovation Partnership (HIP) with Bayer CropScience. The new HIP centre in Germany will be opened in May and the partnership is expected to increase the probability of a resistance-breaking technology entering the global herbicide market for cereals within the next 10 to 15 years.

The industry’s war on weeds is a massive effort extending from grass roots to global collaborators. And growers’ positivity prevails with considerable optimism reported among growers regarding the likelihood of new herbicides becoming available to control herbicide-resistant weeds.


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