TOOWOOMBA, SOUTHERN QUEENSLAND — A new A$16 million Agricultural Science and Engineering Precinct opened Feb. 5 at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). The precinct, which was co-funded by the Grains Research and Development Corp. (GRDC) and USQ, will be used primarily for GRDC-supported, USQ-led research to be conducted for the benefit of Australian grain growers.

“Partnerships such as these are imperative for ongoing impactful research that will drive growth in our agricultural industries,” said Mark Furner, minister for agricultural industry development and fisheries. “We are investing in innovation so Queensland farmers can take on and beat the best in the world. This collaboration with USQ is already reaping benefits for Queensland agriculture, and will continue to do so for years to come.”

The new precinct will include 10 laboratories, four glasshouses, netted and irrigated facilities for field research, harvesting and processing of field and glasshouse samples, root and soil sampling for nematodes and four controlled environment rooms.

The USQ said the glasshouses and new facilities will be used for pre-breeding programs for wheat and chickpeas. Specifically, the facilities will be used to assist in the development of varieties that are drought, heat and soil pathogen resistant.

Geraldine Mackenzie, USQ vice-chancellor and a professor at the university, said investment in the infrastructure was crucial to the on-going research drive of the USQ.

“This investment in infrastructure will help support the delivery of our world-class agricultural and environmental research, so USQ continues to be a national and indeed international leader in crop protection, plant pathology and biotechnology research,” Mackenzie said. “This is a unique facility that will work as a nexus between microbiology labs through to processing labs, state-of-the-art glasshouses and the field research unit, allowing researchers to look at the whole spectrum of research, which underpins crop protection in Australia.

“We are absolutely delighted that GRDC has invested alongside us to establish this world-class facility that now and in decades to come will play a major role in understanding plant pathogens and how to protect our crops to increase our agricultural yields.

“As a university, we are committed to our teaching mission and this facility will also play a major role in the training of our future scientists. We currently have over 30 staff and 30 research students using the facility engaged in research across the spectrum, from grains to horticulture to food sciences, reflecting our commitment to the future of crop health research in Australia.”

Meanwhile, John Woods, chairman of the GRDC, said the organization was proud to invest in a facility that is expected to provide many benefits to Australian grain growers.

“The GRDC invests in RD&E to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers, so we are proud to be co-investing with the University of Southern Queensland and the Queensland Government in this exceptional facility,” he said. “GRDC has the responsibility of ensuring the levy investment by grain growers delivers paddock-ready solutions to production constraints, helps reduce production costs and most importantly has a positive impact on farm profitability. But we don’t do any of the RD&E ourselves. We rely on high-caliber researchers and research organizations like USQ to deliver world class RD&E to growers.”