Keeping your head in a curious space: AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Advisory Panel members discuss their passion for the industry

24.08.20

The AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program drives research and development within the pasture seeds industry. Guided by an Advisory Panel it is also an incubator for innovation at both an industry and grower level. Industry insiders say this is a dynamic industry with an Advisory Panel to match.

Some of our current and retiring Pasture Seeds Advisory Panel members share their reasons and passion for joining the Advisory Panel.

Panel Member Joe Cook, Keith, SA farmer

Current Advisory Panel member Joe Cook is a young South Australian lucerne seed grower from Keith, which is the home of the peak industry body, Lucerne Australia. His farm “Scottswell” produces lucerne seed for both the domestic and export markets, with his seed shipped to the Middle East, the United States and South Africa.

It comes as no surprise he has an industry focus having served on the inaugural committee of Lucerne Australia with six years on the executive and two as chair.

He’s been a long-time member on the AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program Advisory Panel and believes his role on the Advisory Panel is a very specific one.

“I am motivated by supporting projects that are going to deliver value at the farm gate. I am equally motivated by seeing value for our levies, and I like the fact that it is leveraged, so that we get maximum bang for our buck.”

“I’ve had a long association with the Advisory Panel and I hope I’ve added value by contributing to the Five Year Strategic Plan, and ensuring the application process for funding is smooth and user friendly,” he said.

“Being on this panel is so far removed from what I do on a daily basis, but that’s what gives me a real buzz and the fact we are doing fantastic things. For me, it’s about keeping your head in a curious space.”

Research changing on-farm practices

According to Joe, the AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program and Advisory Panel delivers on its promise of innovation at the farm gate.

“The pasture seeds industry is a small one with a constant group of growers always looking to drive industry improvement,” said Joe.

“At the farm gate I have been greatly influenced by research into the lucerne seed wasp, funded by AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program, which has influenced my own cultural practices around the timing and hygiene of fields and the ability to predict its prevalence.”

Herbicide control options for Setaria verticillata, commonly known as ‘Whorled Pigeon Grass’ or ‘Love Grass’ in lucerne seed crops, has also been a game changer along with Variety Trials to guide planting decision given the long-term commitment required to maximise production from a lucerne stand.

“I am really interested in the impact of variety trials with irrigation to see which lucerne seed varieties respond best to higher levels of irrigation stress,” said Joe.

“In lucerne, moisture stress triggers the plant to reproduce more and in the most recent trials, very high stress levels have surprisingly produced the best results.”

Levies need to be practical, viable and sustainable

The Chair of the AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program Advisory Panel is Lisa Anderson, a Riverina grower and prime lamb producer based near Wagga Wagga NSW who has extensive experience in governance, strategic planning and financial management.

Lisa is also the Chair of FarmLink Research, a farming systems group, conducting broadacre research and extension projects, and Chair of the Southern NSW, Southern Australian Livestock Research Council (SALRC). They provide recommendations on R&D initiatives and investments in the Australian red meat industry for south-eastern Australia.

“It’s important to growers to make sure that levy funded projects are practical, viable, adoptable and sustainable,” said Lisa.

“The members on our Advisory Panel are a diverse bunch who use their skill set to ensure levy monies are best spent so that growers can make a difference to productivity and profitability.”

Diversity drives its membership and activities.

“We travel and see things you wouldn’t ordinarily see. The Advisory Panel attended evokeAG. in 2019 and this year we visited Keith, SA to view some of our AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program funded research,” said Lisa.

“Being on an Advisory Panel like this helps to build important industry relationships as well as connect with commercial partners.”

Changing of the guard

Research scientist Dr Mary-Jane Rogers has just completed her time on the Advisory Panel, joining in 2014 and serving two terms.

“It has been a great opportunity to understand research priorities for the program and to gain experience in how the funding cycle operates,” said Dr Rogers.

“There is always much to learn – despite working in agricultural research for over 30 years!”

A highlight has been the success of the Program investing in projects that have been identified in the strategic plan, such as lucerne seed wasp and subclover seed harvester.

“The process by which the panel assess the research investments is very collaborative and can involve detailed, and informative interviews. I have also enjoyed seeing and hearing the updates from current research projects as well as attending field events.”

Why research matters

Mary-Jane believes the role of a research scientist on the Advisory Panel is crucial.

“I think that it has been important to include a representative who understands the research process and the rigour that is required to produce peer-reviewed research. This expertise is balanced with members who may have expertise as agricultural producers, consultants and industry representatives.”

Chair Lisa Anderson described Mary-Jane’s contribution as outstanding.

“Mary-Jane has a great understanding of the pasture seeds industry from a scientific perspective and her ability to assess research projects using her scientific rigour has greatly assisted the Advisory Panel and the industry,” said Lisa.

“We are going to miss her enormously.”