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Investments Aim to Crack Wheat’s ‘Tough Nuts’

27 June 2012

AUSTRALIA - Widespread frosts in Western Australia in 1998 and 2005 caused wheat yield losses of 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes respectively, while drought, salinity, disease and nutrient issues are ongoing challenges for the State’s cereal growers.

To help crack these ‘tough nuts’, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) invested about A$13.5 million in wheat and barley ‘pre-breeding’ research in 2011-12 and has invested almost $51.5m in this research program area from 2009-10 to 2012-13.

In Australia, sporadic radiant frosts are most damaging in spring when cereals are at susceptible post-booting stages of development.

The GRDC also has equity investments in three of the commercial wheat breeding companies in Australia.

More details about the GRDC’s ‘pre-breeding’ investments are contained in the new GRDC Cracking Wheat’s Toughest Nuts Fact Sheet.

‘Pre-breeding’ refers to research which can go all the way from gene discovery to the delivery to plant breeders of advanced lines and phenotyping tools (to measure observable characteristics).

GRDC yield and quality traits manager Jorge Mayer said the GRDC’s investments in this research program area were part of a broader integrated strategy which included researching more effective farm practices to ensure farmers maximised the genetic advances being made.

“The lag between investment and delivery of improved varieties to growers is generally between 10 to 20 years, although many tools developed as part of pre-breeding research can deliver benefits much earlier to current breeding programs and therefore new varieties,” Dr Mayer said.

“It is also important to remember that Australian growers are reaping the benefits of investments made many years ago in genetic improvement.”

The fact sheet includes sections on frost; drought; salinity; nutrient use efficiency (nitrogen and phosphorus); diseases; and quality and functionality.

It also includes a table outlining progress made on these challenges.

The GRDC Cracking Wheat’s Toughest Nuts Fact Sheet is available here.

TheCropSite News Desk

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