New ag ‘engine’: Flinders

A new research engine has been fired in South Australia with a significant $8 million Federal Government Future Drought Fund grant – the largest to be awarded – and signals a new era of climate smart farming is on the horizon.

It will bring 39 research partners including farming and agri-business communities together under an $11.7 million program to be led by Flinders University and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) – the research division of the Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA).

Flinders Affiliate Associate Professor and SARDI Agronomy Program Leader Dr Rhiannon Schilling, who heads the new program, says along with bringing the farming community to work with leading researchers, the program will establish a network of long-term research trials to test applied science and climate-resilient solutions.

“We are bringing together leading South Australian farmers and researchers to develop new solutions to overcome future climate challenges,” Affiliate Associate Professor Schilling says.

“We will test, refine and deliver drought-resilient innovations for dryland broadacre cropping, livestock and mixed farms.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling says Flinders University’s research strengths and leadership will help cement South Australia’s reputation as a world leader in climate-smart farming for the future.

“This significant grant injection – the largest under the Future Drought Fund – heralds a new era of partnership between Flinders and SARDI,” Professor Stirling says.

“This research partnership will drive the development of solutions to tackle drought preparedness here in South Australia and beyond and Flinders University is excited to be part of this next era of pioneering research.”

The network of trial sites features pastoral, low, medium and high rainfall zones in South Australia and includes Discovery Farms and Innovator Sites to help fast-track the research, exchange of information and industry application.

The significant program will include long-term research trials focused on four major themes which are:

  1. Tailor made climate smart grain and feed
  2. Soil improvement practices to advance soil health
  3. Use of precision livestock strategies for healthier livestock
  4. Increasing landscape diversification

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Clare Scriven says the project will access SARDI’s research facilities at Minnipa, Turretfield, Struan and Loxton to establish Climate Resilience Discovery Farms.

“Minnipa Agricultural Centre is one of the oldest established low rainfall research farms in Australia, and this project builds on this long-standing history.

“Through SARDI, the State Government is excited to collaborate with Flinders University, farmers and other partners to deliver world-class research to advance the sustainability, resilience and prosperity of South Australia’s primary industries,”Minister Scriven said.

This $8 million Future Drought Fund grant was the maximum to be announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Senator Murray Watt in August 2023.

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