By Bernie Reppel
Every mungbean ever brought into the country is undergoing comprehensive evaluation for yield potential, seed quality, disease resistance and agronomic traits, to make sure Australian growers can maintain the highest-quality product in an increasingly competitive export market.
Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (QDPI&F) plant breeder Dr Merrill Fordyce had 1000 mungbean lines in replicated trials at the Hermitage Research Station, Warwick, over the 2003-2004 summer season.
The lines came from the GRDC-supported mungbean breeding program begun by the CSIRO in the 1960s, and from the Tropical Forage Crops Germplasm Collection Centre in Biloela in Central Queensland.
The mungbean varieties released in Australia in recent years by CSIRO have been selections from the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre in Taiwan, chosen for their physiological adaptation to Australian production areas.
Dr Fordyce says the wealth of germplasm already in the Australian mungbean collection had never been subject to comprehensive morphological evaluation and characterisation as a complete set before the QDPI&F project began.
An example of what researchers hope to discover is the associated work by Kingaroy QDPI&F pathologist Michael Fuhlbohm, who has tested about 200 lines in the glasshouse. He has found 14 lines with better resistance to tan spot than all current commercial mungbean varieties.
Similarly, in-field evaluation of the germplasm lines has found the promise of a greater degree of powdery mildew resistance than found in commercial cultivars. Powdery mildew is endemic to northern NSW and Queensland mungbean production areas, and can generally be relied upon to infect late-planted trials.
The Australian mungbean industry has had a chequered production history - 20,000 tonnes in 1996, 50,000 tonnes in 1997, 35,000 tonnes in 2001 - but the Australian Mungbean Association (AMA) believes markets can be found for 50,000 tonnes as long as production is consistent.
Dr Fordyce says among the keys to consistent production are varieties with increased yield and height (for easier harvesting), improved disease resistance and grain quality that appeals to international markets that still use visual assessments when buying.
“Many countries have increased mungbean production dramatically, and they"re doing it much more cheaply than Australia, so our industry is only going to survive if we have quality,” Dr Fordyce says.
For more information:
Dr Merrill Fordyce, 07 4660 3666, Merrill.Fordyce@dpi.qld.gov.au
GRDC Research code:
DAQ 00060, program 2