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Frameworks

Biosecurity case study — Fall armyworm

After being detected in the Torres Strait in January 2020, the fall armyworm (FAW) arrived on mainland Australia in February 2020.

Native to tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Americas, the pest has reportedly spread across two continents and more than 60 countries in under three years. It feeds on a wide range of plant species and has the potential to damage important crop species including maize, sorghum, soybean, winter cereals, peanuts and sunflowers, as well as cotton and sugarcane.

Later stage larvae can be highly destructive, severing seedlings, or causing defoliation or damage to reproductive structures. FAW has a high reproductive rate and dispersive capability. Females can produce up to 2,000 eggs in their lifetime; some estimates suggest that they can travel around 100km in a night and 500km in a generation

Through the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative, we formed collaborative research partnerships with other plant-based research and development corporations (RDCs), the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and Plant Health Australia, while also working closely with state departments.

We coordinated a partnership with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, FMC Australasia and Corteva Agriscience in a CSIRO-led project examining the genetic make-up and insecticide sensitivities of FAW, which will ultimately help growers better manage the pest. The project will address an immediate priority — the characterisation of FAW in Australia and South-East Asia. This information will be an important component in the development of sustainable management strategies.

We have also invested in a project led by cesar to investigate FAW biology, spread and establishment potential, as well as options for improving industry capability to manage the pest now and into the future.

We worked closely with agricultural chemical companies, other RDCs and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority via Plant Health Australia so that growers could have access to chemical control options for FAW via permits. This included applying for pre-emptive chemical permits for FAW, with the first permit issued in April 2018 and the second in February 2020.

Capacity and ability

Our Capacity and Ability Framework sets out our approach to developing the Australian grains industry capacity and ability as it relates to research, development and extension.

Capacity relates to the availability of appropriately skilled people and the institutions, infrastructure and systems to support those people to contribute to a sustainable and successful industry.

Ability relates to the skills and competencies individuals need in different roles in that industry.

The framework refines the scope of our investment in capacity and ability to provide greater strategic focus on key activities. It outlines strategic elements and principles for investment to ensure the Australian grains industry is equipped to meet current and future challenges, and we can deliver on our purpose of investing in research, development and extension (RD&E) to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers.

Capacity and ability investments made in 2019–20 are detailed in Table 6.

Table 6: Capacity and ability investments in 2019—20

Strategies or priorities

Investment title

Outputs or achievements

Relevant quantitative measures of success

Support growers to develop their ability to adopt the latest R&D outputs to improve their profitability.

Improve advisers’ ability to enable growers to adopt R&D outputs.

Grower and adviser study tours

  • Program modified to enable growers to access support when need or opportunity identified.
  • Improved alignment to GRDC strategic priorities, and support for greater dissemination of learnings.

  • up to 137 growers participated in a study tour
  • nine study tours supported across the three GRDC regions.

Ensure the grains industry has access to growers, researchers and advisers with the leadership skills to:

  • participate in industry debate
  • influence R&D priorities.

Drive adoption of R&D outputs that contribute to grower profitability.

Australian Rural Leadership Program

Greater engagement with the program resulted in an increase in number of quality applications received and supported from individuals in the Australian grains industry.

  • two sponsored to commence the program in 2019
  • one grain grower sponsored to commence in 2020.

Nuffield Farming Scholarships

Areas of research for supported scholars closely aligned to GRDC strategic priorities including Key Investment Targets.

  • four scholarships sponsored to commence the program in 2019–20
  • two reports delivered on research undertaken through GRDC support.

Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program

  • Both GRDC and the grains industry demonstrated commitment to developing leadership capabilities, and support for those willing to lead industry debate.
  • The grains industry was represented in national forums discussing broader agricultural industry issues.

  • two participants in the program directly involved in the grains industry, and another indirectly.

Ensure the grains industry has access to growers, researchers and advisers with the leadership skills to:

  • participate in industry debate
  • influence R&D priorities.

Drive adoption of R&D outputs that contribute to grower profitability.

Improve advisers’ ability to enable growers to adopt R&D outputs.

Attract and motivate the best researchers to work in grains-related research.

Emerging Leader Award

Activities supported:

  • built on established linkages, created new opportunities for collaboration
  • explored agricultural education, extension and technology adoption in Canada; and opportunities to apply lessons in Australian setting.

  • three Emerging Leaders continuing or commencing activities supported through the award
  • one Emerging Leader completed activities and corresponding report.

