RD&E plan snapshot
Workshops with members of the GRDC’s Board, advisory panels and representative organisations identified 36 KITs that contribute to the GRDC’s purpose and related objectives. The 36 KITs were rationalised to 29, after consultation with researchers, growers and industry. GRDC staff and advisory panels categorised those KITs in terms of primary, secondary and tertiary emphasis. Primary KITS will be targeted for development of business cases and strategies based on program logic techniques. Secondary and tertiary KITS will be targeted as primary KIT strategies are completed. This will not preclude ongoing investment aligned to KITs during the development of strategies.
Purpose: To invest in research, development and extension to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers.
Key performance indicator: Minimum 6.0% rate of return by 2023.
Watch our video
Key investment targets (KITs)
Consultation with growers, researchers and the wider grains industry has identified 29 KITs that underpin the delivery of the GRDC’s purpose. A full strategy for the delivery of each KIT will be developed over the period of this RD&E plan. The GRDC has worked with a range of stakeholders to determine the relative urgency of developing and implementing each KIT strategy.
Kit objectives and key performance indicators
Key performance indicators:
- Minimum yield increases equivalent to 1% per annum for cereals, 2% per annum for pulses and 1.5% per annum for oilseeds, achieved while identifying and investing in technology for transformational improvement in yield potential and yield stability.
- Minimum 20% closure of the gap between potential and achieved yield over five years.
- 1.1 Minimise the impact of high temperature at flowering and grain fill on grain yield and stability
- 1.2 Minimise the impact of spring radiation frost on grain yield and stability
- 1.3 Change fundamental plant architecture, physiology and/or biochemistry to maximise water-limited yield potential in wheat, barley, canola and sorghum
- 1.4 Improve the Potential and Actual Grain Yield of High-Value Pulses, Oilseeds (Other than Canola) and Oats in Profitable Farming Systems
- 1.5 Reduce the gap between actual and potential grain yield through more informed and timely decision-making on: planting time, crop/variety choice, weed management, pest and disease control, and crop nutrition
- 1.6 Reduce the impacts of water repellence, compaction, hard-pans and other barriers to the capture and storage of water in soils
- 1.7 Reduce the impacts of soil salinity and sodicity on plant water uptake to improve grain yield and stability
- 1.8 Reduce the impacts of low pH, aluminium toxicity and other nutrient toxicities on plant water uptake to improve grain yield and stability
- 1.9 Reduce the impact of waterlogging to improve grain yield and stability
Key performance indicators:
- Identification of potential new products and investments where a supportive business case can be established.
- Support for and enhancement of current products through identification of opportunities for differentiation and maintenance of current market access programs.
- 2.1 Expand the area of high-value crops to boost average prices and profitability of farming systems, specifically: pulses, oats for food or industrial uses, linseed for industrial uses, sorghum for food, and soybeans for food and/or animal feed
- 2.2 Maintain and/or improve the price of Australian grain through differentiation based on: functionality, food safety and traceability, sustainability of production, reduced downgrading, new and/or enhanced grain classification processes, and optimal management of biosecurity issues
- 2.3 Improve wheat grain protein through increased availability of nitrogen and better nitrogen use efficiency
- 2.4 Develop new, novel, high-value uses of products and by-products targeted at: human health, nutrition and allergenicity; high-value feed uses; new industrial uses; biofuels
- 2.5 Improve processing efficiency for enhanced value
Key performance indicators:
- Maintenance of chemicals costs below the forecast trend for 2018–23, equivalent to $85.50/ha or a ratio of input costs: crop revenue of 0.166.
- Maintenance of fertiliser costs below the forecast trend for 2018–23, equivalent to $84.30/ha or a ratio of input costs: crop revenue of 0.164.
- 3.1 Develop and implement management options to minimise the cost of effectively and sustainably managing weeds
- 3.2 Generate more informed, accurate and timely input for decision-making (e.g. sensor/monitoring technology or decision support models)
- 3.3 Develop and implement management options to minimise the cost of effectively and sustainably managing diseases
- 3.4 Develop and implement management options to minimise the cost of effectively and sustainably managing vertebrate and invertebrate pests
- 3.5 Develop technology to reduce fertiliser manufacture and/or application costs and improve fertiliser use efficiency
- 3.6 Improve nitrogen and phosphorus availability by: greater capture of value from soil biota; optimisation of nitrogen-fixing legumes in rotations; soil amelioration to improve nutrient availability
- 3.7 Identify engineering solutions to reduce labour costs and/or improve the efficiency of repetitive tasks (including automation and robotics)
- 3.8 Identify engineering and novel business model solutions to reduce capital costs and running costs
Key performance indicators:
- Timely RD&E-based submissions to government to support policy decision-making.
