Changing of the guard at Grains Research Foundation

Neil Lyon, February 12, 2019

GOONDIWINDI cropping farmer and agricultural consultant, Damien Scanlan, has stepped down as chair of the Grains Research Foundation Limited (GRFL), handing over to next-generation grower, Luke Skerman.

Newly-elected Grains Research Foundation chair, Luke Skerman, with outgoing inaugural chair, Damien Scanlan.

Mr Scanlan had led the foundation since the not-for-profit, incorporated company was formed in 2006 to replace the Grain Research Foundation, a former statutory authority.

Through his role with GRFL, Mr Scanlan was also instrumental in the creation of Grain Producers Australia when the Grains Council of Australia ceased to exist.

Elected the new chair at the GRFL’s recent annual general meeting, 33-year-old Mr Skerman is a third-generation grain grower from Kupunn near Dalby on Queensland’s Darling Downs.

He is particularly focused on continuing the Foundation’s role of facilitating research, development and extension in the northern farming zone and investing in the younger generation of grain growers.

He believes the Foundation has a great opportunity to help younger farmers learn what goes into developing the crops they grow and to help facilitate connecting farmers with breeders and researchers.

“We are seeing the benefit in targeting the younger generation and giving them an insight into the R&D that goes into our crops, particularly sorghum production,” he said.

“We run an annual tour to the United States. The main thing we look at there is sorghum breeding and production, but we also visit corn farms and the white fluffy stuff (cotton) as well.

“It is amazing how you take a group of people away for two weeks, put them together in a close group and trip them around, and it just opens their eyes to what is out there.

“It is about building relationships. In the world we are living in with Twitter, Facebook and FaceTime, the world has shrunk. Why not take advantage of relationships with other people in other places who are facing different challenges that sometimes overlap?”

Mr Skerman was part of the GRFL’s Globalising Growers study trip to the US in 2015 and later, after becoming a GRFL Board member in 2016, led the 2017 tour to the US.

“I saw the benefit these tours provide the participants, which is an opportunity to get out of their little part of the world and opens their eyes to other ways things can be done,” he said.

“It also let them see some of the different challenges that other farmers face and how they have adapted to overcome these challenges. It is also a great way for them to better understand what goes into breeding a plant, and a greater appreciation for the facilities and resources we have here in Australia.”

Mr Skerman is keen to encourage greater connection between farmers and the research community and to partner with other organisations in the industry.

“We see a great value in connecting research with farmers. We want to get into the space where we can connect the people doing the research with the people who are actually putting the seed into the ground,” he said.

“There is a lot of upside in a farmer understanding as much as he can about what goes into the seed and having a relationship with the breeder or researcher so they can have someone they can talk to. As farmers, we need to have the relationships right through the process.”


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