Research drive for Mallee water efficiencies, climate adaptation


Local expertise will play a crucial role in work by the proposed ONE Basin Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to ensure the region’s farms and businesses are well-prepared for changing climatic and market conditions.

A bid to establish the ONE Basin CRC is being pitched to the Federal Government next week. The 10- year research initiative aims to offer an industry-led and basin-wide approach to the science needed to sustainably manage the Murray-Darling Basin’s resources.

The bid has the support of a consortium of industry and community groups, universities, government bodies and businesses which have committed more than $120 million to its operation. At last count there were 80 bid partners, including the Almond Board of Australia, Ruralco Water, Kilter Rural, Murray Darling Basin Authority, Hort Innovation, Wine Australia, Local Land Services NSW, Mallee Catchment Management Authority, Analytical Laboratories & Technical Services Australia Pty Ltd, Mallee Sustainable Farming, the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre and SuniTAFE.

Dried Fruits Australia was involved in the initial industry consultation to develop the ONE Basin CRC proposal, which Chief Executive Officer Anne Mansell has welcomed. She says the Mallee is a powerhouse of Australian irrigated horticulture and broadacre cropping and the bid includes plans to locate one of the CRC’s five research hubs in the region.

Combined, the Mallee, Sunraysia and Wentworth areas contribute more than $10.6 billion to the Australian economy, much of it from agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. The region accounts for 98 per cent of Australia’s dried fruit production, 70 per cent of table grapes and almost one quarter of wine grapes. It also is the nation’s second-biggest citrus-growing region and home to almost half of our almond trees.

“Water is the lifeblood of the region’s economy,” Ms Mansell says. “We’re highly dependent on water for irrigation, for the tremendous environmental assets we have here as well, and for our tourism sector.”

Ms Mansell says the ONE Basin CRC proposal is particularly exciting because it brings together existing knowledge and the drive for further research into even more efficient water use and delivery methods, especially for irrigation.

“We’ve done a lot already, but there’s always more to learn,” she says. “Most important is having local input into the research from people here who have had a great many years of experience in the water industry or in the horticultural industry or the environmental sector.”

The Mallee Regional Hub would be located at the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre in Mildura. Staff would work closely with the Lower Basin Regional Hub at Loxton, in South Australia, on common cross-border issues and solutions, especially those related to viticulture, almonds, dried fruit and citrus.

ONE Basin CRC interim Chief Executive Officer Mike Stewardson will make a personal presentation to the CRC Advisory Committee on February 25 during the final stage of the current CRC selection process. Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Thomas is expected to announce the successful CRC bids in March, with funding to be issued in October.


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What is the ONE Basin CRC?

The proposed ONE Basin CRC will develop policy, technical and financial solutions to support and reduce exposure to climate, water and environmental challenges in the Murray-Darling Basin.

It proposes five regional hubs located across the Basin at Mildura (Vic), Loxton (SA), Dookie (Vic), Griffith (NSW) and Goondiwindi (Qld). The hubs will be focal points for place-based research and development, followed by evaluation, adaptation, and education and training.

Three programs will tackle agriculture’s water challenges to help agribusinesses factor water and climate risks into decisions and increase confidence in agricultural investment.

The ONE Basin CRC has six core objectives:

  1. Deliver the capacity for communities, government and industries to respond to emerging climate, water and related changes in business and planning decisions.
  2. Develop engineering and digital water infrastructure solutions to the Basin’s management challenges.
  3. Enable farm enterprises and rural communities to adapt to global trends and drivers.
  4. Build mutually respectful and valued relationships among First Nations peoples and Basin stakeholders to tackle emerging Basin management opportunities and risks.
  5. Train future leaders across businesses, communities and governments.
  6. Establish a strong regionally based innovation system supporting an entrepreneurial outlook by regional communities and businesses.

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