Objective measurement system for new crops

The GRDC is to establish a National Variety Trials (NVT) program to give independent performance assessments for new crop varieties prior to their release.

The NVT will replace the current state-based Crop Variety Testing (CVT) programs.

Project leader for the NVT program, Dr Andreas Betzner, says the change will establish a nationally coordinated system for testing new varieties, and will clearly separate breeding and release trials from grower-funded variety trials.

He says NVT will be a separate activity running parallel to breeders" trials.

Dr Betzner says the move is in response to grower demands for independent variety testing as plant breeding becomes more commercial and competitive.

The establishment of the independent NVT program, scheduled to begin with the 2005 planting season, follows extensive consultations with industry stakeholders, especially with plant breeding programs that are members of the Seed Industry Association of Australia.

“It has been important to create a system that is supported by the whole industry so that we don"t need legislative force,” he says.

He says the focus of NVT measurements will be the “rewards and penalties criteria” that apply to delivered grain at receival point.

This essentially means yield, screenings, protein, oil in canola, and colouration for some pulses.

There will also be independent disease resistance ratings for wheat and durum. However, for cereal rusts and the diseases of other crops, the program will access disease resistance data from breeders, the GRDC-funded Australian Cereal Rust Control Program and the National Brassica Improvement Program, respectively.

The GRDC will contract ACAS Limited to manage the new program. ACAS, or the Australian Crop Accreditation System, was founded in 1997, initially to develop accreditation protocols for public breeding and CVT trials and to inform growers on variety performance in those trials.

Since its incorporation in 2000, the company has been known as ACAS Limited, and is a not-for-profit organisation. Its trustees are the GRDC, the GCA, the Seed Industry Association of Australia, and the Primary Industries Standing Committee, which represents State and Commonwealth Government agencies.

Under the proposed agreement with the GRDC, ACAS Limited will focus its activities on the management of NVT and appoint a senior technical crop evaluation expert as NVT coordinator.

Dr Betzner says expressions of interest will soon be called for from organisations to run the assessment trials.