New wheat variety targets high rainfall zones

Grain Central, October 20, 2022

AGT wheat breeder Britt Kalmeier with Victorian Variety Support Manager Rob Harris at the launch of Willaura. Photo: AGT

AUSTRALIA Grain Technologies (AGT) has developed a slower-maturing milling-quality wheat variety, Willaura, designed to tolerate the higher-rainfall environments of southern Australia.

Willaura was officially released at the Southern Farming Systems Agrifocus field day held at Streatham, Victoria, on Wednesday, by AGT wheat breeder Britt Kalmeier.

“Willaura is a fantastic variety choice for an environment like Streatham, with its compact canopy and good straw strength giving improved standability relative to some other varieties under the very high yield potential that we see here,” Ms Kalmeier said.

The new variety, named after the country town in western Victoria, has been developed specifically to thrive in the longer-season cropping regions traditionally dominated by red-grained feed-quality winter varieties.

“By growing Willaura, farmers in Victoria’s western district and South Australia’s lower South East have more marketing flexibility at harvest.

“Willaura is a white-grained variety and has an AH quality classification, opening up many more avenues to market compared with the red-grained varieties that get grown extensively in high-rainfall areas.”

Ms Kalmeier said she had been working to fill this market gap for a long time.

“I can’t wait to highlight what local breeding investment has achieved for this area.

“Southern Victorian wheat growers have traditionally used varieties bred overseas or main-season wheat varieties bred for the north and west because they were all they had access to.

“We are now seeing the results of targeted breeding efforts from AGT for some of the more unique grain growing environments of Australia.”

Willaura is a slow-to-very slow maturing spring wheat, and reaches head emergence over a week later than Rockstar and LRPB Trojan milling wheats, but at a similar time to popular red-grained feed variety LRPB Beaufort.

Across early season trials, Willaura has recorded improvements in grain yield over Rockstar and LRPB Trojan, and yields comparable to or slightly higher than LRPB Beaufort.

A wet back half of the 2022 cropping season in many areas has seen extremely high disease pressure present in wheat crops, with the fight against stripe rust a particularly hard battle.

AGT’s variety support manager for Victoria, Rob Harris, believes Willaura’s stripe-rust resistance is another valuable trait of benefit to growers.

“Willaura enters the market with a provisional rating of MR-MS to stripe rust, which is considerably better than other milling-grade wheats like Rockstar and LRPB Trojan,” Mr Harris said.

“This level of genetic resistance to stripe rust is very handy to have in a variety grown in areas like the Western District, where poor trafficability on wet paddocks can make applying fungicides very difficult.”

Commercial quantities of Willaura seed will be available for the 2023 season through AGT affiliates and local retailers.

Source: AGT


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