Research helps industry meet climate challenges

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Despite the exceptionally dry season in 2018, which gave many growers no chance to even plant a crop, the industry has shown increased resilience because of the cumulative effects of the work done by growers, researchers, advisers, machinery manufacturers and seed companies, GRDC chair John Woods says.

“It has better positioned the sector to manage the climate challenges many growers faced in 2018,” Mr Woods says. “We often talk about yields in a good year, but arguably it is more important to have a small crop in a tough season, like the one many Queensland and New South Wales growers experienced last year.”

Photo of John Woods, David Littleproud, Duncan Young, Mark Fowler
(From left) GRDC chair John Woods, Federal Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud, WAFarmers grains section president and grower Duncan Young and WAFarmers grains section vice-president Mark Fowler during a visit to Mr Young’s Beverley property. The visit was part of a tour by the minister of the WA grainbelt. PHOTO: Natalie Lee

Industry-wide gains over the past two decades had lifted the productivity and profitability of grains operations across the country, including in tough seasons, he says.

He cites the on-farm benefits that chickpea R&D had provided in dry years as part of a whole-of-sector approach. “Agronomic, plant husbandry and breeding packages developed for chickpeas in the past 20 years now allow a highly profitable crop to often be produced in very trying circumstances,” he said.

A report commissioned by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries examining chickpea production from 2001 to 2018 found that every $1 invested in chickpea research programs in Queensland and NSW delivered $16 worth of benefits to growers.

The report showed that $55 million invested in chickpea research by GRDC and the Queensland and NSW governments in the past decade returned an estimated $876 million to industry.

One example was research that had given growers the confidence to chase moisture by planting chickpeas deeper in the soil profile. New chickpea varieties had also seen the pulse perform better in prolonged dry conditions and a more erect plant structure had improved its harvestability.

Mr Woods says GRDC would continue to invest in research programs for crop production in drier and hotter environments: “Today we know more about plant population and row spacing impacts, and other agronomic practices that can counter the potential impacts of dry and hot conditions on yields.

“We are also increasingly aware our farming families need the tools and resources to be resilient and well-equipped to deal with challenging times, so GRDC will continue to invest in farm business research, as well as focus on crop profitability.”

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