Moroccan trip a valuable opportunity for Australian wheat breeders

07 May 2019 Wheat News

Story courtesy of Gregor Heard – FarmOnline

APRIL is a frantic month for Australia’s wheat breeders – there are around 100,000 trial plots to allocate and material to have ready over multiple sites across the nation.

So it’s fair to say when one of the chief wheat breeders with one of Australia’s largest cereal breeding businesses takes the 22 hour trip to Morocco there is more on offer than mint tea and intricately woven carpets.

Allan Rattey, national early generation wheat breeder with Intergrain, recently toured Morocco as part of the CIMMYT Australia ICARDA Germplasm Enrichment (CAIGE) project.

During his time in Morocco he toured a number of ICARDA (International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dryland Areas) trials, looking for genetic material that may be promising in the Australian context.

Dr Rattey had a look first hand at a range of novel genetic material in the form of promising ICARDA lines grown next to popular Australian varieties for benchmarking.

He said there was exciting material that could greatly assist in Australian conditions.

“Genetic material from Sudan, grown by ICARDA wheat breeder Tadesse Wudelaw, has great adaptation to severe heat which will be really useful for us in Australian conditions, helping us adjust to climate change,” Dr Rattey said.

“Having that targeted genetic material in our hands is great for the industry in the medium to long term.”

“It has been a really bad year for crown rot in Morocco so you can clearly see varieties with good resistance to that, which will enable genetic gain for this costly soil-borne fungus down the track.”

He added making the trip also threw up some unexpected benefits.

“Just through the networking opportunities you get to hear about work that you weren’t expecting to.

“On this trip we ended up meeting with Miguel Sanchez-Garcia, a winter wheat breeder doing some exciting things and we’ll bring some of his material back to Australia, which wasn’t something that was on the cards initially, it is a case of getting over there and having a chat to people and see what is happening and is relevant to our breeding targets.”

Dr Rattey said it was fantastic to see the scope of work going on at ICARDA, where better wheat breeding can be the difference between having food on the table and hunger for many farmers and local people.

“As a breeder in Australia, you are trying to improve germplasm in adapting farming systems and hope to boost yield and profitability.

“In CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) research centres, such as ICARDA the whole mandate is to help put food on the table through various pathways.

“It brings it into perspective as a breeder when I visit the CGIAR centres, you see the very real impact the work these people are doing can have.”

On the Australian front, Dr Rattey said farmers would have to be patient to see the material identified at ICARDA show up in a commercial variety.

“Should we be able to cross the material successfully in a first cross (F1) derived line, you could maybe see the variety out to farmers in 10 years, if it required going to a second cross to get the right suite of traits you could be talking about 15 years, but it is all part of the ongoing push to improve our industry.”

Article Published Thursday 2nd May 2019. For full article see: