Gates dough for grain research

HARVEST TIME: Premier Campbell Newman announces the $4m Gates Foundation grant.
HARVEST TIME: Premier Campbell Newman announces the $4m Gates Foundation grant. Lisa Machin

IT'S more than 12,000km from the Darling Downs to Ethiopia, but the sorghum research being done on a local farm could eventually help to feed the sub-Saharan country.

More than 1600 plots of sorghum are growing on Gary Ronnfeldt's property near Dalby as part of a research initiative run by University of Queensland scientists.

They plan to develop a drought- resistant variety that could be successfully grown in Ethiopia.

This week it was announced that Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates approached the researchers to offer $4 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to help continue the project.

Mr Ronnfeldt said his property had been involved in research for five years, and the funding from Gates was a credit to the scientists' work.

"It's exciting - we're fundamentally growing for people to eat.

"The people over there, if they don't get a crop, they're not going to run out of money, they're going to run out of food."

Associate professor David Jordan said the farm trials were just one part of the experimental work.

"The longer term strategy is to try to understand drought resistance.

"It will be useful for farmers in Australia, and useful for farmers in Ethiopia."

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