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Long-standing panelist shines a light on critical research

Grain grower and farm consultant John Minogue, who led the GRDC Northern Panel for six years, with his wife Lisa at their farm near Barmedman, New South Wales.
Photo: Nicole Baxter

New South Wales grain grower and former GRDC Northern Panel chair John Minogue says research on moisture conservation, farming system profitability and targeted nutrient inputs has been critical in increasing growers’ profits.

The Barmedman grower highlighted these three investments in the weeks before he planned to step down as GRDC’s Northern Panel chair.

John, who is also a director of Ag and General Consulting, joined the Northern Panel in 2015 after four years as a Southern Panel member.

He was appointed to the Southern Panel in 2011 along with two other NSW representatives – the late Dr Neil Fettell, from Condobolin, and former Condobolin grower Chris Jones.

“Most panel members were from South Australia, Victoria or Tasmania and they jokingly called us the Central West mafia,” he says, laughing.

In the late 1990s, John served on GRDC’s south-west regional advisory committee, helping to prioritise research, development and extension. This experience prepared him well for what lay ahead.

He credits agronomist and former GRDC Northern Panel member Penny Heuston for suggesting he apply for a position on GRDC’s Southern Panel.

“I was interested in where the money within GRDC was spent and curious about the corporation as a whole,” he says. “As a grower and consultant I wanted to have a hand in shaping where investments were directed.”

Taking the reins

When GRDC moved the southern boundary of its northern region from Dubbo to the NSW-Victorian border, John moved to the Northern Panel.

Two years later in 2016, when James Clarke’s term expired as Northern Panel chair, John took the reins.

“I was in awe of the knowledge of the people who make up GRDC’s panels and having the opportunity to lead the Northern Panel was too good to refuse,” he says.

"Meeting with growers and working with other panel members and GRDC staff who are passionate about assisting growers with science has been thoroughly enjoyable."

He says a highlight has been prioritising the research needs for every one of GRDC’s leviable crops. “We’ve looked at peanuts, mungbeans and soybeans, for example, along with wheat, canola and sorghum, and presented our findings to GRDC for investment,” he says.

"Since my first association with GRDC, it is now far more professional in how it engages with growers. There are now mechanisms that formalise the pathways to investment."

When it comes to helping to drive profitable practice change for growers, John says the farming systems trial run by CSIRO’s Lindsay Bell at Pampas, Queensland, has been crucial.

“We’ve now rolled that model into southern NSW, led by CSIRO’s John Kirkegaard, and have investments for similar work in GRDC’s southern and western regions.”

John also points to changes made to some of GRDC’s breeding programs as examples of valuable investments that will deliver gains for growers. For example, he says, money and new infrastructure has bolstered the chickpea breeding program.

He also credits the GRDC-NSW Government bilateral agreement, which supported NSW Department of Primary Industries agronomy and pathology research as a worthwhile investment.

When it comes to providing examples of research that has increased growers’ profits, he says, top of the list are investments in water use efficiency, moisture conservation and more-timely application of nutrients.

Looking forward

Going forward, he is optimistic about GRDC’s investments aiming to move businesses towards carbon neutrality. “We need investment in that space, but GRDC must also deliver productivity gains to growers to help maintain our competitiveness internationally.”

He credits his supportive and capable wife Lisa for keeping the farm running while he has focused on his GRDC responsibilities.

“My time with GRDC has been fantastic in terms of what I’ve learned and how I have been able to contribute to the industry,” he says.

“I have a farm I’d like to focus on for a while to achieve some more profit gains and hopefully there will be other opportunities going forward; I find the more I give, the more I receive.”

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