Elite global crop genetics program to expand

An international germplasm evaluation program that has been delivering elite bread wheat germplasm for developing advanced new Australian wheat varieties is to be expanded to include durum wheat and barley.

The germplasm is imported through the GRDC’s CAIGE project that tests the material in Australian yield and disease trials. Through CAIGE, mechanisms have been put in place to fast track and centralise the annual importation, evaluation and data-sharing of internationally bred germplasm.

The additional durum and barley genetic resources are to be sourced from the same centres providing bread wheat germplasm. These are the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). All activities will continue to be run under CAIGE (the CIMMYT-Australia-ICARDA Germplasm Evaluation program).

While CAIGE is coordinated by Professor Richard Trethowan, the director of the Narrabri Plant Breeding Institute, Dr Mark Dieters of the University of Queensland has been appointed to coordinate the introduction of ICARDA barley germplasm. Dr Dieters is a quantitative geneticist based at the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences and is responsible for analysing data from CAIGE field trials.

Dr Dieters says the CAIGE program is special because of the streamlined processes and integrated database developed to fast track the screening of imported genetic resources. In a system unique to Australia, seed from CIMMYT is provided a year earlier than elsewhere in the world to compensate for delays due to Australia’s strict quarantine restrictions.

Dr Dieters says that unlike CAIGE activities for wheat, which only imports elite material, the barley sub-program will also import landraces from ICARDA – a specialist centre for barley breeding and barley biodiversity.

Since CAIGE uses in-kind contributions from breeding companies to run the majority of field trials, Dr Dieters has been negotiating with the main barley-breeding companies to establish a similar system to test future shipments of ICARDA barley.

Also, the GRDC’s Dr Omid Ansari, project manager for traits, is using the CAIGE model to expand and rationalise the importation of chickpea germplasm and to make information available to breeders through the CAIGE database and website.

“Australia has been importing chickpea germplasm from ICARDA since 2007,” Dr Ansari says. “Given we have the import and quarantine processes in place already, it makes sense to expand the genetic base for the chickpea program by also importing elite material from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India.”

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GRDC Project Code UQ0043, US00045

Region National, Overseas, North