A $20.4 million research project to provide new insights for the grains industry to increase its productivity, sustainability and profitability in low and medium rainfall zones was announced on Tuesday by WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan.
A joint project by the State government and Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the WA Farming Systems project will explore a range of farming practices including crop diversity, expanded seeding windows and integrating greenhouse gas mitigation strategies to help improve the resilience of the State's farms to varying climatic conditions and markets.
With $12m invested by the government and $8.4m invested by GRDC, the research will be undertaken at learning hubs in Merredin, Geraldton and Lakes districts so the results reflect the various production environments of some of WA's low and medium rainfall areas.
The investment was announced by Ms MacTiernan and GRDC managing director Nigel Hart, at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development's South Perth site.
Ms MacTiernan said the project would help WA's grain industry face the increasing pressures from climate change, high input costs, a volatile commodity market and increasing customer expectations for sustainably produced, low emission food products.
"I am pleased to see the project will embrace onground trials to support future scenario modelling - providing growers with the empirical evidence required to make informed decisions when modifying their operations to strengthen business resilience," Ms MacTiernan said.
"The project takes a pragmatic approach to sustainable production, such as exploring increasing break crop diversity by integrating grain and pasture legumes and oilseed crops, as well as examining time of seeding risks and trade-offs to lift whole farm profitability."
The research project will include ongoing consultation with WA growers and advisers, to help aid the adoption of new farming practices by 2026, with a goal to support a 10-20 per cent uplift in farm profitability.
Having visited WA more than any other State in his role with GRDC, Mr Hart said it reflected the fact that WA was the powerhouse of the Australian grains industry.
"We are very committed to investing in the west and we do have the capacity and capability to grow our investment here and we are looking forward to starting off with this particular program," Mr Hart said.
Building on a lot of work the GRDC had done over the past 10-15 years on medium to low rainfall zones, Mr Hart said the organisation "invested nationally to get regional benefits".
"When we think about how we allocate our funding across Australia, we do make sure that we do have that opportunity to bring investment that we are making in various areas to inform breeding varieties that suit the West," he said.
"We want to bring that national program of research and development to this holistic view of how we can help WA growers in medium and low rainfall zones to improve their ability to be profitable and sustainable in the longer term."
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