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TAS Country : October 7th 2010
32 Tasmanian Country Friday, October 8, 2010 Opinion A win-win for research BRIGHT FUTURE: Bob Reid gets down to business at the Cressy Research Station. Picture: ROSS MARSDEN CHEWS THEFAT David Byard OVER the past few years there has been much debate over the roles and future of the Cressy Research Station. It was finally leased out in December, 2009. I went to take a look to see how things were going. The farm has a total area of 487ha, of which 425ha is usable. Prior to the farm being leased, the DPI had tried to run the farm as a commercial enterprise, more than a research station. This just didn't work. The State Government was left with three choices: Sell the farm. Keep running the farm as a commercial enterprise. Lease the property. Expressions of interest were called for and after tenders closed it was decided to accept the offer made by Tasglobal Seeds. Enter Rob and Bob, of course better known as Robert Dent and Bob Reid. The deal that was struck shows the imagination that governments are usually not noted for. The property had several houses, which the Government still rents out as a separate deal. The lessees pay a commercial rent. Another caveat ensures any animals seized by the RSPCA will be agisted on the property. There also was a large devil enclosure on the property, which houses a population of devils. A trout fishing enterprise using houses and quarters also pays rent straight to the Government. One seed company also rents a shed. Waste water from Tas Quality Meats is also pumped on to the paddocks under an existing agreement. TIAR requires up to 40ha for grazing trials, looking at different stocking rates on different pasture mixes, and evaluating the results. The farm lessee is obliged to supply any stock for the trials. Within reason, any experimental work with pasture and cereals will be accommodated. Whatever comes up in the future, whether it be vegies or something completely different, clean soil will be provided. To me, if the idea of a Tasmanian food bowl is ever going to get up we will need to know what we can grow, and at what cost. One of the possibilities is to grow high-value vegie seeds for different vegies. When one looks at what is happening, it is a win-win for research and it is possible that we could do a lot more than in the past. One small plot worked up was where the original Tasdale ryegrass was grown and developed. Glasshouses that were in a state of disrepair and full of weeds have now been utilised. Anybody seeing Bob Reid in action would know what a ''greenfingers'' he really is. Bob is now growing new pastures, germplasm obtained from his contacts in the US Department of Agriculture. The core business of Tasglobal Seeds is developing pasture species, primarily for Tasmania, while at the same time keeping an eye on national and international opportunities. However, Arrotas developed in Tasmania is now being used more in Victorian and South Australian pastures than in Tasmania. New Zealand has also bought Arrotas. To Rob, this was like selling coal to Newcastle, and he was very proud. Tasglobal Seeds actively work with TIAR and independent seed companies having access to plant genetics resource collections. Tasglobal Seeds has developed a crop called teff, which is a summer-growing grain crop. Teff is the smallest grain seed developed by man that is 100 per cent gluten-free. Research to introduce this into agriculture in Tasmania's economy is under way. It originated in Ethiopia and there is a growing market for it as a health food product. The TIAR receives calls from all over Australia about similar products. Part of the strategy used by Rob and Bob is attracting other people to do research at Cressy. DLF, the biggest plant seed company in the world, is doing trials along with Tasglobal Seeds and TIAR. Seed multiplication for a poppy company is also under way. A Victorian company, Valley Seeds, is also looking for land to put trials in and has actually had a field day at Cressy. The whole aim is for research and a vision that Tasmania could become the Oregon of the southern hemisphere, so we could become a major seed producer for the whole world, encouraging other farmers and companies to grow seed here in Tasmania. This shows what a bit of imagination and e right sort of will can achieve.
September 30th 2010
October 14th 2010