- Timely addressing of technical barriers to trade issues.
- 4.1 Support research to advise policy and investment decisions that lead to reduced post-farm-gate costs
- 4.2 Invest in R&D that informs industry and government approaches to trade and market access for Australian grain into export markets
- 4.3 Improve the reliability and cost-effectiveness of on-farm grain storage to reduce handling costs and capture market opportunities
- 4.4 Improve automation of transport and handling activities and/or alternative logistics and distribution models to realise greater value capture by growers
Key performance indicators:
- The number of growers undertaking business training.
- Establishment of a behavioural economics initiative to research grower decision-making.
GRDC welcomes feedback and questions about the KIT summary strategy documents and detailed strategies. Any questions should be directed to KIT@grdc.com.au
Current data from ABARES surveys provides valuable insights into the performance of grain growers at a national scale but does not allow for more localised assessments and comparisons of performance. The GRDC is working with a range of stakeholders to determine the level of support and most appropriate methodology required for the collation of more localised farm performance data. Ultimately, analysis of more localised data over multiple years would allow not only a more informed assessment of farm performance but also the identification of new investments required to create enduring profitability and the exposure of gaps in adoption of new knowledge.
Objectives will be monitored over a longer timeframe, as the cumulative impacts of KITs. The GRDC will utilise a combination of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and ABARES, information from industry and other survey data to track improvements and/or declines in achieving objectives, but will need to make assumptions to attribute effects to RD&E outputs and outcomes. Measures will make wide use of case studies to describe the links between RD&E and practice change at the farm or industry levels.
For example, it is well established that planting at the optimum time has a major impact on grain yield potential but the time of planting is constrained by the need to manage the risk of frost (in sowing earlier) and the risk of heat and terminal drought (in sowing later). RD&E investments to expand the frost and heat tolerances of crops could deliver crop varieties that can facilitate both earlier and later plantings, to manage risk and maximise yield. However, it is difficult to accurately quantify the exact improvement that investment in tolerance of extreme heat has had on yield, given that a range of other factors also influence yield. Case studies provide an important tool for inferring or estimating the impact of such RD&E and demonstrating its adoption.
This RD&E plan is a strategic framework to deliver grower profitability through investment in RD&E that addresses the primary drivers of profitability. In addition, there are four core frameworks that underpin all RD&E investments: data management and analytics; biosecurity; grower communication and extension; and capacity and skills.
Data management and analytics
Data-driven agriculture is set to deliver transformational change across the grains industry. Growers, researchers, governments and industry are increasingly looking to capture and exploit data relevant to the grains industry, including:
- within paddock, whole-paddock and whole-farm performance data
- regional, national and global production data, including yields and inputs
- data from R&D experimentation
- environment characterisation data (e.g. soil maps, high-resolution imagery and climate and weather data)
- economic data (e.g. market supply and demand data).
Combining these rapidly expanding data resources with state-of-the-art analytics and the power of artificial intelligence will enable a step change for the grains industry. For instance, precision agriculture technology and analytics will enable grain growers to gain an improved understanding of the yield, cost and risk components of their grain production operations at a resolution and scale not previously possible. Real-time data availability through connected technologies, remote sensing and market analytics will allow grain growers to make more evidence-based, informed decisions throughout the year to maximise their enterprise profitability.
The GRDC will build its digital agriculture portfolio with a view to facilitating the development of data resources, enabling technologies and analytics. The corporation is uniquely positioned to invest in the science that is necessary to underpin and maximise the value of digital agriculture for Australian grain growers.
The GRDC Data Management and Analytics (D&A) Core Framework benefits growers by providing GRDC stakeholders and the wider Australian grains industry with clear guidance on how data generated through GRDC RD&E investments can be captured, accessed, shared and used to drive insights and better decision-making for grains production systems.
Recent exotic pest incursions, most notably the presence of Russian wheat aphid, highlight the need for ongoing surveillance, the development and implementation of pre-emptive control measures and the appropriate implementation of management plans when incursions do occur. These approaches are consistent with priorities identified in the National Plant Biosecurity Strategy and areas of cross-sectoral interest identified through the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative .
The GRDC will continue to work with industry and government stakeholders across the biosecurity continuum to identify exotic threats and implement appropriate monitoring, pre-emptive control options and post-entry management practices.
