ACIAR is an institution of which we can all be proud

February 17, 2020

The Crawford Fund has a close and enduring association with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Much of our training provides capacity building for developing country researchers involved in ACIAR projects or complements that work. And our public awareness and NextGen activities also have close links with important ACIAR work. The current special issue of Agricultural Science, the journal of the Ag Institute of Australia, features the work of ACIAR. The Managing Editor of the journal is the Crawford Fund’s Director of Capacity Building, Professor Shaun Coffey. We produce here Shaun’s introduction to the special issue below and we thank Shaun and the Ag Institute of Australia for providing access to this special issue of the Journal, available here.

Advances in agriculture depend on innovation underpinned by science. These advances lead to improved productivity as well is improved outcomes of the natural resource base, animal welfare, plant and animal quarantine and health, and food safety. They also lead to the development of adaptive management practices that ensure increased resilience for the agricultural sector in response to system challenges such the increased climate variability evident in the present widespread drought conditions across the country.

Australia has an enviable record of achievement in agricultural research and development, and the Institute is a strong advocate of the need for science to continue to underpin the performance of agriculture.

The impacts of the bilateral research that ACIAR conducts as part of Australia’s overseas aid initiatives is just as important within Australia as it is to the many countries and systems in which we collaborate and this is recognised by the many Australian institutions who readily partner with ACIAR to deliver research and development activities internationally. They recognise both the benefit that can be delivered directly from the research, and, more systemically, through the developments of linkages and maintenance of research capability to continue our efforts at home.

A 2013 task force report prepared for The Crawford Fund – “Doing Well by Doing Good” provides many examples of how international agricultural research benefits Australia as well as developing countries. These include:

  • Biosecurity gains from understanding mite pests of honeybees (Australian partner was CSIRO).
  • Access to the Japanese mango market through post-harvest treatment of fruit fly (Queensland government)
  • development of the sandalwood industry in Indonesia and the Ord River (WA government) and
  • incorporation of ICRISAT germplasm in the Australian sorghum breeding system (various agencies).

The papers published in this special edition of the journal report research into farming systems, and the contributions that Australian agricultural science is making to improve the productivity, sustainability and resilience of those systems. Most of this work is or has moved to transdisciplinary approaches that put farmers and land managers at the centre of the research efforts – an approach that is increasingly important within Australia’s farmland food production system.

The journal brings together, for perhaps the first time, a series of papers that fully reflects the scope of the ACIAR supported research in this field.

John Dixon, co-editor of the special edition, is one of a long list of Australian agricultural scientists and Institute members who have contributed to international agricultural research – some notably like Derek Tribe, Jim McWilliam, Lloyd Evans and Tony Fisher have also contributed to the development of the many international institutions with which Australia now partners in ensuring a flow of information and technology to and from Australia.

Many Australians have been leaders in international centres, and we continue to punch above our weight in the contribution that we make.

I trust that you will find a rich tapestry of information as you read the Journal. ACIAR is an institution of which we can all be proud.