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Business through Transtasman science collaboration

18 December 2007

New business generated through trans-Tasman scientific collaboration

New Zealand and Australian scientists say they’re delighted with the amount of business likely to be generated out of the AUSGRAINZ collaboration between CSIRO Plant Industry and Crop & Food Research.

Crop & Food Research CEO Mark Ward says a pipe-line of new wheat varieties for the high rainfall zones has been established. Most of the milling wheat varieties are being developed through HRZ Wheats Pty Ltd, a company set up by the AUSGRAINZ partners and the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation.

“We are seeing outstanding co-operation at both the scientific and business levels through this partnership,” Mr Ward says. “I think it would be safe to say that without partnerships like this, New Zealand would not be able to afford the high standard of grain breeding taking place in this country.”

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

“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.”

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

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“Wheats grown in New Zealand are placed under more disease pressure so we find that the breeders are able to generate results at a much greater pace when trialling different cultivars there. Screening processes and associated crosses made in Crop & Food Research’s disease-intensive nurseries has conferred good resistance to both stripe rust and leaf rust.”

Dr Burdon says just as importantly, trialling of cultivars in Australia can help the joint breeding activities select for varieties suited to the Australian environment. “So we find we can be testing more efficiently by using both climates, not to mention the advantage of combining scientific expertise,” Dr Burdon says.

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.

More information about AUSGRAINZ

AUSGRAINZ’ wheat improvement programme combines CSIRO’s established track record in developing high yielding varieties for the high rainfall zone with Crop & Food Research’s milling quality materials for a similar environment in New Zealand, and its access to diverse international germplasm.

The partnership is currently investigating expanding its collaboration into potential new areas such as root research and nutrient leaching, biotechnologies and crop disease research.

The partnership is flexible and designed to couple expertise rather than duplicate it, in order to come up with better results for farmers in both New Zealand and Australia.

Key scientists:

Dr Richard Richards leads research to breed high performance crops for Australia at CSIRO Plant Industry. He says the CSIRO is offering New Zealand plant breeders new information about key molecular markers, which will help transfer robust characteristics into New Zealand wheat varieties.

Steve Shorter and Andy Hay breed bread wheat and feed grains in New Zealand at Crop & Food Research. Andy Hay says New Zealand’s extensive germplasm bank is helping the Australians develop more flexible grains.


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