By Rebecca Thyer
Australia needs to double its 6.6 million tonne barley production, increase average yields from two tonnes to 2.6 tonnes a hectare and expand the growing area from 3.3 million hectares to 5-5.3 million hectares by 2020 to meet increasing demand.
These are the hard facts behind the GRDC"s vigorous support of a national barley-breeding program to be called Barley Breeding Australia (BBA).
Foundation partners include the GRDC, Western Australian Department of Agriculture, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries and the University of Adelaide.
BBA also plans to establish close ties between growers, Barley Australia, maltsters and the newly established Livestock Feed Grain Users" Group.
GRDC managing director Peter Reading says the program will be underpinned by a national market-focused business plan and driven by a determination to achieve best operating practice in barley breeding. "It will take a whole-of-industry approach, setting strategic direction for barley-breeding programs to optimise support for Australia"s barley industry, which has a farm-gate value of $1.5 billion in 2004-05 and total value chain worth substantially more," he says.
The synergies and efficiencies of a nationally coordinated breeding approach have been recognised by the program"s partners, who will establish performance targets to ensure stakeholders" needs are met, while securing the industry"s future prosperity.
"A strong consultative relationship will be established with Barley Australia as a conduit for market signals to feed back into the breeding programs," Mr Reading says.
BBA"s interim board, comprising representatives of all the signatories, will capture national grower stakeholder inputs and consult with industry at a national level to reflect the needs of all sectors.
Three regionally managed breeding nodes, west, south-east and north, will be established. "The program will coordinate the development and release of new varieties, ensuring there are appropriate protocols, and will endorse new varieties in consultation with Barley Australia," Mr Reading adds.
The program"s management committee aims to ensure intellectual property issues do not impede operations, giving breeders full licence and freedom to operate and access germplasm, markers and software. It will also establish benchmarks and key performance indicators to monitor the performance of the programs.
"Between now and the end of July we will be discussing with grower bodies and industry, including grain exporters, domestic and export maltsters, brewers, and feedgrain users, our plans for BBA," Mr Reading says. "The results of this consultation will be critical in finalising barley breeding arrangements going forward."
For more information: Peter Reading, GRDC managing director;
John Harvey, GRDC executive manager varieties, 02 6272 5525