Ground Cover West : Ground Cover 068 May-June 2007 - West
JOINT VENTURE NATIONAL PULSE BREEDING FORMALISED The coordination of Australia’s pulse breeding efforts is under way with the official launch of Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA). The unincorporated joint venture aims to deliver superior pulse varie- ties and build a world-class breeding and germplasm enhancement program. PBA chairman and GRDC managing director Peter Reading says the creation of PBA will help to underpin the sustainability of the Australian grains industry. “Pulses are an important part of Australian grain production, both as export crops in their own right and as part of crop rotations,” he says. “The aim of PBA is to coordinate a cost-effective pulse breeding program that develops new, superior varieties more quickly for our growers. “Its focus will be on monitoring reliable market signals, accessing elite germplasm for breeding efforts, and rapid adoption by Australian growers of new lentil, faba bean, chickpea and field pea varieties that have been developed for, and field-tested in, local conditions. “The grains industry is excited by the potential of PBA to enable greater collaboration and resource sharing in pulse breeding to improve efficiencies and effectiveness. “The GRDC strongly supports this joint venture as part of our objective to deliver to Australian growers better pulse varieties faster through a world-leading, cost-efficient breeding program.” PBA is a joint venture between the GRDC, Pulse Australia, the University of Adelaide, the South Australian Research and Development Institute, the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI), the NSW DPI, the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries and the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia. PB Seeds Pty Ltd has been awarded a commercial licence that will provide ‘first option’ exclusive rights to a pipeline of lentil varieties developed through PBA until June 2011. PB Seeds will enter a licence with the Victorian DPI and will collaborate with PBA to produce, promote and fast-track the adoption of future elite lentil varieties to help growers maximise their profitability. The licence rights will include two new lentil varieties that are expected to be available to Australian producers in commercial quantities in 2009: CIPAL411, a red lentil suited to high-rainfall regions, and CIPAL415, a broadly adapted high-yielding red lentil. REPORT GRAINS INDUSTRY LEADS PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH Areport on productivity growth has shown that the Australian grains industry has outperformed international competitors over the past 20 to 30 years. Productivity Growth in Australian Agriculture: Trends, Sources and Performance was com- missioned by the Australian Farm Institute with the GRDC, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and Meat and Livestock Australia. The report focuses on R&D as a contributing factor, estimating there is a return on investment of 15 to 40 per cent a year across agriculture as a whole. It concludes that every effort should be made to retain the current levels of funding for agricul- tural R&D. More information: John Mullen, 02 6391 3608, email@example.com; www.farminstitute.org.au COST-BENEFIT RDC WORK BENEFITS ALL An analysis of a sample of rural research and development corporations’ (RDC) projects reviewed over the past six years has shown substantial benefits both to industry and society from their work. GRDC chairman Terry Enright, also chair of the Council of Rural Research and Development Corporations’ Chairs, says the Productivity Commission’s report into science and innovation had recognised there were grounds for substantial public funding for rural R&D where there were spill- over benefits to the wider community. “We believe this is the case with all of Australia’s 15 RDCs,” he says. A cost-benefit analysis – by economic researchers ACIL Tasman – of 134 RDC projects under- taken between 2000 and 2007 found that $1 billion invested by RDCs had created net benefits of $5.5 billion to industry and at least $3 billion in wider social benefits. “These social benefits include issues such as improved water-use efficiency, food safety, safer use of pesticides, advances in environmental and natural resource management and animal wel- fare,” Mr Enright says. are further complicated by the often long lead-times in converting novel research into products and services for graingrowers, the levels of risk associated with new research and different stakeholder expectations of the results of expenditure on grains research and development. One thing that we do know is that productivity growth in Australian agriculture has been strong relative to other sectors of the Australian economy (up to four times higher), and also when compared to other countries’ agricultural sectors. We also know that in recent decades, productivity growth includes extension, the level of a farmer’s education, foreign R&D, public infrastructure and economic reform. A recent report published by the Australian Farm Institute highlights that the returns on investment of research in Australian R&D outcomes must be measured and there for all to see n A key challenge for research and development is measuring the impacts or outcomes of research expenditure. There have been numerous studies over many years attempting to quantify the return on investment of agricultural research and development, both in financial terms and its effect on the triple bottom line (environmental, financial and social). The measurement outcomes of R&D broadacre agriculture have been in the range of 15 to 40 per cent. The same report puts the benefit:cost ratio for the period (1953–2003) at between 7.8 and 11.7. Although these figures are impressive, there is a continual need to try to improve the way in which the outputs of R&D are measured and evaluated, to further increase that rate of return from grains R&D. There are also the challenges of agreeing on common performance measures with our R&D partners, and of being able to effectively communicate these to our key stakeholders – the Australian Government and graingrowers. Added to this responsibility is an ongoing need to refine the R&D investment portfolio to ensure there is an appropriate balance between strategic research and development that will benefit the future industry, as well as applied R&D that will help today’s graingrowers compete in the rapidly changing global grains market. The GRDC is acutely attuned to its roles and responsibilities in managing grains research funding, with and for the industry. It is a position treated with professionalism and dedication. To this end GRDC is solidly committed to the close working relationships it has developed with its R&D partners and the broader grains industry to improve the measurement and communication of R&D outcomes. To borrow, loosely, a phrase from the legal fraternity, it is not enough for research to be done, it has to be seen to be done; and the results available for all to see in a financially, socially and environmentally healthy industry. GRDC The Pulse Breeding Australia board: (back row, left to right): Professor Mike Keller, University of Adelaide, John Harvey, GRDC, Peter Reading, chairman and GRDC Managing Director, John Sykes, NSW Department of Primary Industries, and Gavin Gibson, Pulse Australia; (front row): Dr Peter Gibson, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Dr David Bowran, Department of Agriculture and Food, WA, Dr Greg Bender, PBA coordinator, and Dr Rex Williams, Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. Absent: Dr Phil Haines. ACTIVITY EDITORIAL OPINION BY PETER READING Managing Director, Grains Research and Development Corporation GRDC news and views GROUND COVER MAY -- JUNE 2007 2 Ground Cover is brought to you by growers and the Australian Government through the publisher, the Grains Research and Development Corporation. 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