Ensure the grains industry has access to growers, researchers and advisers with the leadership skills to:

  • participate in industry debate
  • influence R&D priorities
  • drive adoption of R&D outputs that contribute to grower profitability.

Improve advisers’ ability to enable growers to adopt R&D outputs.

Boosting the capability and capacity of graduate agronomists—GRDC northern region

Graduate agronomists and advisers throughout GRDC northern region are aware of all GRDC resources available to them and introduced to a network of experienced agronomists and advisers, beyond their employers, to ensure that they are best able to serve Australian grain growers.

  • four mentor engagement events linked to GRDC Updates or GRDC supported events were held.

Attract and motivate the best researchers to work in grains-related research.

Researchers inform their approaches through active engagement with industry and growers.

Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Awards

  • Researchers supported to undertake travel to further their understanding of an issue related to grains research.
  • Networks between researchers, growers and industry strengthened through direct engagement.
  • Recognition from industry for researchers actively contributing to its continued success.

  • award ceremony and media coverage of awardees and related research achievements
  • two completed reports from awardees
  • two awardees undertaking research and engagement.

Support higher degree students to embark on a career in grains-related research and development.

Attract and motivate the best researchers to work in grains-related research.

GRDC Research Scholarships

  • 2019 Scholarship application process refined for better alignment to GRDC Key Investment Targets.
  • Contributed to the pipeline of researchers developing the requisite abilities in disciplines relevant to the grains industry.

  • 10 new scholarships awarded
  • 21 scholars continued research in areas relevant to the Australian grains industry.

Support early career researchers to embark on a career in grains-related research and development.

Attract the best researchers to work in grains-related research.

GRDC Post-doctoral fellowships

Contributed to the pipeline of researchers developing the requisite abilities in disciplines relevant to the grains industry.

  • 25 postdoctoral fellows continuing to deliver research that addresses issues faced by the grains industry.

Researchers inform their approaches through active engagement with industry and growers.

Research and researcher abilities are aligned with GRDC’s strategy.

National annual investment area forums for collaboration and technical review

Improved collaboration and mentoring between research agencies and leaders in each investment area across the three regions.

Developed more robust projects through a process of:

  • peer-review
  • knowledge sharing
  • mentoring
  • developing collaborations between agencies, reducing duplication.

  • four forums delivered across the three GRDC regions
  • four reports from forums for each investment area: agronomy, farming systems, nutrition, and soils.

Data management and analytics

This framework aims to enable researchers and growers to capture and exploit data relevant to the grains industry, including R&D experimentation, paddock and farm, production and economic, and environmental characterisation data. There are six strategic elements:

  • capture valuable data
  • make data accessible and actively share data and learnings
  • invest in analytics to create innovative insights and value
  • measure investment impact
  • ensure we have a workforce that has the necessary data and analytics skills and capacity,
  • apply governance for effective data usage.

2019–20 data management and analytics investments are detailed in Table 7.

Table 7: Data management and analytics investments in 2019—20

Strategies or priorities

Investment

Outputs or achievements

Relevant quantitative measures of success

  • Online farm trials ensure trial data is identifiable and findable
  • Online farm trials structure enables accessibility and re-use.

Data and learnings from Online farm trials actively shared.

Online Farm Trials. A GRDC-owned online platform for openly sharing results from Australian field-based and on-farm trials addressing grains development and extension (D&E) questions.

  • Number of monthly website users averaged 3,600 in 2019–20, including broadacre D&E researchers, project managers, agribusinesses, and educators.
  • Improved data and metadata quality guided by industry and R&D experts.
  • D&E providers were supported to contribute their trials to Online farm trials, including nine new providers.

  • during 2019–20, results from 4,066 new trials were uploaded to Online farm trials
  • there are now over 15,000 trial entries from 82 contributing organisations.

  • Valuable data within Better Fertiliser Decisions for Cropping (BFDC) database is identified and persisted
  • BFDC data delivers maximum possible value by providing data-driven learnings to those able to use them.

Opportunities are identified for making BFDC data easy to find, accessible, and reusable into the future.

Better Fertiliser Decisions for Cropping

BFDC sought to help growers and advisor determine critical soil test values (below which a response to fertiliser is likely) using public and private soil test-crop response data for nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and sulphur use in cereals, oilseeds, and pulses. Trial data was retained in a central repository accessible to registered users through an online query tool.

