Meredith, tell us about your involvement with the pasture seeds industry, and what inspired you to apply for the AgriFutures Pasture seed advisory panel?
For the last 30 years I have worked as a pasture agronomist with Agriculture Victoria, based at Rutherglen in northeast Victoria. I am strongly committed to research, development, and the translation of research to industry, and have worked on a range of pasture related projects, ranging from native grasses species selection to management strategies for lucerne pastures.
It’s often overlooked but the pasture industry underpins a number of agricultural industries and particularly livestock including beef, sheep, wool and dairy. Much of my research has had a whole of farm management approach, that is not looking at the pasture species in isolation, but gaining an understanding of how it fits within a farming system.
It is critically important that Australian farmers have access to research, development and extension (RD&E) that is relevant to our unique production systems. While some research can be adapted from overseas, Australian systems, markets and conditions are unique; continued research, in local production systems, is absolutely critical to achieving local production gains, that are also environmentally, economically, and socially acceptable.
AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program plays a vital role in funding and supporting pasture seeds research. My research background and geographic location complements the expertise of the current Advisory Panel and its members. I am proud to be part of a team that is very dedicated to the Australian pasture seeds industry.
What would you describe as highlights in your research career so far?
I’ve been privileged to be involved in some incredible pasture programs over the years that have led to significant practice change on-farm.
Between 2006 and 2014 I led the Albury Wodonga Proof site for the EverGraze project, a collaboration with the Future Farm Industries CRC, Australian Wool Innovation, and Meat and Livestock Australia. The project was well recognised, winning the 2014 Department of Environment and Primary Industries-Daniel McAlpine Science Award (to recognise outstanding achievement in science) and was a finalist in the 2014 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Sustainable Agriculture. Most importantly the outputs from this project were delivered to a range of stakeholders, from farmers through to other scientists, both nationally and internationally, to encourage on-farm practice change. It’s very encouraging, and rewarding to see the impact of our research on-farm.
Another highlight, was an invitation to present a keynote paper, “Production, persistence and diversity of species in temperate grasslands”, at the International Grasslands Congress 2015 in New Delhi, India. I also chaired the session “Dynamics of grassland resources – global database” and presented a poster “Basal cover of perennial native grasses increases due to seasonal conditions”.
Following the Congress, I met with scientists from the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi; National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal; and the International Livestock Research Institute, Hyderabad. I undertook this travel by myself. Sometimes one has to be brave and take the first step out of your comfort zone to discover new things.
What are your specific RD&E interests in the pasture seeds industry?
During my career I have worked on a diverse range of pasture systems, with a large focus on native grasses, including the selection of cultivars and the management of existing native pastures. I have also been involved in projects looking at pasture cultivar evaluation and lucerne grazing management. And my current focus is looking at intercropping and double cropping within grain production. Pastures are critical to a whole range of different industries, including beef, lamb, wool, dairy and break crops, and it’s satisfying to work in an industry that has such a broad impact.
I have a strong interest in sustainability and an integrated whole farm approach. Many of the sustainability issues that affect seed production are also important in broadacre stands, for example Red Legged Earth Mite and herbicide resistant weeds. When we consider sustainability, we need to cover a wide range of issues from pests and disease, to economic, to environmental aspects.