EFFICIENT and collaborative crop research, including in the area of disease, was the motivation behind new grains research facilities in Perth, with the centre enabling new research outcomes to reach growers faster.
The $7.45 million Grains Research Precinct, comprising facilities at Murdoch and Curtin Universities, was made possible by a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Infrastructure grant in 2017, as well as co-investment from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and the universities.
The centre was officially opened during an event at Murdoch University on Wednesday, with WA senator Slade Brockman (representing Federal Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud) and Minister for Regional Development, Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan in attendance.
GRDC chairman John Woods said that in addition to the original $3m Infrastructure Grant contribution, the GRDC had committed an extra $1.5m to the project, taking its total investment to $4.5m.
"The project's partners have also committed a combined co-contribution of $2.95m, including $2.255m from Murdoch University, $445,000 from Curtin University and $250,000 from DPIRD," Mr Woods said.
"The new Grains Research Precinct provides vital infrastructure to be used for research in crop pathology, plant physiology and genetic improvement, and will benefit grain growers in WA and nationally, and support science capability development.
"This infrastructure will enable researchers to screen genetic responses to crop disease under optimum environmental conditions, and to achieve pre-breeding and genetic improvement through developing and evaluating germplasm with enhanced resistance to diseases and abiotic and biotic stresses."
Ms MacTiernan said the new addition to WA's grains research facilities would boost the State's scientific capacity and help support the industry's future sustainability and profitability.
"The precinct adds value to DPIRD's work with Murdoch University in the Western Crop Genetics Alliance, Curtin University's Centre for Crop and Disease Management, and our longstanding partnership with the GRDC," she said.
"WA's grains industry is an important contributor to the State economy, worth more than $6 billion per annum, so it is imperative our scientists are equipped with the scientific assets, tools and knowledge to optimise grains production and capitalise on market opportunities.
"Scientific investments like the Grains Research Precinct are essential to ensure WA's grains industry remains at the top of its game so grain growers and industry can compete in an increasing complex, dynamic global marketplace and secure enduring economic growth."
The Grains Research Precinct is mostly centred at Murdoch University but also includes a collaborative facility at Curtin University near the Centre for Crop and Disease Management.
The precinct infrastructure consists of:
- Four physical containment level 1 (PC1) glasshouses and preparation rooms
- Four physical containment level 2 (PC1) glasshouses ante rooms, preparation room and steriliser rooms
- 0.9 hectares of irrigated, netted field plot area
- A small office/amenities area
- LED-lit and temperature-controlled Growth Facility at Curtin University.
Mr Woods said the precinct would also foster further coordination and collaboration between the institutions.
"This initiative is a great example of how Australian grain growers benefit from the research, development and extension (RD&E) model delivered by the GRDC," he said.
"That model has public, private, national and international leverage and meets the priority needs of growers - wherever they are in Australia."
Murdoch University interim pro vice-chancellor, food futures Peter Davies said the work undertaken at the precinct was vital at a time of climate impacting production and increasing global demand for food.
"Seventy per cent more food will be needed to feed the world's 9.5 billion people by 2050, so the work we are doing in WA will have a significant impact across the world," professor Davies said.
"Improving the quality and yield of grains through our research and development will help unlock unproductive land for production, as well as increase yield on our already productive lands.
"Our work will also enable farmers in third world countries to improve their production capacity by utilising our knowledge and skills, and the outcomes of our research."