Editorial by John Lovett, $100m wheat competition: three to start

Photo of John Lovett

$100m wheat competition: three to start

"A GREAT wheat competition" has begun in Australia with the announcement of three world-class grain breeding ventures.

Each of the new breeding ventures is an independent, competitive and commercial entity, and each is designed to significantly enhance the global competitiveness of Australia's wheat industry.

From now on, the three major GRDC-supported wheatbreeding ventures will compete nationally to produce the best regionally adapted, but world-competitive, wheats for the market. While some final adjustments remain to be made, negotiations between the respective shareholders have been completed.

Graingrowers had been involved in setting the agenda to develop the wheat-breeding ventures, which was announced in Perth three years ago, when the Grains Council of Australia (GCA) and theGRDCjointly agreed key principles and outcomes for future wheat-breeding investments. This led to three years of planning and negotiation.

The process began at Grains Week in Perth in 1999 and was announced at the Grains Week meeting in Melbourne in 2002. (Grains Week is the annual general meeting of the Grains Council of Australia.)

Growers throughout Australia's $5.7 billion wheat industry will be the winners, as heightened competition between breeding ventures will result in the production of more and better wheat varieties, faster and more economically. Breeders and scientists will also benefit from having opportunities and career paths in wellresourced world-class organisations that have a vision for Australian technology and intellectual property in global agriculture.

Investments in the three ventures will replace the GRDC's support of Australia's current eight, mainly state-based, breeding programs.

Growers and the Federal Government, through the GRDC, are to commit significant resources to the new joint ventures which, when combined with additional inputs from the other joint venturers (state governments, universities and the private sector), are expected to have combined resources of more than $100 million to invest into aggressive new Australian wheat-breeding strategies over the next five years.

    The three new ventures are:
  • Adelaide-based Australian Grain Technologies Pty Ltd involving the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), the University of Adelaide and the GRDC - and which has Dr Steve Jefferies as its interim chief executive officer
  • the National Wheat Breeding Program (NWBP), a joint venture involving NSW Agriculture, the WA Department of Agriculture, Queensland Department of Primary Industries and the GRDC. NWBP is chaired by Mr Murray Rogers
  • the NSW-based SunPrime Seeds Pty Limited, established as a plant breeding and seed marketing company - and now involving GrainCorp Operations Limited, the University of Sydney and the GRDC. The chief executiveis Mr Kerrie Gleeson.

Region North