Research Station changes sought to expand field research capacity

19 Apr, 2006 08:45 PM
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The Department of Agriculture and Food has staved off rumours it is planning to sell its research stations.

Director General Ian Longson said the agency was only carrying out a review of research stations to find ways to increase the delivery of research results.

"There are no plans to sell facilities. However, leasing of surplus research station land will be considered if it frees resources to better deliver research across relevant soil types, rainfall zones and agriculture systems," he said.

"The Department is committed to delivering world class research for the benefit of the Western Australian agriculture and food sector and the state as a whole.

"During 2006, the Department expects to invest about $2 million in new research equipment for research stations and regional offices, to underpin a more mobile and responsive research capability.

"We have a responsibility to get the best outcomes from infrastructure, operational equipment, our committed staff teams and recurrent budget to carry out an extensive research portfolio in a way that delivers top class results to WA growers and producers.

"In the modern era this is best achieved by an intense focus on field research, both on stations and on farms. For example, more than 60 per cent of our crop trials are currently done on farms," Mr Longson said.

"Many research stations were originally established as demonstration farms, in an era of new land and farming systems development. However, the land size of the research stations is too small to achieve the necessary economies of scale for commercial farming in today's market environment.

"Bulk cropping and grazing, other than that necessary to establish future trial sites, can take resources away from research efforts.

"The Department will continue its partnerships with producer groups and agribusiness to ensure research trials are relevant and integrated.

"There will be no significant effect on most regional research staff. For a small number their role or work location may need to change in line with the continuing evolution of research in which research station staff have participated over recent years."

Of the Department's 13 research stations plus one support unit, four centres are mainly focused on horticulture, four on animal research and six on grains.

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