Editorial: National focus delivers the goods by John Lovett
One of the key objectives of the GRDC during its early years has been to promote cooperation among national and regional research agencies. Successful coordination can open up new opportunities and help address issues of importance to growers.
The Cooperative Research Centres program has been particularly helpful, drawing together state government departments, CSIRO, universities and, often, private companies to tackle issues important to graingrowers — including grain products and processes, quality, soil and land management, pests, diseases and weeds.
National coordination is also helping to develop clear indications as to where opportunities lie for grain crops, such as the pulses.
No-one questions the value of pulses in farming systems and the development of lupins, in the GRDC's Western Region, is an excellent example of more stable and productive systems being the reward for grower-supported research and development.
But the GRDC is responsible for 11 pulses and, despite recent progress made with crops such as chickpea, annual production of several crops remains small and somewhat unreliable.
For all 11 pulse crops for which the GRDC is responsible there is a suite of possible research opportunities, complicating the challenge of where best to invest resources. Improving yield, enhancing quality, combating disease and, most importantly, building confidence among growers and marketers are all imperatives.
Delivering the goods, through nationally focused pulse R&D, has the potential to bring huge benefits.
Recent market research, sponsored by the national coordinating body Pulse Australia, has shown that Australia enjoys an excellent reputation for pulse quality in major markets in the Middle East and Asia.
A clear message was received that development of an Australian brand for pulses will further enhance market prospects.
Already there are first-class examples of entrepreneurship in the presentation and packing of Australian pulses. These will help to lift the image of pulses from being the staple protein source of poorer countries to being trendy products, easy to use, enjoyable to eat, and fit for the most sophisticated palate and kitchen.
All that and they're good for you too! It's enough to make your pulse beat faster.