WITH the current effects of climate change placing increasing pressure on breeders to develop resilient wheat varieties, LongReach Plant Breeders are investing in options for growers in Western Australia who are battling an uncertain climate.
On the back of another dry winter for the region, with rainfall at 30 per cent below average, the need for hardier wheat varieties has been at the fore front of the mind of seed developers.
In conjunction with CSIRO, the LongReach team is one step closer to a commercially-viable long coleoptile wheat variety, which will mitigate some of the risks presented by drier planting seasons.
LongReach Wheat breeder Dr Scott Sydenham said longer coleoptile varieties allowed farmers to plant deeper, accessing residual soil moisture which was often left in the soil profile from previous summer rainfall.
“These lines can be planted to depths of up to 100-120 millimetres, compared to an average of just 40-70mm for standard wheats,” Dr Sydenham said.
“This gives farmers greater options, particularly if they are looking at getting a wheat crop established early in a drier growing season.
“As climate variability becomes the new norm, growers need more options to ensure stable and reliable yields are achievable.
“In the past, developmental wheats with longer coleoptiles were associated with unwanted taller plant types – often with significant yield drag, poor end-use quality and poor general adaption.
“From our ongoing research, these new genotypes look to overcome these restrictive problems, giving farmers in arid-low rainfall regions the opportunity to plant deeper to chase soil moisture.
“Farmers in dry areas may be looking at yield improvements of between 10 and 20 per cent, given many are currently using standard coleoptile length wheat varieties for deep planting, which simply don’t work as well.”
Long term trials
LongReach Plant Breeders has been actively researching in this area for over 15 years in a collaboration with CSIRO, with new potential varieties being trialed on a farm in WA next season in a partnership with innovative wheat farmer Callum Wesley.
“It’s great we have the opportunity to see how these new lines respond to real-life growing conditions on Callum’s property,” Dr Sydenham said.
“Callum has already willingly committed to help us by trialing some of the other varieties in our development pipeline.
“With the help of trial-cooperators like Callum, we’re hoping this will be a valuable new tool for WA wheat grower’s toolkits.
“We’re extremely confident that we will be able to offer growers medium to long coleoptile varieties, such as improved Magenta and Yitpi types, in the next three-to-five years, with even longer coleoptile improved options in the following years.
“The more tools that growers have in their toolkit, the better placed they will be to navigate the challenges of a changing climate.”
Source: LongReach Plant Breeders