New ballgame for wheat breeders

IT WILL be graingrowers — through their ongoing purchases of seed — who decide Australia's most successful wheat-breeding company in the years to come.

That was the message Kerrie Gleeson, chief executive officer of SunPrime Seeds, and the company's senior wheat breeder Frank Ellison, gave to a Grains Research Update at Boomi recently.

More than 100 growers attended the update, one of the series organised annually across the northern grains region by the GRDC in association with NSW Agriculture, Queensland's Department of Primary Industries (QDPI), CSIRO, agribusiness and the peak grower bodies NSW Farmers and Queensland's AgForce.

Mr Gleeson told growers that SunPrime Seeds was the first company contracted by the GRDC under its new wheat-breeding programs.

SunPrime Seeds Pty Ltd was an established wheat-breeding and seed-wholesaling company, having been reconstituted to take on additional responsibilities for wheat breeding for the national grains industry from the consortium's research bases at Narrabri and' I am worth.

GrainCorp, the GRDC and the University of Sydney hold equal shares in SunPrime Seeds Pty Ltd.

Mr Gleeson told his Boomi Update audience that Australia's former wheat-breeding structure has changed with the introduction of incentive for investment, with Plant Breeder's Rights and End Point Royalties.

End Point Royalties — generally $1 per tonne — would reward the plant breeders who best met the needs of growers and end users. SunPrime Seeds would use the royalties — admittedly still an issue with many growers — to fund ongoing research and the breeding of new and continually improving varieties.

The SunPrime Seeds wheat-breeding program will continue to focus heavily on supplying growers in the northern grains region with high-yielding and disease-resistant wheat varieties.

"Other target markets for the new consortium will include South and Western Australia, where, to be successful, we will need to develop a new suite of varieties. In the longer term, we expect our varieties may become attractive to overseas industries as well.

"We believe we can cut the time necessary to produce a new variety from ten to around six years," Dr Ellison said.

As for safeguards for growers under the new, commercialised, structure, he said that other grains, like sorghum, continued to cope without independent authorities testing new varieties.

"In sorghum, as in so many other fields of business, it is a case of buyer beware," Dr Ellison said. "But if we put out varieties that don't deliver what we promise, you won't keep buying from us."

Program 1 Contact: Mr Kerrie Gleeson 02 6881 6210

Region North