Irrigated wheat with dramatically reduced lodging potential could soon become a reality for growers with new germplasm likely to be delivered to seed breeding companies within three years from the Better Irrigated Wheat Germplasm research project funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
This could pave the way for better adapted irrigated wheat varieties, delivering valuable dividends to growers in crop production and profitability.
Lodging is a significant issue for irrigated wheat growers in New South Wales and Queensland, making it difficult to reliably achieve yields of more than eight tonnes per hectare.
In 2008 alone, regional losses from lodging were estimated to have totalled at least $20 million due to lower yields and increased harvesting costs.
CSIRO Research Director and Better Irrigated Wheat Germplasm project leader Dr Lynne McIntyre said the current research aimed to identify lodging resistant lines and transfer the lodging resistance into regionally-adapted elite germplasm.
“Basically the project aims to deliver to Australian breeding companies traits and regionally-adapted germplasm with stable high harvestable yields of above 7t/ha and reduced lodging where less than 80% of the crop is at a greater than 70 degree angle from the horizontal,” she said.
Dr McIntyre said Australian wheat breeding efforts were largely focussed on improving crop yields under water-limited conditions rather than for high yielding environments.
“Average yield in dryland environments is around 1.5t/ha whereas irrigated wheat yields are expected to be above 7t/ha, although potential exists for yields of at least 8t/ha,” she said.
“Just as the agronomy needs to be different for irrigated environments, the genetics also need to be tailored to the substantially greater yield potential and the subsequently different plant type.”
“We are evaluating varieties, elite breeding material from breeding companies, and other promising germplasm in trial sites at Gatton, Narrabri, Spring Ridge and Emerald.”
Lodging resistance is a complex area and involves characteristics associated with stem failure and/or failure of the root system to support the plant.
According to Dr McIntyre, stem and root lodging are important crop management considerations in the northern region due to the potential for heavy rain events that are accompanied by strong winds.
“Little is known about the frequency of lodging risk in the northern region or genetic variation for lodging risk at different levels of high yield,” Dr McIntyre said.
“Additionally there are unknowns about the genetic control of lodging, the attributes that underpin lodging and the best selection method for efficient and large-scale screening for reduced lodging.
“These are all questions that this project is addressing and the outcomes will provide the building blocks for improved, regionally-adapted wheat varieties that will yield and perform consistently under irrigation and maximise the gross margin return to growers.”
Fernanda Dreccer, CSIRO Crop Scientist
07 5466 3010; 0408 885137
Dr Lynne McIntyre, CSIRO Research Director
07 3214 2321
Sarah Jeffrey, Senior Consultant Cox Inall Communications
0418 152 859
GRDC Project Code