High yielding wheat varieties that are drought and frost tolerant, disease resistant, efficiently use nutrients and contain desirable end-market characteristics are well placed to be fast tracked in Australia’s wheat breeding system.
Grain growers participating in Australia’s first ever online wheat broadcast were told their GRDC levies were making a valuable contribution to increasing breeding advances in this major crop.
GRDC Managing Director John Harvey was joined by seven panellists in a live national discussion hosted by GRDC as part of the Wheat Breeding Assembly held in Perth this week.
The discussion was broadcast live to 12 wheat growing locations in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, where groups of growers and industry stakeholders met to view the broadcast and ask questions live of the panel using SMS.
Issues raised ranged from the need to simplify collection of end point royalties (EPRs) to the importance of using genetic modification technology in conventional breeding systems.
Mr Harvey said the major challenge facing the wheat industry was getting new varieties to market in a timely manner using latest technologies from Australia and across the globe.
“GRDC is investing heavily in pre-breeding science, including gene and germplasm assessment, and developing expertise to support commercial breeding programs,” he said.
“Australia needs to deliver new varieties and production systems that will improve drought, frost and salinity tolerance, disease resistance and boost grower productivity and profits.”
The importance of finding a quality, milling grade wheat for high rainfall zones was reiterated to the panel by grain growers in Victoria and South Australia.
Growers in northern NSW were particularly interested to know more about the relationships between resistance to crown rot and root lesion nematode.
They also questioned whether genetic gains in wheat could be accelerated with or without the use of GM technology.
The panel agreed that GM was just one tool in the toolbox and this technology would not be the only solution to lifting wheat variety productivity.
From SA, growers questioned the panel about the level and collection of EPRs.
Mr Harvey said the EPR system underpinned commercial wheat breeding in Australia, ensuring overseas investment and the release of high performing varieties to growers as quickly as possible.
He said industry was considering streamlining the collection of EPRs and options for automatic deductions at point-of-sale.
WA’s central wheatbelt farmers were keen to pursue with the panel how fertiliser costs could be reduced by genetically improving crop nutrient use efficiency.
Panel members indicated that there were breeding lines showing potential to slash fertiliser applications by up to 30 per cent while maintaining existing yields.
The live broadcast was an initiative to give growers in regional and remote locations the opportunity to interact with wheat breeders, researchers, biotechnology companies, bulk handlers and other growers about the future of Australia’s most important food crop.
Mr Harvey said GRDC was looking at a range of new technologies to help it engage with growers and tap into their issues and priorities.
“To have a conversation with growers sitting in Lake Bolac in Victoria, Goondiwindi in Queensland, Lake Grace in WA, Trangie in NSW and Paskeville in SA at the same time is something we have not done before and opens up new ways of engaging with our levy payers and seeking their input and feedback,” he said.
“While it was extremely useful to discuss the future of wheat breeding and GRDC’s involvement in pre-breeding, it may be that we can use this technology to canvass other issues in the future and allow GRDC to engage directly with growers in remote locations in a very cost effective way.”
The broadcast will be available for download as a vodcast at www.grdc.com.au by COB Thursday August 25.
Panel speakers included: John Harvey, Managing Director, Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC) Dr Steve Jefferies, CEO, Australian Grain Technologies (AGT) Professor Peter Langridge, CEO, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) Dr Jeremy Burdon, Chief, CSIRO Plant Industry Dr Narelle Moore, Technical Marketing Manager, CBH Group - CBH Grain Andrew Fowler, grower from east of Esperance, Executive of South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA) Andrew Weidemann, grain grower from Rupanyup Victoria, GPA National R & D Spokesperson, President of Victorian Farmers Federation’s (VFF) Grains Group Rob Hall, General Manager Bioscience, Bayer CropScience