The data is now persisted with the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

  • Audit of BFDC database conducted; made recommendations regarding data management and linking to complementary datasets.
  • Industry and R&D users of BFDC data were consulted regarding ongoing requirements and a report generated with recommendations for future development.
  • BFDC database and query tool maintained and upgraded to support access via current operating systems, supporting access by users.
  • Final report generated describing the data’s value proposition to industry and R&D stakeholders.

  • BFDC was accessed over 18,000 times in 2019–20, by agribusiness, fertiliser industry, and research organisation users.
  • BFDC contains data from over 4,150 field experiments, containing over 5,700 fertiliser treatment series, from 17 research organisations and agribusinesses.
  • BFDC data contributed to at least 10 Australian scientific publications in 2019–20.
  • user-focused consultations took place at 13 facilitated workshops and other activities, involving 55 agronomists and 180 BFDC users in total.

Grower communications and extension

This framework builds on the significant progress we have made to date in communicating R&D outcomes to growers while increasing our focus on extension that, in-turn, leads to increased technology adoption and practice change on-farm.

To ensure our communications and extension (C&E) activities are grower driven, the majority of our C&E staff are in regional offices to facilitate active, effective engagement with growers and other key stakeholders.

We are actively engaged in the communication of our R&D investment outputs and outcomes but we are not involved in the direct delivery of extension. Extension activities are delivered by some of our partners.

The framework reflects our recognition of the changing extension landscape in Australia and aims to leverage and strengthen existing extension channels. It also outlines our approach to maintaining and building key stakeholder relationships in order to continue to deliver enduring profitability to Australian grain growers.

Critical success factors for the C&E framework are the ability to engage the whole GRDC business in a shared and agreed approach, and to be able to effectively communicate the shared approach both internally and externally.

The framework outlines clear C&E objectives and targets, as well as outlining approaches for measuring and evaluating both grain grower awareness and ultimately adoption of R&D outcomes.

The investments made in this framework in 2019–20 are detailed in Table 8.

Table 8: Grower communications and extension investments in 2019—20

Strategies or priorities

Investment title

Outputs or achievements

Relevant quantitative measures of success

Strategy 1

Improve GRDC’s understanding of grain grower needs, drivers and decision-making processes so as to facilitate effective adoption of R&D outcomes through C&E activities.

Grower Networks (also relevant to strategies 2 and 5)

  • New grower networks redesigned from RCSN/GSG review.
  • Grower Networks coordination and facilitation nationally standardised and contracted across GRDC’s three regions.

  • minimum of two meetings per year per sub-region
  • across all regions, a minimum of 60 issues captured from growers annually.

GRDC Research Update Series – southern, northern and western regions (also relevant to strategies 2, 3 and 4)

  • Annual program of two-day Updates and one day Updates throughout the three GRDC regions.

  • over 4,200 attended GRDC Grains Research Updates in 2019
  • 88 per cent of attendees are within the target group of growers, advisers and researchers
  • 53 per cent were advisers
  • 96 per cent consider the Update program has increased their knowledge and awareness of the latest in grains research.

2020 Grower Survey (also relevant to strategy 4)

  • An annual survey of growers conducted since 1993.
  • 2019–20 survey completed in June 2020.

  • 2020 Grower survey included questions on farming practices, barriers to adoption, products and services
  • 67 per cent response rate in 2020.

Strategies or priorities

Investment title

Outputs or achievements

Relevant quantitative measures of success

Strategy 1

Improve GRDC’s understanding of grain grower needs, drivers and decision-making processes so as to facilitate effective adoption of R&D outcomes through C&E activities.

Dealing with the Dry Forums (also relevant to strategy 3)

  • 24 forums held across GRDC northern and southern regions.
  • 15 in Queensland and NSW, four in the Queensland–NSW border sub region, five in GRDC southern region.
  • Total attendance — 602.
  • Five Dealing with the Dry videos were produced.
  • GRDC Mental Health video was produced.

602 attendees at Dealing with the Dry forums.

Northern communications and extension activities — Field Days (also relevant to strategies 4, 5 and 6)

  • Regular GRDC attendance at all major field days in GRDC northern region.
  • Establishment of the Grower Breakfast at AgGrow.
  • Co-hosted the AgQuip GRDC/DPI Grower Breakfast.

seven days of grower and adviser engagement plus attendance at major field day walks.

