AGT brings lupins into its fold

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Portrait of Mark Sweetingham, Peter Roberts and Dr Steve Jeffries

(From left) DAFWA grains research and development executive director Dr Mark Sweetingham, GRDC Western Panel chair Peter Roberts and AGT managing director and newly appointed GRDC managing director Dr Steve Jefferies announce AGT’s move into lupin breeding at the Grains Research Update in Perth.

PHOTO: Brad Collis

Australia’s largest plant breeding company, Australian Grain Technologies (AGT), is adding lupins to its grains breeding portfolio.


  • Australia grows more than 85 per cent of the world’s lupins.
  • Over the past five years, national lupin production has averaged 750,000 tonnes per year.
  • Lupins are suited to the acid and sandy soils found across large tracts of the Western Australian wheatbelt and play an important role in breaking cereal disease cycles and adding fixed nitrogen to cropping systems.
  • Lupin production expanded rapidly in WA through the 1980s and 1990s before weed issues and low prices resulted in many growers opting for canola (or fallow in low-rainfall areas) rather than lupins in rotation with cereals. As a result, production fell from a high of 1.5 million tonnes in 1999 to a low of just more than 200,000t in 2006.
  • Lupins have a unique combination of high protein, high fibre, low oil and virtually no starch.
  • The majority of global lupin production is used by stockfeed manufacturers for animal feed. There is increasing use of lupins in aquaculture.
  • Lupins generally compete against soybeans in export markets and are typically valued at 70 to 75 per cent of the price of soybean meal.

The Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA), and the GRDC announced the move in March at the Grains Research Update in Perth.

The AGT chief executive officer and newly appointed GRDC managing director, Dr Steve Jefferies, said the company had the scientific expertise and track record in wheat (including Mace and Scepter) to accelerate the rates of genetic gain in lupin breeding.

“We want to make a real difference to the value of lupins in Australian cropping systems,” he said.

Dr Jefferies said lupin breeder Dini Ganesalingam would join the AGT team and work closely with noted DAFWA breeder Dr Jon Clements.

Dr Jefferies said lupins complemented AGT’s existing cereal breeding work, which includes wheat, barley and durum.

“Lupins are the fifth largest winter grain crop in Australia and we will be examining how we can best increase the value of lupins in Australian farming systems through improved yield, disease resistance, broader adaptation, herbicide tolerance and seed quality,” he said.

DAFWA and the GRDC have co-invested in the breeding and commercial release of lupin varieties for the past 20 years.

The licensing arrangement will allow AGT, as the licensee, to commercially develop the germplasm developed through these combined breeding activities as well as invest directly in improved new varieties.

GRDC Western Panel chair Peter Roberts said AGT’s entry into lupin breeding was an exciting opportunity for the lupin industry. “AGT has a strong track record in the development and commercialisation of crop varieties that address the needs of WA and Australian growers,” Mr Roberts said.

“The GRDC will continue to support lupin development through our pre-breeding and systems agronomy investments.”

DAFWA’s grains research and development executive director Dr Mark Sweetingham said the injection of commercial breeding expertise will provide greater certainty for the future of lupin breeding.

“The move to a commercial partnership will maximise opportunities to provide new and improved traits, aimed at improving the profitability of growing lupins,” Dr Sweetingham said.

He said DAFWA will continue to deliver applied lupin agronomy and crop protection research through its regional network and provide expertise to existing pre-breeding genetic improvement projects.

More information:

Jodie Thomson, DAFWA,
08 9368 3937,

0427 423 283


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