Wagga’s Department of Primary Industries is set to receive its share of $50 million when the state’s budget is handed down on Tuesday.
Across the state 14 capital works projects will be funded in total, with $7.8m for world-leading genome technology to double productivity gains for plant and livestock at Wagga, Menangle, Armidale and Tamworth.
Wagga’s Agricultural Research Institute will receive funding to develop new strains of rice, cotton, canola, wheat, and barley. The principal push is bolstering varieties’ ability to cope with climate variability, such as reducing the amount of water needed to harvest a crop, and the ability to tolerate climate shifts.
Wagga insititute director Deb Slinger said the MIA was changing rapidly.
About 97,000 hectares of cotton was sown last season in the region, compared with 5000ha just five years ago.
“We wouldn’t have had a cotton industry if it hadn’t been for the MIA, because the northern growers have been in drought,” she said.
With much of the work to bring new varieties to trial now done at the molecular level, an entirely new strain could be grown at trial stage within five years, compared with 15 years a decade ago.
The challenge now was to give growers options to move between such crops as rice and cotton depending on international markets and climatic conditions.
“Reseachers are now tied into agribusiness, they know an agronomist might reach 30 people in the field and that information – about growers’ needs – can be relayed back to where work is being done in the laboratory,” she said.
“Modern researchers are really on top of the whole game, and many of them are off farms, so they know what growers are doing, the conditions they’re facing.”
Usually DPI research centres across the state fight annually for a share of $5m in capital works upgrades.
Now 650 research and technical staff across 13,000 hectares of trial sites are licking their lips at the potential.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair says the farm sector’s surge past the $15 billion mark made it easier to convince the Treasurer to loosen the purse strings.
“We are expanding our footprint across the state at a time when other states are rationalising ag science facilities.”