Report from the Chair and Managing Director
Peter F Reading
Terry J Enright
In 2006-07, Australia experienced one of the worst periods of drought in the country's recorded history. Drought conditions severely affected production of winter and summer crops. Grain growers also faced significant challenges in addition to the impact of the drought, such as higher energy costs, changing farm demographics and uncertainty in wheat export marketing arrangements.
The benefits of GRDC-supported grains R&D made a critical difference to many growers' circumstances. For example, crops that were grown under no-till regimes featuring stubble retention, which research has shown to preserve soil moisture levels, developed while many conventionally grown crops wilted. Robust crop varieties and the continuing refinement of agronomy and farming practices strengthened our capacity to withstand the challenging season of 2006-07.
Grains industry production in 2006-07
The production of winter grains and oilseeds in 2006-07 was 15.7 million tonnes, a decrease of 25.5 million tonnes or 62 percent from the 41.2 million tonnes produced in 2005-06.2 The June 2007 Australian Crop Report from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics reported that 2006-07 winter crop production in the two major crop-growing states was 7.5 million tonnes in Western Australia and 3.1 million tonnes in New South Wales, which together accounted for 67.5 percent of total winter crop production in Australia.
Summer crop production in 2006-07 was 1.3 million tonnes, showing a decrease of 49 percent compared with 2.6 million tonnes produced the previous year. For the major summer broadacre crop of sorghum, production fell by 52 percent, to 952,000 tonnes, compared to 2.0 million tonnes the previous year.
The GRDC's drought strategy in 2006-07
The GRDC, in collaboration with its research partners, implemented a number of actions to maintain an effective grains R&D program despite the effects of drought in 2006-07. In particular:
- the GRDC Board gave approval for the GRDC to lower its reserves target, from between 50 percent and 75 percent to between 40 percent and 70 percent of next year's expenditure
- the GRDC's budgeted operating costs were reduced
- the GRDC worked closely with its research partners to identify projects which could be deferred or cancelled, and cases where savings could be made from existing projects.
These actions reflected a determined approach to the management of the GRDC's reserves and an in-depth analysis of operating costs.
2. This total updates the figure of 40.5 million tonnes shown in last year's annual report, which was based on the best estimate available at the time of publication.
The GRDC's achievements in 2006-07
The GRDC's achievements in 2006-07 were instrumental in implementing the strategies of Driving Innovation: the GRDC Five Year Research and Development Plan 2002-07 and The Way Forward, the strategic business plan.
The GRDC facilitated the formation of the National Wheat Breeders' Alliance which is establishing R&D priorities for pre-breeding in Australia. In its first year of operations, Barley Breeding Australia commenced implementing a national plan for breeding improved varieties to benefit the barley industry.
The GRDC coordinated a national approach to reach agreement in developing the Australian Winter Cereals Pre-Breeding Alliance, involving representatives of Australian Government and state government departments, breeding entities and major research organisations such as the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, the Value Added Wheat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), the Molecular Plant Breeding CRC and CSIRO. The purpose of this inclusive alliance is to generate a greater level of communication, coordination and collaboration between research partners involved in pre-breeding.
Pulse Breeding Australia was launched in March 2007 to coordinate Australia's pulse breeding efforts and create a world-class breeding and germplasm enhancement program to develop new, superior varieties more quickly for Australian growers. Flagship , a new barley variety with high yields and exceptional export malting quality, from the University of Adelaide's breeding program, was launched in 2006-07.
A GRDC-supported lucerne breeding program at the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSWDPI) released Pegasis -a lucerne variety developed exclusively for short-term lucerne rotations and sustainable cropping systems. Pegasis will be the first lucerne variety to be released through the Australian Lucerne Alliance, a partnership between the NSWDPI, the GRDC and Seedmark.
Part 2 of this report provides more details on these achievements, and on the outcomes of many other GRDC initiatives and ongoing projects.
Challenges in 2007-08
The GRDC operates in an ever-changing grains industry. Its business environment in the year ahead is expected to be influenced by various factors, including climate change, growers' terms of trade, total factor productivity, biosecurity, grain market dynamics and consumer attitudes.
The year 2007-08 will be the first year of Prosperity through Innovation, the GRDC Strategic R&D Plan 2007-12. The new strategic R&D plan emphasises collaboration, and clearly defines performance measures and outcomes that will provide growers with the technologies and practices they require to remain competitive in global grain markets. Improved measuring of the impact of R&D on the grains industry and the wider community will be another key focus over the next five years.
The GRDC's achievements depend on the effective and timely implementation of the corporations strategies, which in turn depends on the cooperation of the Board, panel members and staff, and strong relationships with key customer groups and R&D partners. As it implements core strategies and line of business strategies in 2007-08, the GRDC will continue to build relationships with grain growers, the Australian Government and research partners. We thank them for their significant contributions to grains industry R&D in 2006-07.
We are pleased to note that our Annual Report 2005-06 has been recognised for high quality, and commend this year's report to the reader
Terry J Enright
Peter F Reading