GRDC Research, Development and Extension Plan 2018-23

Executive summary

This plan is the key planning document that guides the GRDC’s investments in grains research, development and extension priorities for the period 2018–2023. This Plan specifically targets profitability for Australian grain growers, recognising the challenges ahead in the Australian grains industry to improve rates of return, through increased yields and reduced costs. The priorities were determined through extensive consultation involving a broad spectrum of industry participants, government and the GRDC’s representative organisations. During consultation the GRDC considered and sought feedback on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and long-term trends in the Australian grains industry. That analysis is contained in this plan, and those factors have helped to identify the key investment areas in which GRDC investments can deliver a quantifiable impact.

The investment portfolio is structured around the key drivers of profitability, which have been defined as: Profit = [Yield x Price – Costs] x Risk. This plan prioritises investments against each of the key drivers and defines investment objectives, performance measures and targets. Detailed information on each of the priorities can be viewed here.

Priorities and key investment targets will be reviewed each year against the needs of the grains industry and will inform the development of the GRDC’s annual operational plans. Each annual operational plan will set out the annual budgets, key investment targets and performance indicators.

Each year’s annual report will examine the GRDC’s success in achieving its investment targets and delivering on its purpose: To invest in research, development and extension to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers.

The investment portfolio is structured around the key drivers of profitability, yield, price, costs and risk.


Over the past 15 years the Australian grains industry has seen an increase in gross value of production from approximately $6 billion to approximately $15 billion. Most of this additional value has come from Australian grain growers adopting new technology. The GRDC and its research partners have been major contributors to the creation of canola, chickpea and lentil industries that now drive grain grower profitability in large parts of the Australian cropping area. The water use efficiency of wheat has almost doubled over the same timeframe. The GRDC has worked with research partners to protect grain growers from losing potential profitability, through a wide range of investments in areas such as managing the quality of export grain, preventing and managing disease, and managing herbicide-resistant weeds.

Whilst gains have been made, grain grower terms of trade have declined dramatically, climate variability has added further challenges, and growers are now required to invest higher levels of capital up front in each new season cropping program, exposing them to unprecedented financial risk. There is evidence to suggest that the overall profitability of grain growing in some areas of Australia is now plateauing or even in decline.

The GRDC has responded, changing its approach to drive enhanced levels of grain grower profitability. This has been the primary driver for the GRDC’s undergoing a significant period of transformation.

STEVE JEFFERIES Managing Director
Managing Director

The GRDC has introduced new management and business structures and continues to expand its regional presence. The GRDC’s footprint of engagement in the grains industry is now the greatest it has ever been. Through our regionalised structure, our Regional Cropping Solutions Networks and regional panels, Grower Solutions Groups, and other forums, grain growers have more opportunities than ever before to have input into the GRDC’s RD&E priorities. Increased responsiveness and grower engagement will also provide greater transparency of the GRDC’s investments and ensure that our investment portfolio balance matches grower priorities.

A very important component of this ongoing transformation is a new five-year research, development and extension (RD&E) plan. This five-year RD&E plan is part of a 10–20 year strategy to deliver on the GRDC’s purpose: To invest in research, development and extension to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers. On every grain farm in Australia, growers are focused on the bottom line. Consequently, the GRDC has shifted its focus to maximise growers’ long-term profitability with RD&E investment strategies focused on profit drivers: improving yield, maintaining or improving price, optimising costs, and managing risk.

This plan will focus on identifying the key investment targets that can deliver transformational gains to the profit drivers. Australian grain growers’ competitive advantage relies on innovation and access to new technologies at a pace that is at least as fast as those of our international competitors. The world is now a global marketplace and the business of RD&E is more international than it has ever been before.

The GRDC is positioning itself to attract and actively seek opportunities to bring innovation and technology to Australia and is committed to delivering tools and information to growers to have the greatest possible impact on their bottom line. This purpose-driven five-year RD&E plan is a living document; it will continually evolve through the adoption of an agile approach to RD&E portfolio management that is responsive to grower needs, industry challenges and market opportunities.

The GRDC team is very excited about the road ahead  – working with all industry stakeholders to deliver the greatest possible benefit to Australian grain growers.

Please note: GRDC assessed the Australian grains industry landscape and sought feedback from stakeholders to inform the development of the 2018-23 RD&E Plan. Figures and assumptions used in the plan were the best available data in 2018.

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