New ‘roadmap’ to accelerate research, development and extension outcomes for the Australian rice industry

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The Australian rice industry has developed a new five-year roadmap focused on achieving an aspirational water productivity target of 1.5 tonnes of rice per megalitre of water by 2026 to future proof the industry.

This target represents a 75% increase on 2021 water-use efficiency – which already places the Australian rice industry as the most water efficient in the world, using some 50% less water than the global average.

Commenting on the new roadmap, the rice industry’s RD&E plan, John Harvey, Managing Director of AgriFutures Australia said the roadmap involved extensive consultation with rice growers and industry and sets an exciting and bold research path for the industry.

“Fundamentally, this roadmap seeks to invest in key activities and projects that can deliver more tonnes of rice per hectare and use less water per tonne. We want to ensure rice is a more competitive and attractive summer crop delivering greater financial returns for growers,” said Mr Harvey.

“The investment of rice growers’ levy is a responsibility AgriFutures Australia does not take lightly. To develop this roadmap, we have been working closely with AgriFutures Rice Advisory Panel, growers and our colleagues at SunRice, the RGA, NSW DPI and the Rice Marketing Board. Our end goal is to ensure rice remains a competitive and profitable option for all rice growers,” added Mr Harvey.

Rob Gordon, Chief Executive Officer at SunRice, said the new roadmap and significantly increased investment would see a renewed urgency in the pursuit of new varieties and agronomic practices to deliver a step-change in water-use efficiency, while ensuring the profitability of rice production for growers.

“The Australian rice industry is world class. We grow some of the highest quality Japonica-style varieties anywhere in the world while already using 50% less water than the global average. SunRice then takes that rice and transforms it in our facilities in the Riverina into value-added branded products which are valued by customers and consumers in some 50 global markets.

“SunRice’s operations directly contribute close to $400 million in years of normal production, employing more than 500 people across our facilities in Leeton, Coleambally, Jerilderie and Deniliquin, and supporting some 400 local businesses and growers.

“However, given the changing environment for water availability in the Riverina, there is an urgent need to deliver a step-change in our research, development and extension efforts to enable a fundamental shift in our water-use efficiency.

“This new RD&E plan will assist us in maintaining the high quality of our rice varieties, while increasing focus on water-use efficiency. While the target is openly ambitious – we believe it is achievable and necessary to ensure the ongoing profitability of our growers and to future-proof this great industry.”

Graeme Kruger, Executive Director of the RGA reiterated the importance of grower engagement in the development of the roadmap and continuing to work with growers.

“Throughout the development of this roadmap, AgriFutures Australia, SunRice and the RGA have worked with growers to understand their priorities and needs. It’s important that this conversation does not stop here.”

“The RGA will be responsible for continuing the conversation with all levy payers, seeking their input on opportunities and challenges on-farm, and working with the Management Committee to ensure grower input is reflected in the management of the program,” said Mr Kruger.

The roadmap, seeks to accelerate and drive progress towards the ambitious water productivity target of 1.5 tonnes of rice per megalitre of water by 2026 through four areas of work:

  1. Optimising genetic improvement: The establishment of Rice Breeding Australia, an incorporated entity between AgriFutures Australia, SunRice and RGA. This new entity will embed a commercial focus and introduce state of the art breeding technologies to accelerate the development of new varieties with increased water productivity and cold tolerance. The current Rice Breeding Program, led by NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), will transition to the incorporated entity from June 2022. In the interim, NSW DPI will continue to manage the breeding program.
  2. Targeted agronomy and farming systems: An agronomy and farming systems program with an objective to increase on-farm productivity through investment in agronomy and crop management R&D.
  3. Coordinated industry extension: Increasing the adoption of the outputs from rice research through Rice Extension. In 2022, Rice Extension will transition to a single industry extension team, which brings together Rice Extension and SunRice Grower Services. This team will be overseen by Rice Research Australia Pty Ltd (RRAPL) and will focus on supporting growers to adopt technologies and best practice management to increase rice growers’ profitability now and into the future.
  4. Investments to strengthen the capacity of Australian rice growers to ensure it meets the challenges of the future.

 

To learn more about the new roadmap and these important initiatives please join us on Thursday, 24 February 2022 at the Grower of the Year Field Day at De Bortoli’s Family Farm in Griffith.

Register for the grower of the year field day View the rice industry’s rice industry's RD&E plan

  1. Listen to John Harvey discuss the new Plan on ABC Country Hour


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