WESTERN Australian grain growers are set to benefit from a first-of-its-kind collaboration that will receive $14.5 million in funding for three research projects looking into soil nutrition.
Announcing the funding windfall at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Update in Perth today, GRDC chair, John Woods, said the suite of projects in WA would deal with nitrogen cycling and availability, phosphorous and potassium storage, sources of supply and responsiveness of crops.
Mr Woods said the GRDC’s commitment to the suite of projects was $8.3 million.
“That is a very large amount of money. It is all directed at WA. If you are an RCSM member, and particularly a panel member of GRDC, you have 14.5 million reasons to value your contribution into this organisation because you helped shape the demand for this investment,” he said.
The accompanying co-investment worth $6.2 million has been committed by the University of WA (UWA), the WA Department of Primary Industry & Regional Development (DPIRD), CSIRO, Murdoch University, CSBP, and Summit Fertilizers.
UWA and Murdoch University will lead the $9.7 million project to examine nutrient use.
The soil amelioration project is worth $3.5 million and will be led by DPIRD, while the soil sampling project is worth $1.4 million and will be led by the CSIRO.
“This is a very different type of deal to what we have done in the past. This is very much stepping out of the space and working across industry collaboration,” Mr Woods said.
“You have a lot of challenges in WA soils. We really want to discover what we can do.”
Mr Woods said the investment was an example of a refocussing of the GRDC’s research funding direction over the past 14 months where the emphasis was now not simply on productivity, but on creating enduring profitability for Australian grain growers.
“Every investment we make is done through the prism of profitability. Productivity is only one measure. We need to look at everything in the farm system, whether it’s upstream, downstream or inside the farm gate,” he said.
“This will change materially the risk appetite and the breadth in which GRDC may consider investing in the future.
“If it affects your profitability, if it affects your bottom line, GRDC will consider investing there. In the past we have been a lot more conservative and talked about productivity. As soon as it didn’t meet the productivity measure, we threw it out.”
Addressing the issue of frost research in WA, Mr Woods said frost research was an area where a new direction was required.
“As an organisation and industry we have spent a lot of money on frost (research). We haven’t seen some of the game-changing opportunities we thought we might have yielded,” he said.
“One of the powers of R&D is as much about its failures as its successes. We have now identified areas we shouldn’t be investing R&D money for frost.
“Frost is a major issue in WA, but we need to focus on transformational investments. The short-term tactical approach is not working. We want to make the GRDC and our relationship with frost investment reach more and seek new approaches and ideas.
“We need to do things differently, but we will absolutely continue to invest, if not grow, the opportunities in frost.”
Mr Woods said there would also be a focus on developing profitable pulses for WA growers.
“We will back you guys in to try to find you more adaptable, profitable pulses in your system. You need the rotation and the higher value crop in your system to make it more sustainable. I give you a commitment that GRDC will be accelerating investment and looking for opportunities,” he said.
The GRDC Grains Research Update being held in Perth today and tomorrow has attracted more than 600 delegates.
Stay tuned for more reports from the GRDC Grains Research Update at Perth, WA, from Grain Central editor Neil Lyon who is covering the event today and tomorrow.
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