Harnessing hybrid vigour


Yield increase from hybrid vigour — not once, but year after year — is the target of current research into genetically engineered reversible male canola sterility.

A 10-25 per cent increase in yield is possible based on the premise that unrelated lines of plants, when crossed, deliver up to 25 per cent higher yields in the year after crossing — a phenomenon known as hybrid vigour.

If crop stocks could be regularly cross-pollinated, growers could benefit from these higher yields — year after year. The project is supported by graingrowers and the Federal Government through the GRDC.

Technically, this feat requires that cross-pollination needs to be assured. The most efficient way to achieve this is to genetically block pollen production in one line, guaranteeing its pollination by an adjacent plant of a related line.

Research has identified genes essential for pollen production in canola, opening the door to a male sterility system for canola plants.

Chemically reversing the male sterility — the subject of ongoing research — will allow crops to continue with regeneration the following season without compromising the seed bank.

One goal of the research, according to project supervisor Roger Parish, is to extend the technologies, along with a similar 25 per cent yield increase, into the wheat field.

Program 2.2.1 Contact: Dr Roger Parish 03 9479 1657