Australian Government: Grains Research and Development CororationGRDC Annual Report 2006-2007

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Research priorities

Each year the GRDC tailors its investment portfolio, and its annual operational plan, to best address the research priorities of its key customer groups: Australian grain growers and the Australian Government.

In 2006-07, the GRDC's R&D portfolio was linked to:

Revised priorities for rural R&D were announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in May 2007, as part of Future Harvest: the 2007 Agriculture Statement. The revised priorities are listed in Appendix 1.

Table 4 shows the relationships between industry and government research priorities, while Table 5 shows how the GRDC achieved results in relation to these priorities during 2006-07.

A breakdown of expenditure allocated to addressing the Australian Government's research priorities during 2006-07 appears in Appendix 2.

Table 4 Industry and government research priorities
Australian grain growers’ priorities Australian Government’s National Research Priorities Ministerial priorities for rural R&D corporations and companies

Industry 1: Sustainability and resource management:

  • farming systems and rotations to protect and enhance the soil and water resource base
  • genetic improvement for sustainability

NRP 1: An environmentally sustainable Australia

RRDP 1: Sustainable natural resource management

Industry 2: New and innovative product development:

  • identify premium markets to enhance grower returns
  • ensure flow of market signals

NRP 2: Promoting and maintaining good health

RRDP 2: Improving competitiveness through a whole-of-industry approach
RRDP 3: Maintaining and improving confidence in the integrity of Australian agricultural, food, fish and forestry products

Industry 3: Develop new alliances and links to market

 

RRDP 4: Improved trade and market access

Industry 4: Bringing biotechnology to bear on sustainability and consumer benefit outcomes, to support profitable farming systems and access to premium markets

NRP 3: Frontier technologies for building and transforming Australian industries

RRDP 5: Use of frontier technologies

Industry 5: Genetic improvement and regional adaptation of new grain varieties:

  • improved resistance to biotic and abiotic stress
  • quality standards for specific end uses

 

 

Industry 6: Integrated pest management:

  • to minimise total costs of pests, diseases and weeds
  • to maintain options and control strategies

NRP 4: Safeguarding Australia

RRDP 6: Protecting Australia from invasive diseases and pests

Industry 7: Effective and targeted transfer and adoption of technology and knowledge for Australian growers

 

RRDP 7: Creating an innovative culture

Industry 8: Independent variety evaluation

 

 

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Table 5 GRDC achievements against stakeholder priorities in 2006-07
Priorities Relevant GRDC investments

Industry 1: Sustainability and resource management:

  • farming systems and rotations to protect and enhance the soil and water resource base
  • genetic improvement for sustainability

NRP 1: An environmentally sustainable Australia

RRDP 1: Sustainable natural resource management

In partnership with the Australian Greenhouse Office, the GRDC supported the establishment of a free-air carbon experiment at Horsham (Victoria) to evaluate the impact of elevated carbon dioxide on cereal crop performance.

Reports were tabled on the economic impact of subsoil constraints in the Northern Region (Queensland Department of Natural Resources) and the economic benefits of precision agriculture (CSIRO).

A workshop held in December 2006 reviewed the outcomes of the GRDC-supported Soil Biology Initiative.

In 2006–07, the GRDC also supported the development of:

  • an implement control system design for improved seed and fertiliser placement accuracy, to be integrated into an autonomous tractor which incorporates the use of GPS systems, tilt sensors and laser rangefinders with an operational safety subsystem
  • an integrated approach to variable rate pesticide application, based on mapping crop biomass using near-infrared crop scanners and direct chemical injection spray application systems.

Industry 2: New and innovative product development:

  • identify premium markets to enhance grower returns
  • ensure flow of market signals

NRP 2: Promoting and maintaining good health

RRDP 2: Improving competitiveness through a whole-of-industry approach

RRDP 3: Maintaining and improving confidence in the integrity of Australian agricultural food, fish and forestry products

The Philom Bios (Australia) Pty Ltd joint venture was established and launched. The joint venture expects to release new products in the second half of 2007.

The GRDC, CSIRO and Groupe Limagrain signed an agreement to form the joint venture Arista Cereal Technologies Pty Ltd, to deliver high-amylose wheat.

A supplementary bid to the Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity (CRCNPB) was successful in establishing a governing body to develop and implement a post-harvest grain hygiene strategy, through the CRCNPB.

At the end of 2006–07, the Objective Grain Quality Testing project had:

  • one technology ready for transfer, pending licence agreement.
  • one technology under negotiation for transfer to a commercial partner.

Industry 3: Develop new alliances and links to market

RRDP 4: Improved trade and market access

GRDC activities to foster market alliances included:

  • establishing the Philom Bios (Australia) Pty Ltd joint venture and continuing work to form the Arista Cereal Technologies Pty Ltd joint venture
  • establishing a national alliance for pre-breeding of winter cereals—the alliance includes all major research organisations in Australia and has begun coordinating research activities for the highest priority traits
  • establishing a strategic alliance with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Syria. This alliance will see the GRDC and ICARDA working on breeding new chickpea varieties with drought tolerance and disease resistance, and enhancing yield and yield stability in bread wheat.

Industry 4: Bringing biotechnology to bear on sustainability and consumer benefit outcomes, to support profitable farming systems and access to premium markets

NRP 3: Frontier technologies for building and transforming Australian industries

RRDP 5: Use of frontier technologies

The GRDC’s investments in gene discovery, functional genomics and new technologies continued, through the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG), the Cereal Functional Genomics Program, Grain Protection Genes, and the Australian Winter Cereals Molecular Marker Program.

The annual internal review of the Crop Biofactories Initiative’s research and commercial direction examined crop selection and identification of delivery channels for GM crops for Crop Biofactories Initiative products, and developed a short list to evaluate further.

