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Trans-Tasman collaboration has new business opportunities

09 January, 2008

Business opportunities are emerging for new wheat varieties being developed under the AUSGRAINZ alliance between the CSIRO Plant Industry and New Zealand’s Crop & Food Research.

A production-line of new wheat varieties for high rainfall zones has been established with most of the milling wheat varieties being developed through HRZ Wheats Pty Ltd – a company set up by AUSGRAINZ and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

Chief of CSIRO Plant Industry, Dr Jeremy Burdon, says the collaboration between Australian and New Zealand scientists is proving beneficial on both sides of the Tasman.

“Wheats grown in New Zealand are placed under more disease pressure so we find that the breeders can generate results much faster,” Dr Burdon says. ”Screening processes and associated crosses made in Crop & Food Research’s disease-intensive nurseries have conferred good resistance to both stripe rust and leaf rust.”

He says just as importantly, trialling of breeding lines in Australia can help select for those best suited to the Australian environment.

“We find testing can be more efficient by using both climates, not to mention the advantage of combining scientific expertise.”

Crop & Food Research CEO Mark Ward says that without the degree of co-operation generated at both the scientific and business levels through the partnership, New Zealand might not be able to afford the high standard of grain breeding research currently being undertaken.

“The new dual-purpose wheat varieties developed in New Zealand, in collaboration with the Australian partners, are in demand in Australia’s higher rainfall zones,” he says.

“These dual-purpose wheats can be sown from February to April, grazed through the cool months and harvested for grain in summer. They effectively fill an autumn/winter feed gap and have a high nutritive value, often leading to very good live-weight gains in livestock.”

The AUSGRAINZ partnership is also working on new durum varieties that can be grown beyond traditional growing regions due to traits like salt-tolerance. Durum is normally highly sensitive to saline soils, limiting the area where it can be grown.

The partnership is flexible and designed to couple expertise rather than duplicate it, in order to produce better results for farmers in both countries

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