Grains research plan revamp

Jenne BrammerCountryman

A new grains body that would be responsible for research and development in WA could be operating by the end of 2016.

It would aim to increase WA growers’ productivity through R&D in crop agronomy, integrated crop protection, soil management and profitable farming systems.

The new group supersedes the GrainsWest group, proposed by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA which would have involved DAFWA as the main shareholder, with researchers based at Northam,

With the working title of the Crop Research Institute of WA,, the new body would involve a Perth-based administration centre with R&D focused in defined areas requiring strong regional delivery, complementing and working closely with universities, CSIRO and the private sector.

The Crop Research Institute of WA involves the collaboration of the Grains Industry Group, DAFWA and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

GIC’s members include representatives from the Australian Association of Agricultural Consultants WA, Pastoralists and Graziers Association, WAFarmers, Grains Industry of WA, CSIRO, universities and private companies.

DAFWA Grains R&D executive director Mark Sweetingham told a recent parliamentary committee the GrainsWest concept, originally proposed by DAFWA, was being totally rebuilt and revised from the ground up.

“DAFWA is working very closely with the GRDC and with WA grain growers through the Grains Industry Group and through the Office of Science representing the broader interests of agricultural and science R&D in this State,” he said.

“ The model now under consideration differs considerably (from GrainsWest). Unlike the original concept, this will have a strength and commitment from the government and GRDC to partner over a longer term. There will be a tighter focus on the research scope into areas of agronomy, crop protection, soil management and farming systems.

“The strategic business plan will be developed in partnership with and endorsed by the WA industry, the WA government and the GRDC. There will be a focus on delivering commercial outcomes to grain-growing businesses in the shortest time possible. There will be a greater emphasis on effective collaboration channels with universities, CSIRO and the private sector, and, again, as part of that, a broader commitment of the new entity to engage with the broader agricultural research vision for WA”

Dr Sweetingham said other differing features include an appropriate presence or headquarters within the metropolitan area.

GRDC acting managing director Steve Thomas said the new body represented a significant milestone in achieving the best model of R&D for WA grain growers. He said importantly, if the company was going to be sustainable in driving innovation, it would require balanced, long-term investment from all partners.

GIG chairman David Falconer said GIG was pleased the previous GrainsWest concept had been abandoned and engagement continued with all parties, including the State Office of Science.

He said the recent changes had been enabled partially by the new director-general Mark Webb who was an inclusive team player, and a new agriculture minister who had injected a renewed enthusiasm for agriculture.

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