Navigating industry challenges and opportunities with a new five-year research, development and extension plan.
AgriFutures Australia has announced a new five-year research, development and extension (RD&E) Plan for Australia’s pasture seeds industry. The AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program RD&E Plan 2023-2028 sets the RD&E agenda for the pasture seeds industry to thrive into the future.
An engaged industry
Consultation with key industry stakeholders has been crucial in shaping the Plan, including consultation undertaken with the AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Advisory Panel, Lucerne Australia, the Tasmanian Seed Industry Group, and representatives of the subclover industry.
Emma Rodham, Manager of Levied Industries – Export Fodder and Pasture Seeds at AgriFutures noted the positive impact these key partnerships have had on the development of the Plan. “It really has genuinely started from scratch and had the industry’s input every step of the way,” she said.
“I’m really proud of that; It’s a future-focused plan that is directly driven by industry.”
Delivering a strong return on investment
Lisa Anderson, Chair of the Pasture Seeds Program Advisory Panel at AgriFutures, emphasised that the high level of consultation in the development of the RD&E Plan and the shared commitment from industry has resulted in a comprehensive and strategic approach that levy payers will find value in.
“It’s really important for everybody to have some say in what the Plan will look like because it’s important for the AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program to be relevant, practical and solving real problems that levy payers want addressed,” said Lisa.
“Certified seed growers, seed cleaners, commercial seed suppliers, grower organisation representatives, researchers, allied industry stakeholders and agronomy advisers, were all involved in helping us to shape the development of the Plan,” she said.
“Ongoing, [stakeholder engagement] will also be really important, for broad Program awareness but also because it means that research outcomes will more likely be adopted by producers,” she added.
Three key future-focused priorities
The RD&E Plan aims to ensure the long-term success of the pasture seeds industry through three future-focused priorities:
- Supporting production systems and agronomic advancement
- Developing people
- Connecting the value chain.
“Priority one is our main area of investment which is around supporting research that is really applicable on-farm,” explained Emma.
“So, looking at sustainable farming practices and increased agronomic efficiency, as well as addressing some of those on-farm challenges such as pesticide and herbicide resistance,” she said.
Investments under this priority include research into increasing seed yield, pest control, irrigation efficiency, technology and other agronomic improvements, as well as investigating chemical control resistance and best management practices.
The second priority, she explained, seeks to address the threats facing the industry due to an aging workforce and workforce insecurities by focusing not only on attracting new people, but also developing existing human capacity within the industry.
“Something we’ve heard from industry during our consultations is that there’s an aging workforce, which includes the grower group as well as consultants, advisers and researchers, so there’s a fear that the existing industry knowledge will be lost once those people retire,” explained Emma.
Targeted investment towards supporting study tours, training and capacity building workshops, as well as solidifying relationships with schools and universities are outlined in the Plan as potential investment opportunities to help future proof the industry in this way.
In light of the dynamic global climate and increasing demand for sustainable products from international markets, industry also called for emphasis on connecting the value chain to remain competitive in the current and future market, hence the third priority.
Emma explained that the RD&E Plan will look to build the agility of the industry by enhancing understanding and collaboration across the value chain including the development of tools to communicate the value of the industry.
“We heard a lot of concerns in our consultations around social license to operate, sustainability and market access,” explained Emma.
“We know that on the international stage, markets are looking for evidence of sustainable production systems, so we discussed potential strategies such as traceability to maintain and increase market access. But to be successful in this type of endeavor, we will need the whole industry to be involved in these discussions as we move forward.
“We are really excited to proactively facilitate opportunities that increase connections across the value chain and to tackle this challenge together to turn it into an opportunity,” she said.
The certified pasture seeds industry in Australia boasts a gross value of production (GVP) of over $40 million and focuses on certified temperate pasture species such as lucerne, sub clover, other clovers, medics, and serradella.
The majority of production occurs in South Australia, with production also occurring in Tasmania, New South Wales, and Victoria, and a large amount of uncertified seed production occurring in Western Australia.
There are approximately 500 dedicated growers who produce certified seed in Australia for both domestic and export markets.
Since 1989, the pasture seeds industry has been supported by a statutory R&D levy on certified temperate pasture seeds. Funds collected under the levy are invested in line with the objectives of the Program’s RD&E Plan.Read the AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program RD&E Plan 2023-2028 To keep up to date with the latest research, events and program activities subscribe to AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program here