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GM trial facility eagerly anticipated
Picture: Danella Bevis Katanning farmer Peter Kerin and Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman next to the netted 5ha area that will be used for GM cropping.

Farmers are hoping a new research facility in Katanning where genetically modified crops will be trialled will lead to yield increases of 20 to 30 per cent.

On Thursday, Agriculture Minister Terry Redman officially opened the New Genes for New Environments centre at the Katanning research station.

It is part of the State Government’s $9 million investment into research infrastructure to help the WA grains industry remain internationally competitive.

Mr Redman said the facilities, including one at Merredin, would help grower viability, help communities be sustainable and reduce environmental impacts from herbicides and pesticides.

“The New Genes for New Environments facilities meet the stringent national standards of the Office of Gene Technology Regulator and enable research partners to work with the department to evaluate the performance of trial GM crops in a safe and controlled environment,” he said.

At the Katanning facility, traits to improve frost, salt and drought tolerance in wheat and barley lines will be trialled next year in an enclosed 5ha site, with a 2m perimeter fence and office that (includes laboratory space for researchers.

In Merredin, one trial resulted in 30 per cent yield advantage over a non-GM variety.

Katanning farmer Peter Kerin, who grew GM canola last year, said the facility was an exciting development for Katanning, agriculture and for GM technology.

He said more than 25 per cent of his farm is affected by mild to very saline land, so research into salt tolerance traits as well as frost was welcome.

While yield increases of 30 per cent are mostly likely a long way off, Mr Kerin said any increase in yield and returns would help the bottom lines.

Kojonup farmer and former Western chairman of the Grains Research and Development Corporation, Neil Young, said the Katanning facility was a positive step as GM was a critical part of breeding technology.