AgTeCH 19 – Sponsorship and planning committee (Also relevant to strategy 6)

  • First Startup Alley including the opportunity to engage the eight successful AgFrontier (Regional AgTech Incubator) businesses.
  • 10 Industry experts in the fields of automation, robotics, drones, IoT and connectivity.
  • Eight in-field live demonstrations of agricultural technology in action.

260 attendees.

Conference support

  • Support provided for events including:
    • Australian Pulse Conference
    • AARES 2020
    • Outlook 2020
    • VFF Grains Conference
    • Australian Grains Industry Conference
    • WA Farmers Conference.

N/A

Strategies or priorities

Investment title

Outputs or achievements

Relevant quantitative measures of success

Strategy 2

Enable stakeholders to understand and engage with GRDC’s investment process.

Ensure all stakeholders have the opportunity to participate in an effective, comprehensive and two-way investment process.

Embed the concept of participatory research, development and extension into investments where appropriate (giving growers insight into GRDC’s investments).

Farm Business Updates (also relevant to strategies 3 and 4)

15 Farm Business Updates held nationally in 2019–20.

809 attendees.

Optimising profitability of high rainfall zone farming systems-survey, farmer-scale demonstration trials and field days (also relevant to strategy 4)

This extension-based investment complements the research component of the same investment ensuring participatory research and development is conducted. It has given growers a voice in the investment and will ensure outcomes are extended in a timely way to growers.

  • three grower workshops held in the western region attended by 113 growers
  • 40 in-depth grower surveys completed with growers in the high rainfall zone of the western region.

Strategy 3

Ensure timely C&E activities align with GRDC RD&E Plan and regional grower priorities. C&E activities to align with new five-year RD&E Plan priorities.

Ensure C&E tools and channels are best matched to specific R&D outcomes and the target audience.

Understanding soils to assess amelioration potential in the Southern Wimmera

Complexity of soil interactions and the coexisting, interdependent nature of constraints makes identification and management difficult. Small group face-to-face delivery with tangible material to view, matching the channels of delivery to the target audience and behavioural barriers to adoption.

Due to the tangible and practical approach these workshops resulted in more than 95 per cent of attendees improving confidence in constraint ID and 70 per cent of respondents followed through or committed to action resulting from the workshop.

PulseCheck group activities – GRDC northern region

Multiple extension activities across all 11 subregions on pulse related issues.

625 attendees — three times per year.

Strategies or priorities

Investment title

Outputs or achievements

Relevant quantitative measures of success

Strategy 4

Continually evaluate and revise GRDC communication channels based on impact and value.

Raise awareness of investment portfolio outputs and outcomes through the most appropriate communication channel.

Clearly communicate information about new GRDC investments, and the range and scope of GRDC investment portfolio to growers in a timely way.

Ensure clear, consistent acknowledgement and third-party attribution for GRDC investments.

GRDC branded communications (excluding GroundCover)

Over 80 products digital and hardcopy products were produced during 2019–20.

Strategies or priorities

Investment title

Outputs or achievements

Relevant quantitative measures of success

Strategy 5

Leverage and further strengthen existing extension channels.

Evolve model of GSGs and RCSNs to align with GRDC RD&E Plan.

GRDC podcasts and videos

Podcast and video material developed, providing research content to growers and advisers. The content was provided in a range of different styles and formats, yielding >500 view/listens per podcast/video.

https://www.youtube.com/c/theGRDC/videos

2,088 subscribers to GRDC YouTube Channel

74 videos available during 2019–20

Videos with over 500 views included:

  • Future farm
  • Engineering solutions for soil constraints
  • Controlled Traffic Farming in south-eastern
  • Low Rainfall Zones
  • New thinking on when to apply Nitrogen to your wheat crop
  • Tillage and Nutrition – finding the balance.

Red Meat Updates (also relevant to strategy 6)

The majority of grain growers in Tasmania are also red meat producers so leveraging this opportunity also allowed for building stronger relationships with Meat and Livestock Australia other industry partners.

Program rated 9.01 out of 10 by participants.

Strategy 6

Build relationships with research partners and business investment partners

2020 Research Partner Survey

An annual survey of GRDC’s research partners conducted since 2000. The Research Partner Survey for 2020 was completed in June 2020.

91 per cent response rate.

Development of case studies on GRDC research priorities

Up to 20 case studies developed to demonstrate the value of GRDC invested research and for use in GRDC publications or other communication.

Studies developed in 2019–20 include:

  • Cereal rust resistance
  • Canola and lupin investments
  • Climate forecasting
  • End Point Royalties.