SPECIALIST wheat breeding company HRZ Wheats has appointed a new chairman as it continues to develop new wheat varieties that will help growers in high rainfall zones achieve improved yields.
Bruce Cairns, who is also national seed and farm technology manager for Landmark, was appointed HRZ Wheats’ chairman in October. He has been part of the HRZ board since Landmark became an investor in 2009.
“There are over four million hectares of land currently cropped in Australia’s greater-than-500mm high rainfall zone,” Mr Cairns said.
“Compared with the traditional wheat growing areas, there hasn’t been a lot of focus on wheat breeding in this zone in the past. However, over the past decade, growth in wheat cropping in high rainfall areas has been very significant.
"HRZ Wheats is really focused on breeding milling grade, disease resistant varieties for these regions.”
HRZ Wheats is the youngest of Australia’s main wheat breeding companies and was established in 2002-03 with a specific charter to meet the needs of growers in high rainfall areas, who currently face disease and yield challenges.
The company is owned by Landmark, the CSIRO, the Grains Regional Development Centre (GRDC), New Zealand Plant & Food Research (NZPFR) and Dow AgroSciences, which came aboard as an investor in September.
Mr Cairns said it’s an exciting time in the company’s history, with the focus over the next year to be on commercialising its new variety, Forrest.
“The varieties available for high rainfall zone growers haven’t kept up with the water use potential of those areas, but Forrest has realistic potential to dramatically improve yields of milling quality wheat.
"Yields in the high rainfall zone typically average between three and four tonnes per hectare, but Forrest has genetics which could see this increase significantly, provided good agronomics are employed.”
Forrest promises good disease resistance and is the only wheat variety offering wheat streak mosaic resistance. The launch of Forrest was a welcome reward for eight years of work, Mr Cairns said.
“It’s a six-to-eight-year process from the time we start choosing, crossing and selecting lines to the time a new variety gets to market.
"It’s like a funnel – you start out looking at thousands of early lines, then narrow it down each step of the way.
"Growers in high rainfall zones will soon begin to reap the benefits of those years of work establishing a really strong platform.”
The company will announce a full time general manager early next year and has also recently appointed its first full time breeder.
Mr Cairsns said HRZ Wheats had other promising varieties in the pipeline and growers in the high rainfall zone could look forward to the release of new varieties in 2013 and beyond.
“HRZ Wheats really stands out for the expertise its shareholders bring, including a mix of strong commercial experience and impeccable science credentials. We’re excited the business has reached the stage where it needs a full time manager and breeder and we’re looking forward to continuing the pipeline of new varieties.”