The GRDC commissioned a study to examine the delivery platform and supply chain infrastructure requirements for GM wheat and barley crops and products.

The GRDC participated in Bioenergy Australia, as a means to keep abreast of Australian and international developments in relation to biofuels policy and technology.

A report of the GRDC-commissioned study of the possibilities of biomass ethanol was completed.

The GRDC engaged CSIRO to map regional areas where biomass ethanol production opportunities may exist.

Industry 5: Genetic improvement and regional adaptation of new grain varieties:

  • improved resistance to biotic and abiotic stress
  • quality standards for specific end uses

More than 1,500 wheat lines from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico were imported into Australia. These lines potentially contain new sources of tolerance to drought and heat, and resistance to rusts and other biosecurity threats such as karnal bunt. During a visit to CIMMYT, Australian wheat breeders personally selected an additional 1,049 lines for importation.

The acquisition of the genome sequence of the blackleg fungus through an Australian–French collaborative project led to the prediction of the longevity and effectiveness of particular blackleg resistance sources in canola.

The new national pulse-breeding program, Pulse Breeding Australia, commercialised new varieties including:

  • two new chickpea varieties, with better resistance to fungal disease
  • two new lentil varieties, with better resistance to ascochyta blight and botrytis grey mould.

DunePlant Breeder Rights icon, Australia’s first variety of canola-quality juncea, was released, providing growers in lower rainfall areas with a profitable and reliable canola crop.

Three new peanut varieties that will give peanut growers increased flexibility in dry climates, higher yields and better resistance to foliar diseases (AshtonPlant Breeder Rights icon, SutherlandPlant Breeder Rights icon and Walter Plant Breeder Rights icon) were commercialised.

A new maize line for the wet tropics, with 13% higher yield, entered the final stages of evaluation in 2006–07 and is expected to be released in 2007–08.

Industry 6: Integrated pest management:

  • to minimise total costs of pests, diseases and weeds
  • to maintain options and control strategies

NRP 4: Safeguarding Australia

RRDP 6: Protecting Australia from invasive diseases and pests

As a result of GRDC supported research:

  • A national surveillance plan was developed for emergency plant pest threats to the grains industry.
  • Intelligence on herbicide resistance and understanding of resistance development mechanisms were improved, to manage the risks of herbicide resistance in the grains industry.
  • A diverse range of integrated weed management options were delivered to agronomists and consultants to improve weed control options in conservation farming.
  • A test to detect wheat streak mosaic virus in bulk seed samples of wheat was successfully developed to identify seed at risk of carrying disease into the next crop.
  • Effective integrated pest management approaches such as broadacre control of the etiella moth in lentils and mirid populations in soybeans were developed to reduce grower costs and provide environmental benefits.
  • Further refinements to rust management practices, including the management of the crop canopy through strategic post-emergence nitrogen applications, were delivered to growers to provide more effective integrated disease management strategies for stripe rust.

Industry 7: Effective and targeted transfer and adoption of technology and knowledge for Australian growers

RRDP 7: Creating an innovative culture

At the end of 2006–07, the Objective Grain Quality Testing project had:

  • one technology ready for transfer, pending licence agreement.
  • one technology under negotiation for transfer to a commercial partner.

The Philom Bios (Australia) Pty Ltd joint venture was established and launched. The joint venture expects to release new products in the second half of 2007.

The scoping of potential uses and available technologies for on-farm instrumentation was completed in 2006–07. Based on the results, the GRDC began preparing business cases for potential projects. The draft investment plan for 2008–09 contains two projects prepared from this report.

Approaches to better integrate livestock into cropping systems through the Grain and Graze program were developed and extended to growers.

A blueprint for doubling sorghum production was developed.

Findings from localised farming systems research were communicated to growers through research compendiums and results manuals.

The key profit drivers in northern cropping systems were identified.

The Value Added Wheat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) delivered genotyping and other services to the wheat-breeding community, and progressed a new triticale variety to the point of plant breeder’s rights protection.

The ACPFG and the Molecular Plant Breeding CRC continued to develop novel traits for breeders, using world-class science. Both organisations have leveraged significant international investment.

All the organisations trained a great number of young plant scientists. The ACPFG alone had more than 30 PhD students in 2006–07.

The success of the Australian Winter Cereals Molecular Marker Program was reflected in the routine use of markers in all major wheat and barley-breeding programs.

Industry 8: Independent variety evaluation

The National Variety Trials (NVT) program conducted 556 trials at 216 locations across mainland Australia. Although the drought affected many trials, results from 295 trials were made available to growers on www.nvtonline.com.au.

For most crops, trial results were made available to growers through www.nvtonline.com.au one month earlier in 2006 than in 2005 (the actual month varies for each crop).

All grain-breeding companies across Australia continued to participate in the NVT program.

Milestones for the provision of independent performance data on new varieties were achieved. Ten wheat varieties and ten canola varieties released at the end of 2006 were all evaluated in the NVT program prior to their release, and the performance results were made readily available to growers.

The NVT network was expanded to ten locations in Queensland.

Three new field pea lines with improved yield, earlier flowering and semi-dwarfing traits entered the final stage of evaluation in 2006–07.

New lupin, mung bean and oat varieties entered final stage evaluation in 2006–07 and are expected to be released in 2007–08.

The GRDC provided information on the performance of new varieties under a range of management regimes in the 2006 season to growers in the western and southern regions.

Notes: 'Industry' priorities are the eight grains industry priorities identified through consultation.

'NRP' priorities are the Australian Government's four National Research Priorities.

'RRDP' priorities are the seven ministerial priorities for rural R&D corporations and companies.

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