Grains Research And Development Corp Enters $45 Million Deal With Bayer CropScience
The Grains Research and Development Corporation says its new partnership with a global chemical giant will boost the fight against weeds in Australia.
The GRDC will contribute $45 million over five years under the deal with Bayer CropScience, which will see an extra 40 chemistry and biology researchers engaged at the company’s labs in Frankfurt, Germany.
That will include 11 Australian post-doctoral researchers, recruited from Australian universities, who are due to take up their posts in Frankfurt in November.
The GRDC says weed and herbicide resistance is one of the biggest challenges faced by Australian grain growers, costing farmers $3 billion a year in lost yields and production costs.
Currently, the scale of the North American and European grains sectors has meant that global research has focused on the weeds and resistance effort on those continents.
GRDC managing director John Harvey said that will change under this partnership, making Australian weeds a higher priority for international researchers than ever before.
“With this project, the first lot of screening is going to be on weeds that are relevant to Australia, so our chances of finding herbicides that are relevant to Australia are going to be much, much higher,” he said.
“The second part of that, is that we’ll then test them in Australian conditions, in Australia.
“So again, the chances of us finding a herbicide that’s applicable in Australia and that works in our farming systems, is going to be much much higher.
GRDC says the need for new herbicide options will become increasingly important for Australian grain growers over the coming decade.
“With the advent of glyphosate, which is a very important herbicide for Australian farming systems, we saw in the rest of the world a reduction in the investment in new herbicides,” he said.
“In the 1990s, globally, there were about 250 patents being registered per annum; currently it’s less than 50. It’s critical that we find new chemicals, because our weeds are becoming resistant to things like glyphosate.”
And if the partnership between GRDC and Bayer does yield results in the form of new chemicals, Australian grain growers may see the benefits beyond their own farms.
“While the focus is very much on discovering herbicides for Australia, we may well discover herbicides that are also relevant to other parts of the world,” Mr Harvey said.
“Regardless of whether they work in Australia or they work overseas, there will be success fees, there will be royalties that flow back to GRDC that can then be reinvested for the benefit of Australian grain growers, into other R&D activities.”
Growers say tapping into global research essential for productivity, sustainability
Victorian farmer and Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann says the partnership is a sound investment in sustainable farming into the future.
“This isn’t just about growers just using more and more herbicide,” he said.
“This is about looking at a complete strategy: setting up farming systems like no-till that are conserving moisture in a climate that’s extremely dry, and making sure we have herbicides that can help that process of conservation farming and no-tillage.”
And with a longterm trend of declining public investment in rural R&D in Australia, Mr Weidemann says it’s vital for grower funded organisations like GRDC to tap into the research work happening overseas.
“Fifteen years ago, GRDC’s investment was about 20 per cent of the total spend in ag research; it’s getting closer to 60 per cent today,” he said.
“That’s a massive step, and a huge reliance on the investment strategies of GRDC.
“So growers who contribute through their levies, we need to make sure that we’re getting the best return on our investment.
“Without going into that global arena and bringing back some of this technology to Australia, our cupboard shelf is going to be very bare.”