Australia now hosts one of the world’s strategic crop genebanks following the official opening of the $6 million Australian Grains Genebank (AGG) in Horsham, Victoria.
In opening the state-of-the-art facility, the Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Peter Walsh, said the genebank would house about 300 million seeds from around the world, which will be used in current and future plant breeding programs.
“There is more than 2.7 kilometres of shelf space at minus 20ºC, a capacity to hold 200,000 packets of seed and more than 2000 different crop species,” he said.
“These collections could hold the key to plant breeders finding new ways to tackle drought, frost, and plant pests and diseases in Australian and overseas crops.”
The Victorian Government and the GRDC have each invested $3 million in the facility and will each also contribute up to $600,000 a year for five years towards operating costs.
The AGG merges three seed collections from Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland into one national facility.
GRDC board member Sharon Starick said that for the first time, state and federal authorities had agreed to centralise crop genetic resource centres within a national genebank.
“I’d like to thank those people who for decades have worked behind the scenes nurturing these collections and preserving this material,” Mrs Starick said.
“This partnership will deliver real benefits to Australian growers, processors, marketers, breeders and regional Australians now and into the future.”
Victorian scientist and grower Tony Gregson acknowledged those who he said had helped make the genebank a reality, including: Dr Cary Fowler, the architect of the Global Crop Diversity Trust; Don Marshall, who wrote the first of nearly 20 reports on plant genetic resources in Australia in the mid-1970s; Bob Clements, who wrote the definitive report that established the AGG; and rural RD&E strategist Bruce Kefford, from the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries.
GRDC Project Code DAV00131
Region North, South, National