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FOR THE PROVISION OF Building capacity, skills and knowledge for the pulse industry in the Southern Region: Supporting e
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The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is a statutory corporation established under the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989. It is subject to accountability and reporting obligations set out in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. It is responsible for planning, investing in and overseeing research and development, and delivering improvements in production, sustainability and profitability across the Australian grains industry.
Pulse crops have long been recognised as providing numerous economic and farming system benefits including: biological nitrogen fixation; providing a disease break for some foliar and soil-borne pathogens of cereals and oilseeds; enabling increased diversity in weed management through use of alternate herbicide modes-of-action and implementation of IWM tactics; and providing agronomic and economic diversity in enterprise mix.
Pulse crops have historically formed an important part of cropping rotations in the GRDC Southern Region, with an estimated planted area of 795,057 hectares and production of 1.1 million tonnes last season (Source: Australian Crop Forecasters). Intensive production has been historically concentrated in the medium rainfall zones, with much smaller areas under pulse production in the low and high rainfall zones. Whilst immediate opportunities for expansion in pulse area may be apparent, and are in-fact occurring, the willingness of growers to adopt is often limited due to a range of factors including: perception of risk and complexity in production; concerns over the longer-term sustainability of pricing as Australian production increases; lack of local agronomic knowledge and support; agronomic challenges relating to disease, weed and pest management; seed-cleaning, storage and marketing issues; and required investments in plant and infrastructure. Pulses are considered by many to be complex to manage and poor agronomy subsequently poses a risk to the profitability of inexperienced growers.
Whilst it is anticipated that cereal crops, predominantly wheat, will continue to be the foundation of cropping rotations for most Australian grain growers well into the future, current cereal crop commodity pricing and ever increasing competitiveness in world cereal markets necessitate an increased focus on production opportunities for alternative high value crops including pulses. The estimated potential production for pulse crops in Australia, assuming all constraints are overcome, is 4.2 million tonnes with a commodity value of AU$1.5 billion and a farm system benefit of AU$538 million (Source: Pulse Australia).
Motivation and interest in growing pulses across the Southern Region and, in particular, broader expansion into new areas in the low rainfall zone is presently high. Pulse crops destined for high value human consumption, specifically lentils and chickpeas, provide an immediate opportunity to significantly increase both enterprise diversity and farm profitability. Whilst the systems and rotational benefits associated with growing pulses may be generally well known, the key driver for the extent of pulse expansion into new areas is directly related to commodity pricing.
In general, pulses have a reputation for variable yield and subsequent economic return outside the medium rainfall zone, and high prices help buffer against this variability. The motivation for inexperienced growers to increase plantings of high value pulse crops as an alternative to cereals is constrained by grower and advisor confidence in the reliability of economic return and a lack of knowledge, skills and experience in crop agronomy, production and marketing. There is also a perceived need to refine pulse management techniques and recommendations historically developed from existing production areas (medium-high rainfall) to increase the relevance to other agro-climatic zones, including areas characterised by shorter growing seasons, lower and less reliable rainfall, and reduced disease pressure. Consequently, the present interest in pulses is leading to increased plantings whilst many growers and advisors lack the knowledge, skills and experience, to realise potential economic returns.
In addition to the anticipated increase in plantings of chickpeas and lentils resulting from expansion into new areas, there is a real and recognised need to continue to support existing pulse growers to increase profitability through productivity and grain quality improvements, maximising price attained and optimisation of cost of production. In these areas, ‘fine-tuning’ of existing agronomic practices is required to strive for continual improvement and support the sustainable intensification of production systems through the adoption of research outcomes from existing GRDC R&D activities.
The present shortage of specialised knowledge and skills relating to pulse crop agronomy within industry necessitates targeted investment in capacity building within the advisory sector to build future industry leaders and to provide agronomic support to growers through the multiplier effect. In building this capacity special consideration needs to be given to the present and future demand on existing recognised experts within the pulse industry, specifically key personnel within the research community. In the recent past a lack of industry capacity in knowledge of pulse crop agronomy and pathology resulted in a significant time allocation of key researchers to extension and communication activities, subsequently reducing their ability and focus on core research and development activities. Hence, a key objective of this GRDC investment is to minimise the need for active involvement of staff presently involved in the delivery of the Southern Pulse Agronomy Project DAV00150 and other GRDC projects in order to address major yield and profitability drivers. Whilst this investment is expected to begin to address the immediate shortage in industry capacity, a longer term strategy is required to ensure skills and knowledge transfer continues into the future.
In addition to the identified need to directly build capacity within the advisory sector, a targeted program to directly build the skills, knowledge and confidence of new lentil and chickpea growers, and hence hasten the successful expansion in area planted to high value pulse crops in the Southern Region, is required. It is proposed that a participatory approach to knowledge transfer is implemented, targeted to identified geographical areas for expansion where these crops may be well adapted. This approach is aimed to accelerate the rate and level of practice change and realise the immediate profitability opportunities associated with the production of these crops. The intent is to ensure GRDC investment in extension is highly targeted, of maximum impact, and designed to have a direct and measurable impact in driving practice change on-farm.
The purpose of this investment is to realise the potential long-term farming system and financial benefits of pulse crops in the Southern Region through targeted expansion of lentils and chickpeas into new areas and sustainable intensification of pulse crop production in existing areas.
By January 2020, growers and advisors in the southern region will have improved skills and knowledge relating to profitable pulse crop production and agronomy allowing them to exploit the systems and financial benefits of pulse crops in a sustainable manner.
Growers and advisors will have improved confidence in the agronomic management of key pulse crops for their sub-region; an awareness of the major risks associated with production; and appropriate management strategies in place to mitigate risks identified.
An additional 24 advisors presently with no or limited knowledge of pulse crop agronomy will possess the basic skills and knowledge to support pulse crop expansion into new areas.
An additional 96 growers presently with no or limited knowledge and confidence in lentil and chickpea production will have, at minimum, a competent understanding of best management practice for these crops and possess the confidence to sustainably integrate these crops into their farming systems to improve farm profitability.
A much broader and extensive network of existing experienced independent and agribusiness advisors and growers will have an enhanced understanding of the latest developments in pulse crop agronomy through more targeted and intensive extension and communication of the outcomes of relevant GRDC R&D projects.
The GRDC plans to invest up to a total of AU$1.75 million, dependent on the quality of the proposal and the details of the services to be provided.
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1. The Applicant must be a single legal entity or recognised firm of partners.
2. The Applicant must be financially viable. For the purposes of this condition, “financially viable” means that the Tenderer has not had any of the following events occur in respect of it:
a. a meeting of creditors being called or held within the past five years;
b. the appointment of a liquidator, provisional liquidator or administrator within the past five years;
c. the appointment of a controller (as defined in section 9 of the Corporations Act (2001)), or analogous person appointed, including in respect of any of its property within the past five years;
d. a failure to comply with a statutory demand in respect of the payment of any debt;
e. an inability to pay debts as they fall due or otherwise becoming insolvent;
f. becoming incapable of managing its own affairs for any reason;
g. taking any step resulting in insolvency under administration (as defined in section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001);
h. entering into a compromise or arrangement with, or assignment for the benefit of, any of its creditors, or any analogous event.
3. The Applicant and any proposed subcontractor must be compliant with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.
4. The Applicant must include in its application details of any known circumstances that may give rise to an actual or potential Conflict of Interest with GRDC in responding to this procurement. The Applicant's response will be taken into account in the evaluation.
1 July 2017 – 31 January 2020
By portal submission only at https://access.grdc.com.au/