New wheat varieties lift disease and maturity options

Key points

  • Three new high-yielding, high-quality wheat varieties with good resistance ratings to the three rusts (stem, leaf and stripe) have been released for growing in the 2015 season
  • The varieties were developed by Australian Grain Technologies (in which the GRDC is a shareholder)
  • The new varieties are Condo (fast maturing) Sunmate (medium to fast maturity) and Mitch (mid-season maturing)

Condo, Sunmate and Mitch, three new wheat varieties from the Australian Grain Technologies (AGT) breeding program (in which the GRDC is a stakeholder), add to the range of new, improved varieties available for this season.

They cover mid-season and fast-maturing types for a range of sowing times. They are also reported to offer high rust resistance, high yield, high grain quality and root lesion nematode tolerance.

Photo of Meiqin Lu

Narrabri-based Australian Grain Technologies plant breeder Dr Meiqin Lu.


Condo is the fastest maturing of the new varieties and is rated as high quality and high yielding with good disease resistance. Its quick maturity suits areas with typically short season, and also facilitates late sowing in other districts.

While the sowing window varies according to district and aspects such as elevation and frost-proneness, Condo is generally suitable for sowing from late May to late June.

In both AGT and National Variety Trials (NVT) trials, Condo has yielded well for its maturity group and, averaged over several seasons, has tended to out-yield varieties with a similar maturity.

Condo is rated moderately tolerant (MT) to acid soils (aluminium tolerance), a valuable feature if planting into soils that may have moderate acidity problems in the topsoil and/or subsoil.

It is classified Australian Hard (AH) in the southern, south-eastern and northern zones. It has large grain size, high test weight, low screenings and a moderately resistant (MR) rating for black point. Black point can be a major quality issue in years with wet and mild springs.

Condo is rated MR to leaf rust. Leaf rust is more difficult to control with fungicides than stripe rust and a good resistance rating, such as MR, is the safest way to protect a crop from major yield loss, as well as help prevent the emergence of new strains that can render resistant varieties susceptible.

It has good resistance against stem rust (MR rating), which can be a damaging disease if susceptible varieties are grown. Choosing varieties with good stem rust resistance helps reduce the risk of new resistant strains developing.

Condo is also rated MR to moderately susceptible (MR-MS) to stripe rust, generally regarded as adequate resistance, especially in drier environments. Under severe disease pressure, especially early infections, fungicide treatment may be warranted if favourable disease conditions are forecast.

Condo also has a MR rating against cereal cyst nematode, a common issue in south-west New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The variety is expected to be particularly useful in areas such as south-west NSW, north-west NSW, north-central Victoria and north-east Victoria. It also will suit later sowings in south-east and north-east NSW and moderate to higher-rainfall Victorian districts.


Sunmate is medium-to-fast maturing variety suited to the 20 May to end of June planting window in most areas of NSW and Queensland. It flowers four days earlier than Suntop. Sunmate is similar in maturity to LongReach Spitfire and slightly later in maturity than Livingston.

Sunmate is classified Australian Prime Hard (APH) in the northern zone but currently rated Australian Hard (AH) for the south-eastern zone. It has a MR rating for black point and has tested high on the scale of grain size, with high test weight and low screenings.

In NVT and AGT trials, Sunmate has been the highest-yielding quicker-maturing APH variety. Financial analysis of later sown trials in NSW and Queensland shows that, on average, Sunmate has achieved the highest financial returns of short-season varieties (based on yield, protein and quality grading). 

Sunmate is resistant to moderately resistant (R-MR) to leaf rust, and MR to stem and stripe rust. However, monitoring crops, especially for stripe rust in the early growth stages before adult plant resistance kicks in, remains important.

Root lesion nematode (Pratylenchus thornei, or Pt) is regarded as a major issue in many wheat-growing areas of NSW and Queensland. Recent surveys in northern NSW and southern Queensland cropping areas consistently show Pt presence in 60 to 70 per cent of paddocks.

