Grains Research and Development

Date: 04.11.2013

Pasta, pasta and more pasta – durum in Italy

Author: Dr Jason Able

Dr Jason Able from Durum Breeding Australia reports from the International Symposium for Genetics and Breeding of Durum Wheat held in Italy

Photo (from left) of Dr Mike Sissons, Dr Jason Able and Professor Diane Mather

(From left) Dr Mike Sissons, Dr Jason Able and Professor Diane Mather examining durum breeding lines in Italy

Developing international research linkages was high on the agenda when I attended the International Symposium for Genetics and Breeding of Durum Wheat in Rome with colleagues Dr Mike Sissons and Professor Diane Mather from Durum Breeding Australia (DBA).

With more than 200 delegates attending, we were able to engage with other durum researchers and breeders and also explain to the international community the work being done in Australia.

Several follow-up interactions are now in train as a consequence of this opportunity. A secondary aim of the trip was to visit two key Italian institutions – the National Research Centre’s Institute of Plant Genetics in Bari and the Agriculture Research Council’s Centre for Cereal Research in Foggia – to gain an appreciation of their research capabilities. In particular we were keen to see whether a germplasm exchange could be initiated between DBA and these Italian institutions and the extent to which we might be able to collaborate.

To ensure that we continue to drive the Australian durum industry forward, several key recommendations resulting from this exchange have been delivered to the GRDC.

One of the most significant opportunities for Australian growers may result from the contact we made with several pasta companies that are keen to test small samples of the latest Australian varieties. For the southern region, this is particularly important.

If further growth in the southern region for durum can be encouraged, there is the potential to develop export opportunities to countries such as Italy.

Having pasta companies (including Rummo, Barilla, De Cecco and Divella) pre-testing Australia’s latest varieties means that if we do build up a surplus to what is required domestically, there will be buyers ready to take this up. With samples being prepared for shipment from the 2013 harvest, we hope to make a follow-up visit in April 2014. We may also this time include neighbouring countries such as Tunisia and possibly Morocco to ensure that DBA captures as much information as possible about these markets as well.

Another important observation from the symposium and the institute visits to Bari and Foggia was the need for DBA to search through the publicly accessible international durum germplasm databases for potentially useful germplasm that has not yet been introduced into Australia’s germplasm pools.

Extensive landrace collections exist at Bari and some of these may prove valuable for abiotic and/or biotic constraints that we confront in Australia.

We have already made a start on this and requested seed from selected lines that were assessed while the DBA team was in Bari.

As a result of this trip, and with the support of Dr Ken Street and his team, we will also gain access to a focused identification of germplasm strategy (FIGS) set to evaluate for crown rot resistance.

DBA will screen this set, and from it potentially identify and use additional parents for crossing (in addition to what Dr Anke Martin from the University of Southern Queensland will develop for DBA over the next five years). 

From a breeder’s perspective, it was informative interacting with other durum breeders such as Associate Professor Curtis Pozniak, whose program in Canada is one of the world’s largest developers of premium-quality durum varieties. This program makes extensive use of molecular breeding – something DBA is moving towards with Professor Diane Mather and her team at the University of Adelaide.

We were able to discuss with Professor Pozniak arrangements for germplasm exchange between the two programs, while Professor Mather and Professor Pozniak will exchange information on molecular breeding methods.

Tapping into some of Professor Pozniak’s advanced breeding material could prove very useful for enhancing some of our quality attributes even further. Similarly, Professor Pozniak will be able to assess advanced DBA entries and source new germplasm for his program. We are planning reciprocal visits to each other’s programs during August to October 2014.

More information:

Dr Jason Able,


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GRDC Project Code DAN00163

Region North, South, Overseas