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Grains projects get off the ground for research collaboration

WA Agricultural Research Collaboration director Dr Kelly Pearce (left), Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) genetic improvement portfolio manager Dr Darshan Sharma, DPIRD and Murdoch University principal research scientist Dr Ron Yates and GRDC senior regional manager (west) Peter Bird at Murdoch University.
Photo: DPIRD

Two new grains projects are underway for the WA Agricultural Research Collaboration (WAARC) aimed at converting research insights into farming resilience, profitability and sustainability for the state’s growers.

The five-year Lupin Disease Resistance and four-year Harvestable Annual Legume Options (HALO) projects are the first to be announced under the collaboration’s Grains Transformation program.

Grains Transformation is one of six key program themes developed by the collaboration, which also include Northern Agriculture, Climate Resilience, Agricultural Technologies, Aboriginal Participation, and Capacity Building and Extension.

Lupin Disease Resistance is focused on boosting lupin resistance to its four major diseases, while the HALO project is exploring harvestable annual pasture legume cultivars that can be used in rotation to reduce synthetic nitrogen fertilisers.

Both grains projects are a co-investment between GRDC and the collaboration (including its seven partners – Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), CSIRO, Grower Group Alliance, Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University and the University of Western Australia).

WA Agricultural Research Collaboration director Dr Kelly Pearce says the new projects bring together funding partners and multidisciplinary collaborators for the advancement of agricultural R&D in WA.

“It is wonderful to see these grains projects get off the ground and to mark another collaboration milestone since our first Northern Agriculture project was announced in May – the Cropping Enabled Cattle initiative,” Dr Pearce says.

The collaboration is committed to delivering impactful and enduring research outcomes that align with Western Australia’s agricultural priorities. These latest projects have exciting potential benefits for industry.

GRDC managing director Nigel Hart says that through the collaboration, the best researchers and research institutions are working together to develop innovative solutions to the big issues facing agriculture.

“By working together, we can harness our combined might to apply innovative, cutting-edge science to address some of WA’s unique challenges and opportunities,” Mr Hart says.

“These two new GRDC-invested projects, exploring lupin disease resistance and annual pasture legume options, will deliver additional rotation options for WA growers, contributing to the profitability of farming systems.”

The Lupin Disease Resistance project brings together the crop genetics and plant pathology expertise of DPIRD and Curtin and Murdoch universities, with the plant breeding experience of Australian Grain Technologies.

DPIRD genetic improvement portfolio manager Darshan Sharma says the project will help deliver future narrow-leafed lupin varieties with improved resistance to its major diseases: Phomopsis, cucumber mosaic virus, anthracnose and Sclerotinia.

“We will share the outputs from this exciting project with pre-breeders and breeders to ensure future varieties require less disease management, maintain yield stability and deliver better outcomes for WA growers and farming systems,” Dr Sharma says.

The HALO project brings together the pasture legume breeding, agronomy and bio-economic modelling expertise of Murdoch University, DPIRD and CSIRO.

DPIRD and Murdoch University principal research scientist Ron Yates says incorporating legumes into crop rotations could reduce risk in the farming system by cutting fertiliser costs and allowing for better management of weeds, pests and diseases with positive flow-on effects for the environment.

“Our research team has hit the ground running – gathering and evaluating harvestable annual legumes that are suitable to grow productively throughout the WA agro-ecological zones,” Dr Yates says.

The biggest challenge is finding those with the right hard-seed breakdown profile for dormant summer sowing establishment.

The collaboration will continue designing and developing projects that maximise the impact and reach of current agricultural research, fund research gaps, attract more research dollars into WA, build capacity and leverage the state’s collective research talent.

More information: Dr Ron Yates,, Dr Darshan Sharma,

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