Longerenong College student Georgie Mack.
PHOTO: Donna Winfield, Longerenong College
Students in Victoria’s Wimmera region have had the chance to become familiar with private-sector grains R&D since a $14-million plant-breeding centre began operating adjacent to their classrooms.
Opened by Bayer CropScience at Longerenong College near Horsham in February 2014, the wheat and oilseeds breeding centre covers about 63 hectares of the 1000ha campus.
It comprises a glasshouse, laboratories and 60ha of wheat and canola trials under lateral irrigation. These are being used as a training ground for college students as part of their studies.
Bayer CropScience canola breeder David Pike says that, to date, the new facilities have given 10 students an insight into the processes involved in developing new crop varieties.
As part of a ‘research methods’ subject, students are involved in a range of activities, from crossing plants in the glasshouse, to analysing wheat quality in the laboratory and harvesting trials, Mr Pike says.
Longerenong College student and aspiring agronomist Georgie Mack is keen to experience the training provided by the breeding centre when she completes the second year of her Advanced Diploma of Agriculture in 2015.
Recently awarded a $3000 scholarship under the GRDC’s Agricultural Training Awards scheme, Ms Mack hopes the new centre will help demystify private-sector R&D and its expanding role in the Australian grains industry.
Mr Pike says the new breeding centre at Longerenong is part of Bayer CropScience’s global push into wheat breeding, in addition to its long-term involvement in canola breeding.
As part of this push, the company has invested in six other wheat cultivar centres in the US, Canada, France, Germany and Ukraine.
In Australia, the state-of-the-art complex in Victoria’s Wimmera has become the hub for Bayer CropScience’s national wheat and canola breeding program.
The company is developing wheat cultivars with better disease resistance, plus a canola variety that is less prone to pod-shatter, Mr Pike says.
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