New wheats will make an impact

Wednesday, 17 May, 2006

About 1800 experimental wheat lines will be available in Australia in the next 18 months and will have a major impact on Queensland's wheat industry.

Following his visit to Mexico earlier in the year, Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries wheat breeder, John Sheppard, said the 1800 lines are potentially suitable for Queensland's harsh wheat growing environment and will be available for evaluation and breeding.

Mr Sheppard said he had selected the lines in Mexico on their yield potential under drought stress and durable disease resistance.

"The result of this work will be apparent in four or five years when new varieties from crosses are released," he said.

Mr Sheppard said there would be on-going benefits from the introduction of the Mexican lines, which was part of a project supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

"They represent diverse sources of disease resistance and yield improvement, and will augment the Queensland breeding program for many years," he said.

Mr Sheppard said the new lines were from the huge repository of wheats in the CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) collection, maintained for breeding work for developing countries but also available to Australian plant breeders.

He said yields from some of the lines he selected were "unreal" at 8.5-9 tonnes of grain per hectare, making them ideal for Queensland wheat breeding work that had improved yields as one of its priorities.

Durable disease resistance was one of the characteristics he would also be concentrating on in the breeding work.

"We'll be looking at creating durable resistance by using four or five genes from the Mexican selections to back up the main disease resistance genes, prolonging the useful life of varieties."

Mr Sheppard said some of the lines coming into Australia had already been back-crossed with Australian phenotypes, shortening their evaluation time.

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