Grower communication and extension
The desired outcome of every GRDC RD&E investment is the adoption of new technologies or innovations that maintain or enhance grain grower profitability. Communication (raising awareness) and extension (influencing behavioural change) are essential to effecting that adoption.
For each KIT, the GRDC will identify requirements for addressing gaps in grain growers’ Motivation, Ability to change, access to appropriate Knowledge, Attitudinal barriers, and Technology constraints (MAKAT). Through this process, the GRDC will develop a balanced RD&E portfolio to effectively address the constraints or capture the opportunities.
Because extension is delivered at the local level, GRDC staff with skills in communication and extension are being placed in offices in all three GRDC regions. Having communication and extension staff side by side with GRDC research staff and key collaborators ensures that the most appropriate path to adoption is being considered as a critical component of every R&D investment, from design to delivery.
To ensure that its communication and extension activities have the greatest impact, the GRDC will continue to strive to understand as much as possible about growers’ learning preferences, attitudes to information channels, decision drivers and barriers to adoption. These understandings will be central in tailoring development and extension packages to meet the needs of different grain grower segments.
With around 80% of growers using adviser services to inform their decision-making on farm, the GRDC will work closely with key influencers—including farming systems groups and other grower groups, farm advisers and agribusiness stakeholders—to ensure that all appropriate communication channels are being leveraged to get the right information to growers in a timely way and in the best format to help increase adoption and, ultimately, profitability.
While still providing information in hard copy, the GRDC will continue to transition to existing and emerging digital platforms, in recognition that different growers prefer to receive information in different ways and that growers and their influencers will be increasingly able to access information via digital channels as technology and bandwidth improve.
Capacity and ability
Growers and industry
The Australian grains industry requires grain grower leaders who can contribute innovative ideas, facilitate industry discussion on the RD&E portfolio, and be role models for the adoption of innovation into profitable farming systems and business models. The GRDC will continue to contribute to enhancing the leadership competencies of Australian grain growers in these critical areas.
Grower health, mental and physical, will remain a priority across all agricultural industries, and the GRDC will continue to contribute to cross-industry initiatives that target healthy and safe grower communities.
While profitable grain growers are a fundamental building block of a healthy grains industry, grain growers need to operate within a functional, effective and innovative grains industry value chain. The GRDC is well placed to facilitate collaboration and cooperation across the grains industry and to assist in leveraging positive, precompetitive outcomes for the value chain. To that end, the GRDC will participate in industry good functions, including beyond the farm gate, where those functions align with the GRDC’s purpose.
The GRDC must collaborate with RD&E providers to ensure the ongoing provision of appropriate experience and ability to deliver key outputs and understanding of often complex issues. The GRDC will continue to contribute to broad RD&E capacities and abilities, but will focus more on establishing critical mass of expertise and delivery pathways in the most important investment areas.
Overviews of KIT strategies will be communicated widely and reviewed regularly to assess performance and adjust focus in line with agile investment processes.
The ultimate way to assess the GRDC’s performance in delivering on its purpose is to measure the impact of the GRDC’s RD&E investments on Australian grain growers’ profitability.
However, this is complicated by factors such as the following:
- The grains industry is very complex and varies greatly across location, farming system, farm type, enterprise mix and the specific financial circumstances of individual grain-growing businesses (e.g. equity). Measures of profitability vary widely between farms and even across seasons within a single farm. Arriving at performance indicators that have relevance at a national level is therefore difficult.
- There is no single collection of profit data across the grains industry to support measurement. Some private sector advisers, however, do currently collect some financial performance data to assist their clients, particularly in business benchmarking exercises.
- The long lag times between the conduct of R&D, the adoption of R&D outcomes on farm, and the impact of those outcomes on profit, as well as the number of interacting variables that can affect profit, make it difficult to directly link R&D investments to impacts.
The GRDC will aim to develop new impact assessment tools during the life of this five-year plan. Of major importance will be the establishment of farm performance data sets that allow the collection of data from like farms (e.g. based on region, enterprise mix or size) for analysis of trends in yield, price, input costs and management of risk that will inform future RD&E priorities. Aggregation of the data will also allow for more accurate assessment of the impact of GRDC RD&E investments.
The GRDC’s performance measurement framework will be dynamic, and will be continually reviewed and updated as new information is generated and new learnings on best practice are adopted. The GRDC aims to work with industry to develop performance measures that are relevant locally, regionally and nationally.
The performance framework is split into three broad sections: KITs, objectives and purpose (Figure 15).
Figure 15: GRDC performance framework