THE CHAIRMAN of the Victorian Wheat Research Authority knows full well the value of research.
“One of my earliest farming memories is Mum and Dad harvesting this failed wheat crop that had been hit with stripe rust,” said Natimuk farmer Michael Sudholz.
“A couple of years later they were harvesting a fantastic crop, bred at the wheat research institute, which had stripe rust resistance.”
Mr Sudholz was speaking at the 50th anniversary of the Horsham-based Grains Innovation Park, one of the nation’s premier grain research facilities.
“Research is vitally important to our agriculture sector, and the work done right here has put billions back into farmers’ pockets,” Mr Sudholz said.
Agriculture Victoria research deputy secretary German Spangenberg said the facility had played a key role in developing new varieties in a number of key crops, in particular pulses, since the former Victorian agriculture department moved its research station from Werribee to Horsham in 1967.
“The advances made in pulse breeding here in the mid-1990s virtually set up the country’s lentil industry,” Prof Spangenberg said.
“It is now a massive industry, with over 300,000 hectares planted in South Australia and Victoria.”
Prof Spangenberg also highlighted the breeding advances that allowed the nation’s chickpea industry move past the disastrous 1998 ascochyta outbreak by developing varieties with improved resistance.
But it is not just pulses that have benefited from GIP research.
Prof Spangenberg said there were also big successes in barley and canola breeding coming out of Grains Innovation Park.
The facility celebrated its 50th birthday with an open day, featuring tours of laboratories, including the state of the art phenomics facility and field trials along with access to the Australian Grains Genebank located on the site.
After being established as a modest row of portable buildings the research centre is now a massive facility, directly employing over 150 people, making it one of the largest employers in the Wimmera.
As well as the genebank and grain research centres, Grains Innovation Park also houses the Victorian Fisheries Authority, Regional Development Victoria and the Department of Environment’s Forest Fire Management and the Horsham Incident Control Centre.