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Significant Times For New Zealand Plant Breeding

For plant breeders the next couple of months will mark two significant achievements.

November (8th) celebrates the 40th anniversary of NZs accession to the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Convention.

Moreover, by the end of December Parliament is scheduled to pass the Plant Variety Rights Bill, which will align our domestic law with the globally agreed convention.

PBRA general manger Thomas Chin said the new legislation is important for plant breeders as it gives rights holders’ stronger measures to guard against infringements to their IP.

A major change under the new PVR Bill will enable plant breeders, through the regulations, to seek exemptions to the practice of farm saved seed.

In support of this a heads of agreement document, is being framed between plant breeders and farmer representatives.

Post the passage of the Bill, plant breeders and farmers will work with officials to lay the groundwork for a royalty collection system for those varieties where a royalty will be paid on farm saved seed. Royalties are important, as they help breeders re-invest to support the development and delivery of more choice for farmers and crop end users.

The efforts of breeders today are looking to develop new plant varieties, many that will not come to market for another 10 -15 years’ time.

Breeders typically focus on developing new and superior cultivars that have desired traits such as delivering more productivity, being resistant to diseases and pests, adapt to environmental stresses and be sustainable.

In recent times, breeders have developed or are working on a diverse range of innovative cultivars, such as:

  • higher protein milling wheat for millers, bakers, and food processors
  • improved yields of malting barley for maltsters and the brewing industry
  • earlier maturing maize silage hybrids used by the dairy industry
  • enhanced pest resistant barley
  • lower gluten levels in wheat flour
  • higher nutrition ryegrass for pastoral livestock and
  • longer keeping onions for consumers

These are a few examples to illustrate the role of plant breeders playing to keep our primary sector at the top of its game.

Plant breeding however requires a significant investment in time, in most cases over 10 years, and financial resources of around $1-$2million to bring a cultivar to market.

It is believed that the new PVR system will encourage a more successful plant breeding industry, both here in NZ and but also accessing products from offshore. Significant times for the industry indeed.


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