Future of CLIMA research looks bright

29 Aug, 2001 10:00 PM
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GRAIN and pasture legumes will underwrite a new phase of farming in WA, leading to more profits for farmers.

If that line hasn't captured your attention then an industry consultation workshop held last week has been in vain.

Held by the awkwardly named Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA), the workshop aimed to produce workable guidelines for a new CLIMA which aims to attract private sector funding after losing Federal Government funding last year.

CLIMA is a research alliance between the Agriculture Department, University of Western Australia, CSIRO and Murdoch University.

Industry participants produced a refreshingly candid snapshot of what they expected CLIMA should be doing and how the "doing" should hit the ground for the benefit of the industry.

In return CLIMA provided three visionary researchers to update the industry on its achievements and goals.

CLIMA's Industry Advisory Group chairman Trevor Flugge told participants that they should be under no illusions about the importance of the work being done by CLIMA.

"The reality is that if we're going to head towards delivering better quality grain in the future, we're going to need sustainable rotations and CLIMA will play an important role," Mr Flugge said.

Alluding to the need for better rotations to improve wheat quality, Mr Flugge said WA had a "significant tail" with nearly one-third of its potential wheat production not reaching a standard demanded by markets.

CLIMA director Dr Kadambot Siddique provided an overview of CLIMA's achievements and goals in developing grain and pasture legume varieties that provided better yield potential, better disease and pest management and provided the ability to value add for greater profits to farmers.

He also reminded the industry of what WA has got in CLIMA: "The best intellectual capacity in the world."

Not surprisingly it followed that industry funding was vital for CLIMA lest WA fall victim to a "brain drain."

While lupins predictably copped a blast as unprofitable, Grain Legumes program leader Dr Mark Sweetingham provided a new insight that could breathe fresh air into the lupin industry.

"There had never been a more important time for an industry focus on lupins," he said. "We could take a lesson from the soybean industry."

Dr Sweetingham said there was plenty of potential to develop lupins because "we're now on the radar screen of the world food processing industry."

"And with an underlying demand in the world vegetable protein trade, we could even have the scenario of the US soybean industry wanting to court the WA lupin industry," he said.

Pasture Legumes program leader Associate Professor John Howieson also provided an upbeat appraisal.

"WA farmers are on the cusp of a new wave of pasture legume development that will rival the impact of subclovers and superphosphate to the WA farming system," he said.

New varieties would better suit a range of farming systems mitigating against chemical resistant weeds and grasses while filling seasonal feed gaps and providing the potential for value adding.

Group discussions agreed there was a need to develop a whole range of pasture options to suit high and low cost establishment regimes.

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