New facilities open up exciting future for grains research in Narrabri

4 October 2012

The official opening of the new facilities at the IA Watson Grains Research Centre in Narrabri.
The official opening of the new facilities at the IA Watson Grains Research Centre in Narrabri.

New research and teaching facilities opened at the University of Sydney's IA Watson Grains Research Centre in Narrabri on 3 October, promising an exciting future for grains research.

The new research and postgraduate teaching facilities located in northern NSW are worth $7.8 million and include a plant pre-breeding 'factory'; chemical, general, and grain quality laboratories; an archive seed store for long-term storage of valuable genetic material and a grain cleaning area.

Funded by the University of Sydney and the NSW Wheat Research Foundation the new infrastructure also includes offices and facilities for staff and postgraduate students and high-speed connection to the University IP network as agricultural research is data intensive.

"This opening represents the hard work and inspiration of many in the University and in the NSW Wheat Research Foundation. It is a statement of our joint commitment to food and environmental security," said Professor Mark Adams, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment.

"This development has, even before opening, acted as a catalyst for increased research. The University and the Grains Research and Development Corporation have started a long-term, coordinated research program on the site, with the aim of increasing and improving grain production in the northern region, as well as ensuring sustainability of production," said Professor Adams.

The IA Watson Wheat Research Centre at Narrabri is part of the University of Sydney's Plant Breeding Institute and is the main field testing site for crops being developed by the University. The breeding program at the Centre has produced a large number of rust-resistant wheat varieties in the Prime Hard and Australian Hard marketing classes. The Narrabri plains allow the plants to reach their best potential and assist the selection process with yield and disease trials.

"We are very excited about our new facilities. The Narrabri site will become even more of a hub of research and teaching in the agriculture and environment areas for the northern region of grain production," said Professor Peter Sharp, Director of the Plant Breeding Institute.

"On the site we already interact with both public and private research partners, such as CSIRO and other universities, and private breeding companies, but we expect this to grow in the future, because of these facilities," explained Professor Sharp.

The new research facilities are supported by the 300 hectares of fertile, irrigable land at the Narrabri campus, which is used for planting breeding nurseries for selection for agronomic attributes, the conduct of yield and quality testing and pure seed production.

"We are excited about the research and training potential of our new facilities. The University conducts research into issues that impact grain growers in the northern region and the new and improved infrastructure will allow us to both enhance this focus and increase the flow of undergraduate and postgraduate students through the site," said Professor Richard Trethowan, Director of the IA Watson Grains Research Centre.

"Many people have been trained in the critical agricultural disciplines at Narrabri over the past 50 years and we expect to significantly expand this impact courtesy of the new investment."

Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 02 9351 4312, 0403 067 342,