Expand lupin potential says GRDC panellist

30 Sep, 2011 09:00 AM
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Newest GRDC Western Panel member Paul Kelly in a Mingenew lupin crop.
Newest GRDC Western Panel member Paul Kelly in a Mingenew lupin crop.

MINGENEW farmer Paul Kelly was a late inclusion to the Grains Research and Development Corporation's (GRDC) new Western Panel but he wants to see the development of WA's lupin markets put firmly back on GRDC's agenda.

As the only northern grower on the panel Mr Kelly said WA's lupin industry had the potential to grow in the long-term as marketers helped to promote the humble lupin by turning it from feed to a food.

Mr Kelly returned to the family fam in 1976 and now has 2600 hectares of crop in the ground and a relatively small flock of 300 ewes which are mated with Poll Dorset rams each year.

He said it was this hands-on approach to the grains industry which saw him selected for the panel, not his "non-existent" academic background.

"There are tremendous people with tremendous talent on the newest panel but it couldn't be successful with a panel full of PhD graduates and it would also be a major mistake to have a panel of only farmers," he said.

As the current vice president of the Mingenew Irwin Group Mr Kelly felt as if it was part of his social duty to accept the role with GRDC.

"I really got onto the panel by default," he said.

"To GRDC's credit the original application to get on closed on March 5.

"They chose an outstanding panel of representatives from those applications but there was still no representative from anywhere north of Goomalling."

Mr Kelly said John Even was the northern-most panel member but to the GRDC's credit it actively insisted on finding a farmer in the northern Wheatbelt.

So after talking the offer over with his wife, Mr Kelly willingly accepted the position.

"There are a number of brilliant farmers in this region that would have been great for the position but I think the panel especially needed a lupin grower," Mr Kelly said.

"Now I'm the only lupin grower on the Western Panel and possibly the only lupin grower on the Australian panel."

Mr Kelly sowed between 600 and 800ha of lupins each year and had been doing so for as long as he could remember.

"We have nearly every soil type on our farm including sandplain so our rotation needs to be planned accordingly," he said.

But Mr Kelly's GRDC duties have frequently taken him off-farm over the last few months.

The spring field day season had seen him travelling the State to talk to growers about their concerns.

"At the moment we're doing the spring tour and instead of the whole Western Panel travelling around and only getting to go to a few places we've broken it up so there's a northern panel and two southern panels operating at the same time," he said.

Mike Ewing, Darren Hughes, Narelle Moore and Vince Logan from Canberra made up the northern panel along with Mr Kelly.

And a large proportion of the growers the northern panel liaised with during this time shared Mr Kelly's view on lupins.

"I'd really like to see the GRDC Western Panel push to get lupins from a feed to a food in the long-term," he said.

"There is just so much potential there.

"The outlook for lupins needs to be upgraded and that's where I see my main focus.

"It's not going to happen overnight and it will take a long time but we have got to start somewhere and soon."

Mr Kelly also said another of the GRDC's great initiatives was its three regional cropping solutions program.

"Grower issues will be filtered back through the Western Panel to the national panel as required," he said.

"From the feedback I've received at spring field days farmers are really happy there are now smaller groups under the GRDC's umbrella responsible for connecting with the farmers again.

"I shouldn't say 'again' because I have enormous respect for the previous panel but there has been a lot of talk about the GRDC getting back to a grass-roots level.

"The GRDC always needs to be re-inventing itself.

"We come as individuals but we are a team and we'll make decisions as a team."

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