Aginsight director Dr Bruce Kefford has told a Melbourne agricultural summit “remarkable advances” in biosciences would be a key driver in sustainably increasing agricultural productivity.
Dr Kefford, the former deputy secretary of the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, chaired a session at the second AgriVictoria State of Opportunity summit.
“The recent dairy industry crisis has highlighted the exposures of high-cost farming systems to price volatility and there is now a unanimous call for farming systems which are more efficient, deliver lower costs of production, so farmers can remain profitable, when prices turn down,” Dr Kefford said.
“Farmers need efficient use of lower cost, home-grown feed, highly efficient animals and lower-cost farming systems.
“In a world where many of the challenges are external to our control there are potent levers, in our grasp, which can help us significantly, if we use them.”
He said work being done at the LaTrobe University BioAgri centre was part of the step change in performance.
“This has given us a much deeper understanding of plants and animals of our environment in Victoria,” he said.
But Dr Kefford said there were “some really frightening statistics - the most popular ryegrass sold is called Vic, which was bred 80 years ago; it’s not the best we have available.
“The second most popular bull was ranked 500, not the best bull, by any means, and 30 per cent of our heifers are bred from paddock bulls,” he said.
But he said remarkable advances in biosciences, particularly in the last decade, had given a much deeper understanding of plants and animals in Victoria.
“There is potential for further innovation and it is very, very significant,” he said.