Sunmate has shown excellent Pt tolerance and resistance. Its Pt tolerance rating is tolerant to moderately tolerant (T-MT), and it has a MR rating. Pt resistance and tolerance ratings are regarded as important considerations for planning rotations and for choosing varieties in areas prone to Pt nematodes.

Good agronomic traits include strong straw with excellent threshability.


Mitch is a very high-yielding (dryland and irrigation) mid-season variety, similar in maturity to EGA Gregory and Sunvale. Its sowing window varies across districts but is generally regarded as suited to 1 to 30 May sowing and, in many districts, to early June.

Mitch is described as “an exceptionally high yielder”. Averaged over NVT and AGT trials over the past three years across NSW and Queensland, it has yielded yielded equally to or higher than current varieties with a similar or slightly quicker maturity rating. Due most likely to strong straw, Mitch has also yielded high in irrigation trials. It has been shown to be adaptable to both high and low-yielding circumstances.

Mitch has useful tolerance to yellow leaf spot, with a MS-MR rating. It has a moderately intolerant (MI) rating to Pt and tolerance to crown rot (MS), although not as good as the most tolerant variety, Sunguard.

Mitch is rated MR to stem and leaf rust and MR-MS to stripe rust. An MR-MS stripe rust rating is generally regarded as adequate, but under severe disease pressure, especially early infections, fungicide treatment may be warranted if favourable disease conditions are forecast.

It is classified AH in the northern zone and APW in the south-eastern zone. Mitch has a large grain size, with high test weight and low screenings. It is rated MR to black point.

Seed availability

Commercial quantities of these three new wheats should be available for the 2015 season. The varieties are protected by PBR and all production (except seed saved for owners’ planting) is liable to an End Point Royalty, which helps fund future wheat breeding

Private research expansion

A private grains research company – Australian Grain Technologies (AGT) – has bought part of a farm west of Narrabri, New South Wales, to turn into a dedicated northern region grains research facility.

The company recently purchased part of ‘Oakville’, an irrigated farming block. AGT already operates alongside the University of Sydney at Narrabri’s Plant Breeding Institute (PBI).

Senior wheat breeder Dr Meiqin Lu says a strong focus of the new research facility will be soil-borne diseases and increased yields.

“Because we’re regionally based we will focus on regional problems and the main problems here are crown rot and root lesion nematodes,” she says.

“Recent GRDC research has found that 60 to 70 per cent of farm paddocks in the north have root lesion nematodes so we are really going to target these two major problems that are difficult for growers to manage.

“With most leaf diseases you can spray fungicides, but the soil-borne diseases are much more difficult to manage. Part of the answer is rotation but a resistant variety is
the key.

“The aim of purchasing this new irrigation property is to increase our breeding capacity, particularly for improving yield in the north, but also to put more effort into developing resistance and tolerance to the major root disease problems. Rust resistance and grain quality will remain high priorities for the breeding program.”

Narrabri operations manager and assistant breeder Tom Kapcejevs said the irrigation on the new property means AGT will be able to breed improved wheat varieties for all the planting windows in the northern region. 

The property will undergo some changes to transform it from a commercial cotton farm to a plant breeding research station.

Lateral irrigation systems will be installed to improve the accuracy of trials and facilitate different planting times. 

While AGT has paid for this investment, Mr Kapcejevs says it is essentially the money of local growers at work because most of AGT’s income is generated by End Point Royalties (EPRs).

Dr Lu says the investment is an example of how EPRs are put to work to for the industry’s future: “We invest those EPRs to accelerate genetic improvement for traits important to northern growers,” she says.

AGT is a joint venture by the GRDC, Limagrain, the South Australian Government, and the University of Adelaide.

More information:

Kerrie Gleeson,
0427 958 259,;

James Whiteley,
0419 840 589,;

Meiqin Lu,;

National Variety Trials,


Stripe rust management in Suntop and LongReach Spitfire in 2015


Science within reach of heat-tolerant wheats

Region North, South