QUEENSLAND Agriculture Minister John McVeigh used a Grains Round Table meeting in Toowoomba on Tuesday to announce a four-year $7.9 million partnership focussing on sorghum research.
The funding, which is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) in association with the University of Queensland through the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), will be directed to breeding better sorghum lines.
"It is a continuation of core sorghum research programs in Queensland. At the end of the day it is all about improving productivity for farmers," Mr McVeigh said
Of the 2 million tonnes of sorghum produced in Australia each year, Queensland accounts for 1.2 million tonnes in an industry worth $230 million to the state.
The research will focus on breeding sorghum lines with higher yields, better drought and insect resistance, and better grain quality with disease and pest resistance and drought tolerance.
Mr McVeigh said it was opportune that the new funding support for sorghum research coincided with the signing of the free trade agreement between China and Australia.
"The free trade agreement with China and the increasing research we are doing is coming to head at the right time for Queensland sorghum growers," he said.
"We are supporting them through this research just when markets internationally are continuing to expand.
"Despite the current drought conditions, this long term research and opening up the Chinese market promises a great future for the Queensland sorghum industry."
QAAFI director Robert Henry said the funding had secured the state's long term sorghum breeding program.
"It will ensure we are able to continue the productivity gains we have seen in sorghum in recent years by providing a constant stream of improved varieties," he said.
"Breeding is very long term. This commitment from the government gives us the confidence to plan for the future of sorghum improvement."
GRDC northern panel chair James Clark said the funding was critical for maintaining the foundational pre-breeding program for sorghum.
"This is really significant for the leveraging of growers' funds. It is really important that we have universities, government and growers levies, through GRDC, working together," he said.
Mr Clark said it was important to take a long term view to research funding.
"These are 10 to 15 year investments before they deliver, but you have to do it. If you don't you won't get improvement in the varieties," he said.
"We are continuing to work on the short term things like agronomy, nutrition and controlling pests and diseases. But long term pre-breeding investment is still one of the foundational things you have to do."
Mr Clark said with growers facing increasing cost/price pressures, investment in sorghum breeding was critical for increasing productivity.
"From increasing yield to drought tolerance and better disease resistance, you have to do it or you will plateau or even decline," he said.
"Any improvement makes a difference. We would love to find a silver bullet that would give a 20 per cent increase in production. We haven't found one at the moment, but we are continuing to look.
"It is all the one and two per cent improvements that, if we put them together, make a significant difference to the profitability of a grower.
"In years like this, a couple of per cent could double a grower's profitability."