Editorial by John Lovett: Our wheat industry on the global stage
As an industry largely geared to the export market, we know that buyers of Australian grains are, increasingly, demanding customised products. Eighty per cent of the wheat industry's profits are, in fact, derived from varieties 10 years old or less, tailored to fill market niches.
Today, Australian wheats fill needs for a range of breads, for noodles and for pasta in marketplaces unthought of as recently as the 1980s.
This indicates a good performance by Australia's wheat breeders in meeting market demands. But the pace of the global game is becoming faster and, if we are to continue to satisfy the customer needs of tomorrow — and get the best possible returns for Australian growers — the timeframe for trialing, testing and marketing new varieties has to be foreshortened.
The Australian grains industry must be equipped to respond to market signals by being able to take
advantage of the latest in technologies and by being robust enough to compete on a global scale.
As a small player, how are we to do this?
In light of a flattening curve for available research dollars, the GRDC needs to maximise the benefits that flow from every dollar it invests on behalf of graingrowers and the Commonwealth Government.
Increasingly, this will mean forming strategic alliances to access the best available genetic material from proven national and international sources, such as CIMMYT, and from the private sector.
To achieve efficiencies while meeting market demands, the GRDC has called for expressions of interest from researchers in both the public and the private sectors to form world-competitive consortia which are able to deliver superior varieties of wheat quickly and cost-effectively.
While the current wheat-breeding programs have served Australian growers well, they are too many and too small to maintain a global position into the future. Integration of the current programs into centres of wheat-breeding excellence, operating at world's best practice and meeting regional, national and international needs, is the way forward. This is what the GRDC aims to deliver on behalf of its grower and government stakeholders.