AUSTRALIAN researchers are among those involved in the first globally-coordinated response to stagnated wheat yield progress.
In October 2015, the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) announced the eight projects selected in the first competitive call, which involved a rigorous international peer review process.
Five of the projects involve Australian researchers from the Australian National University; the universities of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Western Australia; and the CSIRO.
GRDC chair Richard Clark said it was exciting that Australian researchers and the GRDC have a major role in the IWYP initiative.
“Given the calibre of grains R&D in Australia it is no surprise that three of the eight first-round projects selected are being led by Australian researchers, with an additional two projects drawing heavily on Australian input," Mr Clark said.
He said the success of Australia’s research proposals demonstrated the strength of the national pre-breeding research base, its standing in the international science and, in particular, wheat research community, and its relevance to the real-world issues facing grain growers.
Globally, wheat is the most important staple crop, and with population growth and changing diets, demand is expected to increase by 60 per cent by 2050.
To meet this demand, annual wheat yield increases must grow from the current level of below 1 per cent to at least 1.7 per cent.
The IWYP initiative aims to lift wheat yield potential by up to 50 per cent over 20 years.
The first round of research activity focuses on issues that are likely to be of strong interest to Australian grain growers.
These include optimising plant architecture, modifying flowering time, and optimising harvest index (the amount of grain as a percentage of the whole plant).
The GRDC is contributing more than $10 million over three years to fund the Australian streams of the IWYP projects.
“IWYP is recognition that we could only ever hope to achieve the impact we need for step-change in wheat yield by coordinating worldwide researc," Mr Clark said.
“And while it’s a calculated, long-range gamble that even global R&D might lead to the necessary step-change breakthroughs to lift yields, at least by working collaboratively at the international level we can offset the risks of such blue-sky R&D.”
Mr Clark said the GRDC has an important role in representing Australia’s R&D community through this global-level engagement and advocating Australia's R&D capacity to help tackle the key constraint facing the wheat industry.
“As one of IWYP’s 12 investment partners, we look forward to deepening the relationship, including hosting a visit to Australia in December by key IWYP representatives, Dr Richard Flavell and Mr Steve Visscher.”