Dr Jon Clements (right) with molecular biologist Dr Huaan Yang.
PHOTO: Emma Leonard
Significantly increasing lupin yields and the area sown to lupins are two key objectives of the collaborative GRDC–Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) lupin breeding program, now led by senior lupin breeder Dr Jon Clements.
Dr Clements says the research is driven by the fact that in regions with acid soils, lupins are still the only rotation crop option: “So we have to make them as valuable as possible.”
The breeding program aims to increase the average lupin yield by 50 per cent to more than two tonnes per hectare. Dr Clements says he is keen to see this achieved in as short a time as possible.
His confidence is partly due to the fact that the program has access to a suite of usable molecular markers for a large number of the key traits. Markers have been developed by the team at DAFWA for diseases including resistance to anthracnose and phomopsis, and for characteristics such as low alkaloids, reduced pod shattering and soft seed.
Dr Clements says the progress made by the program in recent years has been strongly influenced by the work of molecular geneticist Dr Huaan Yang. Dr Yang developed the MFLP marker system, which represented a breakthrough in lupin breeding. These markers have recently been converted to more efficient SNP markers. Each year, Dr Yang screens between 20,000 and 30,000 individual plants in his search for new gene combinations.
The publication of the lupin genome in early 2013 gives the breeding team another tool to help boost the search for desirable traits, from higher yields to disease resistance and improved herbicide tolerance.
The researchers are also keen to breed for low and stable seed alkaloid levels. Low alkaloids are important for both livestock feed and potential new food markets. Keeping these levels stable and low under varying growing season conditions is important for market development.
Traits promoting greater winter vigour and different flowering time responses would also help to breed lines for a wider range of environments across Australia.
Dr Clements says the team would like to achieve the target of 50 per cent yield increase over the next decade. He says the new variety PBA Barlock, which is 12 per cent higher yielding than Tanjil, is a good start.
Dr Jonathan Clements,
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