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Objective 2—Maintain and improve price

Maintaining current market positions will depend on maintaining the premium quality of Australian grain. Important functions driving the maintenance of premium quality include Australia’s grain classification systems as well as the effective and prompt management of trade and market access issues as they arise.

Traceability and demonstrated food safety are also likely to remain key customer requirements and are expected to increase in importance in the short to medium term.

While the export of bulk commodities will remain a significant part of future Australian grain trading, opportunities to change the functionality and/ or composition of traditional commodities will underpin future increases in demand and prices.

2019–20 investment summary

RD&E

Projects

Investment

New

25

$4.6m

Ongoing

30

$7.0m

Total

55

$11.6m

Key investments 2019–20

Examples of investments in 2019–20 that met this objective include:

Identifying low pH tolerance and effective rhizobia for wild Cicer to improve adaptation to acid sandy soils

The lack of acid soil tolerance in chickpea limits the opportunity for the crop to be expanded into areas with low pH and aluminium toxicity. The objective of this investment is to identify sources of aluminium tolerance, which could be used to develop chickpea cultivars for areas with acid soils. This gives growers options to increase chickpea production beyond traditional production areas. To assist in overcoming acid soil tolerance, this investment has delivered:

  • optimised methods and trait parameters to screen chickpeas for low pH and aluminium toxicity
  • identified wild chickpea accessions (lines) with significantly better tolerance to aluminium in solution and soil-based assays at low pH
  • identified differences in the sensitivity of different wild chickpea species to aluminium toxicity.

This ongoing investment provides the genetic building blocks Australian breeders need to expand chickpea production in Western Australia and other regions with widespread acid soils.

Continued investment in the Australian Grains Export Innovation Centre

The Australian Grains Export Innovation Centre (AEGIC) was established to increase value in the Australian grains industry by ensuring Australian grain meets the needs of customers and end-users. In 2019–20 and in collaboration with organisations from across the Australian grains supply chain, AEGIC produced monthly virtual crop inspection videos. These videos track the development of Australia’s crops and show supply chains in action. These videos are published in a variety of languages for key export markets.

AEGIC has also developed and translated educational videos on the preparation and evaluation of noodles for the key quality parameters. Made for South-East Asian flour mills and noodle manufacturers, these videos help to communicate the value of using Australian wheat.

Multi-species DNA chip platform—A resource for pulse genetic improvement

This project targets the development of a foundational genotyping tool that is key to improving selection efficiency in pulse breeding programs by developing and optimising methods and trait parameters to screen chickpeas for low pH and aluminium toxicity. In consultation with Australian pulse breeding companies and pre-breeding researchers, the project team have compiled reference sets comprising 919; 992; 1,109; 1,166 and 529 lines of chickpea, faba bean, field pea, lentil and lupin respectively.

Achievements to date include:

  • A total of 2,365; 1,293; 6,057; 5,750 and 7,857 codominant single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) markers were identified from chickpea, faba bean, field pea, lentil and lupin samples respectively. The project team designed SNP’s for each pulse that capture and maximise genetic diversity. From this they created a multi-services SNP chip. Available from September 2020, this DNA chip will be non-exclusively available to all Australian pulse breeders and researchers. It will be employed by breeding companies and researchers to accelerate the rate of genetic gain for yield in pulses, and support gene discovery research and development.

Improving the adaptation and profitability of high value pulses (chickpea and lentil) across Australian agroecological zones

This project aims to address the need for a wider range of pulse options (chickpea and lentil) for growers in different Australian grains cropping regions, and improved adaptation in identified expansion areas. The objective is to define major phenology genes that are relevant in the national chickpea and lentil production context and understand their contribution to adaptation. A better understanding of pulse development and its contribution to local and regional adaptation will ultimately be derived from a detailed understanding of its genetic control.

An important component is leveraging international resources and knowledge. During 2019–20, the resources and knowledge that have been imported to Australia include:

  • a lentil diversity panel (LDP), which is being bulked in 2020. The panel comprises 324 lentil accessions representative of the full range of genetic diversity and all three major phenology adaptation groups within domesticated lentil
  • a chickpea phenology germplasm diversity set, which is currently undergoing larger-scale field multiplication for seeds that will be used in field trials in 2021
  • an international lentil dataset compiled from experiments conducted in nine locations across major growing regions of North America (United States of America, Canada), the Mediterranean (Morocco, Spain, Italy) and South Asia (Northern India, Bangladesh, Nepal). This dataset is being used by Australian researchers to identify phenology loci.

In addition to leveraging international research outputs, the investment has validated:

  • two previously unreported flowering time QTL in lentil
  • chickpea flowering time QTL on chromosomes 3, 4 and 5.

Lupin breeder’s toolbox—a resource for lupin genetic improvement

This project has delivered high-quality, improved reference genome assembly for the lupin cultivar Tanjil. Additional lupin accessions for the pan-genome have been selected and provided for lupin SNP-chip platform development. The lupin Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes (TILLING) population resource has been expanded with additional Ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) generated mutant lines (M2), including targeted genes for mutations. The objective is to expand the current genomic and genetic resources available in the narrow-leafed lupin (NLL) Lupinus angustifolius L, the major grain legume grown in Western Australia, and to provide resources to accelerate the NLL breeding program.

Investigating phenology diversity in germplasm to optimise profitability from April-sown oats

Focusing on key milling oat production environments, this project aims to screen a wide range of oat lines (including international germplasm) under controlled environment conditions for adaptation and suitability to Western Australian growing conditions. Additionally, milling oat varieties and breeding lines expected to be released are evaluated for early sowing (April and May) under different nutrition strategies to determine the best-bet agronomy for growers. To date 360 oat lines, representing germplasm from 20 different countries, have been sown in replicated hill plots at two dates of seeding (mid-April and mid-May) at two locations (Northam and Katanning) differing in latitude (day length) and thermal time (growing degree days).