Two Australian research teams are on the brink of making genetically-engineered lupins a commercial reality in projects funded by growers through the GRDC.
Melbourne-based Calgene Pacific, a private bio-engineering company, announced in May that it has successfully developed a way to transfer genes into lupins. The work was undertaken in cooperation with the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA), based in Western Australia.
Calgene Pacific managing director Michael Dalling said the technology, a world first, will be used initially to develop herbicide resistant lupin varieties.
Meanwhile, at CSIRO Plant Industry in Canberra, a team led by TJ Higgins and Don Spencer is concentrating on current commercial lupin cultivars and advanced breeding lines in a parallel effort to genetically alter lupins with agriculturally useful traits.
Dr Spencer said that the CSIRO team is still facing a technical hurdle getting altered plants to grow. Once this problem is overcome, the CSIRO team plans to introduce into lupin a gene that makes a protein that is unusually rich in sulphurcontaining amino acids.
This would boost the nutritional value of lupin grain. Lupin meal, for instance, is low in sulfur-amino acids for animal and human diets.
Dr Spencer said other genes on the agenda would give resistance to bean yellow mosaic virus and cucumber mosaic virus.
C L I M A and the W A Department of Agriculture hope to conduct the first field trials next year. If all goes well the first seed of herbicide resistant varieties could be available to growers in 1998.
CONTACT: Dr Michael Dalling 03 419 9844;
Dr TJ Higgins or Dr Don Spencer 06 246 4911