HAVING conquered the world of cereals, Western Australian-based breeding company InterGrain has begun exploring opportunities to diversify into other crops, with pulses the key target moving forward.
The company has been investing in its core cereal program - wheat, barley and oats - for many years and while it does not want to duplicate any of the work already being done by pulse breeding programs around Australia, it does see a value-adding opportunity.
With that in mind, InterGrain has collaborated with Chickpea Breeding Australia (CBA) - a joint partnership between the New South Wales Department of Industries (NSW DPI) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) - to conduct additional trials in WA this season.
NSW DPI chickpea breeder Kristy Hobson said CBA had been conducting trials in WA but partnering with InterGrain provided an opportunity for more field sites.
"It gives us greater coverage in terms of locations and we've gone from four sites to six, with additional sites being added at Merredin and Northampton which gives us the opportunity to have increased scale and coverage in the WA environment," Dr Hobson said.
"We're committed to expanding the chickpea area in Australia and WA is a key expansion area for us as there is a lot of interest.
"We feel like with this new opportunity and investment we can start to tackle some more difficult traits such as aluminium tolerance, chilling tolerance and general adaptation and grain quality which the breeding program has been working on for many years."
It's InterGrain's first foray into a new area of breeding with the plan being to use one of its internal breeders to head up their own pulse strategy, hopefully from next year.
InterGrain chief executive officer Tress Walmsley said together with CBA, they would look at how to fast-track the chickpea program in WA.
"Internally, it's also a good business practice and there's a risk management factor involved as if we're only in cereals and something happens either agri-politically or if there was to be a major cereal disease incident, we would be very exposed," Ms Walmsley said.
"Being involved in other crops, such as pulses, allows us to be more resilient to some of those unforeseen changes.
"There is also so much positive talk of the future potential of alternative proteins and as a business growth opportunity, it's also a great space for us to be getting into."
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