Investments boosting WA grains R&D capacity

The department is about to commence its extensive harvest program of grains trials, spread from Northampton to Esperance.

More than 400 field and glasshouse trials on wheat, barley, canola, oats, quinoa and pulses have been sown across the department’s network of eight regional research facilities and on landholders’ properties associated with grower groups, academic and industry collaborators.

The trials provide crucial on-ground evidence to support the department’s comprehensive program of crop agronomy, genetic improvement, soil management, crop protection and farming systems research and development (R&D) for more than 40 individual projects.

The department has long been an essential provider of in-the-paddock R&D, which continues to evolve and respond to the ever-changing demands of the global grains market.

DPIRD grains R&D Infrastructure

The State government has buoyed investment in its grains R&D capability and capacity to assist the WA grains industry to remain internationally competitive.

Key investments made this year include:

  • Northam Grains Research Facilities - $11.5 million state-of-the-art laboratories, new storage, preparation and processing rooms, glasshouses and screen houses and field plots.
  • Mobile Grains Research Laboratories – two purpose built and fitted out vans to boost research integrity and efficiencies worth a total of $175,000
  • Five new mobile irrigators - worth $240,000 to simulate environmental conditions for a range of research scenarios
  • More than $500,000 investment in research machinery and infrastructure
  • Upgrade of Merredin grains research laboratories – following weather event in March and will include new research equipment and contemporary workspaces.

Collaborative research

The department prides itself on its reputation for effective collaborative research and works closely with industry and other research organisations to ensure R&D targets stakeholders’ needs, augments innovation gains and eliminates duplication.

We continue to undertake a broad ranging program with long time partners, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Some major 2018 commitments and achievements include:

  • Soils and crop nutrition project - a multifaceted project co-funded by GRDC to optimise fertiliser use of crops grown in ameliorated soils. The department works with Curtin University, Murdoch University, the University of WA, the CSIRO and MapIQ to fill in the knowledge gap and update decision support systems for fertiliser use
  • Canola agronomy research in WA’ Bulletin – an overview of 19 research activities underway by the department and CSIRO, with the support of GRDC
  • BlacklegCM app – developed and delivered by the department and GRDC with several contributors to improve the management of this significant canola disease. A similar app is expected to be available next year to help manage the canola fungal disease sclerotinia stem rot.
  • Improved acid tolerant barley lines and molecular markers – delivered to Australian breeding programs via DPIRD and Murdoch University’s Western Barley Genetics Alliance (WBGA), which will underpin the development of new high-yielding varieties for Australian barley producers.

The department is also engaged in a number of national R&D programs, including the Australian National Frost Initiative, the National Oat Breeding Program and the National Crop Protection Program, as well as university partnerships through Murdoch University with the WBGA and the University of WA with SoilsWest.

Department synergies

The new Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) remains committed to developing products, services and practices to make the WA grains industry more efficient, effective and sustainable.

More than 140 highly qualified and experienced staff at 10 department offices across the grainbelt are involved in grains R&D, including farming systems specialists, agronomists and soil scientists, crop pathologists, entomologists and weed scientists, crop geneticists and skilled technicians.

New skills in computer science have also been added to the department’s capabilities, in response to the growing reliance on digital technology to deliver the next leap in productivity improvements.

This has resulted in upgrades to the department’s climate service, tools and models, and use of applied data from its network of more than 175 weather stations, alongside research on remote pest and disease surveillance and digital decision making apps.

The department is investing in the next generation of grains scientists through its Regional Research Agronomy project in partnership with GRDC and, more recently, by funding five grains research scholarships to add to the department’s research insights and capabilities.

DPIRD management continues to reassess the needs of its stakeholders and the marketplace to ensure the department is well placed to drive WA grains R&D into the future.

The department has the expertise, resources and capacity to deliver targeted, timely and relevant information and new sources of knowledge to WA grain growers and agribusinesses.

To find out more about the department’s current grains R&D activities click here