Resistance movement marks 20 years

The AHRI team at UWA.
Camera IconThe AHRI team at UWA. Credit: AHRI

Harvest weed seed control was named the “best collaboration between farmers and academics” in the world last week when Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative celebrated 20 years.

Former AHRI director Stephen Powles, the guest of honour at a dinner which attracted more than 100 people to The Camfield in Perth, gave a glowing, heartfelt and sincere speech about the advances in dealing with herbicide resistance.

“We should do a better job at celebrating success in Australia… and harvest weed seed control is a huge success,” Mr Powell said, to a resounding applause.

During the past 20 years, AHRI has spent millions fine-tuning herbicide resistance research, including $20 million from Grains Research Development Corporation.

GRDC managing director Steve Jefferies said the 20-year partnership was testament to AHRI’s effectiveness, in particular with weed seed control.

“We are very proud of the partnership we have had with AHRI over the past 20 years,” he said.

“This has been one of the longest investments … when you think of the quantum of dollars and length, we have only maintained that because of the impact AHRI has delivered.”

Mr Jeffries reminisced about a spring tour spent with members on the GRDC western panel, where a grower told him he would have had to “walk away from the farm” if it wasn’t for AHRI’s herbicide resistance research.

“That is real, and it is very touching to me,” Mr Jefferies said.

East Pingelly farmer Lance Turner paid tribute to AHRI’s research, after first tending a ryegrass management workshop near his home town almost 20 years ago.

“From a farmer’s point of view, AHRI has been really good to put numbers to the things we are doing,” he said.

“It has given us a fantastic opportunity.”

Canadian weed scientist Hugh Beckie was appointed AHRI director in June last year, after an illustrious career at the Saskatoon Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Mr Beckie said he believed Australia’s grain growing landscape would be vastly different without AHRI.

“I think we would be in very dire straights in Australia, crop yields would have been adversely affected,” he said.

“We have managed to keep a lot of growers in business, which is enormously satisfying.”

Mr Powles reminisced about AHRI’s inception, when he suggested funding be set aside to study herbicide resistance.

“It was at that time the GRDC board said it would ask each of those panels to come up with a range of priorities,” he said.

“The western panel proposed herbicide resistance and the GRDC board approved it… the genesis of AHRI lay with GRDC and they have nurtured and sustained AHRI from that day onwards.”

He continued by speaking of his respect for farmers, particularly the “world class farmers” in the room at the event – who were asked to stand up and “soak in the praise, even if it made them feel very embarrassed

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