Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.02.2002

Match barley to Oz environment.

BIRCHIP farmer David Smith has an extensive 'wish list' when it comes to cereal research priorities.

Mr Smith was an invited speaker at the 2001 Australian Barley Technical Symposium in Canberra, which was supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC. He said that members of the Birchip Cropping Group listed the following as top priorities for barley over the next 10 years:

  • varieties that are tolerant to a range of toxicities, including boron and salinity. "We think we have got on top of many of the 'above-the-ground problems' - it's the ones beneath the surface that are harder to fix ," he said;
  • varieties that have frost- and drought-tolerance mechanisms. "From what we heard at the symposium, gene transfer technology looks as though it could help with drought tolerance and there may be new management tools we can use to reduce frost damage," he said; varieties with varying maturities which can be sown at stages during the growing season. Mr Smith said breeders had been able to produce wheat varieties with a range of maturities but the release process had been slower with barley. He was heartened, however, with the news at the symposium that, by usi ng molecular markers and other fast-track breeding aids, sc ientists hoped to shorten the time taken to breed and release a malting barley variety from about 14 years to eight years;
  • conti nue to make tests avai lable so that crop diseases can be quickly diagnosed. Tests for cereal cyst nematodes, take-all and Rhizoctonia developed by the SA Research and Development In st itute were examples of this.

Mr Smith believes that if these 'wishes' , and others, become reality, it will be possible to significantly lift water-use efficiency levels. " I think we can also assist in reducin g greenhouse gases by ensuring minimum cultivation practices are successful, and accepted."

Region National, North, South, West