AUSTRALIAN Grain Technologies Pty Ltd (AGT) has been awarded the license to progress Australia’s durum-breeding program.
The program was previously delivered by Durum Breeders Australia (DBA), a national durum-breeding program involving the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) and the University of Adelaide in partnership with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
GRDC, NSW DPI and the University of Adelaide have since 2008 co-invested in the DBA program, which has delivered new varieties with improved yield and quality attributes for Australian durum-production areas.
In 2020, the DBA partners sought proposals from the commercial breeding sector to licence the germplasm from the DBA program to continue durum breeding and AGT was the successful bidder.
AGT is already breeds durum as an adjunct to its core cereal-breeding activities.
GRDC interim managing director Cathie Warburton said the outcome was a testament to the strength of the DBA collaboration built over many years, and the shared vision to successfully move the breeding program from a research-and-development environment to the commercial sector.
“Our strategy for durum breeding had centred around meeting grower needs without generating market failure,” Ms Warburton said.
“For GRDC, it’s all about finding the right path to market and helping growers become more profitable.
“This next stage for durum breeding reflects years of hard work from durum growers, researchers, breeders, processors and marketers, each making an important contribution to the durum industry.”
Durum wheat was first produced in Australia in the 1930s with a small plant-breeding program established at the NSW Agriculture Glen Innes Experiment Farm.
“NSW DPI’s had involvement in durum breeding for NSW grain growers for 86 years, finishing up in mid-2021,” NSW DPI group director plant systems Alison Bowman said.
“The NSW DPI Tamworth team, leading the northern node of Durum Breeding Australia, had an extremely successful track record in developing durum varieties for NSW and Australian durum growers releasing 15 varieties in that time.
“These varieties now account for more than 90 per cent of the durum wheat grown in the northern grains region.
“The varieties had higher yields, but it is the outstanding grain quality of the DBA Tamworth lines (bright yellow semolina loved by pasta makers internationally) that established durum wheat for international export production from Australia.
“The success of the NSW DPI breeding program in developing these varieties has seen the industry grow to the point that breeding can now be done on a commercial footing by a private plant-breeding company using the elite germplasm developed by the NSW DPI team.”
University of Adelaide deputy vice-chancellor (research) Anton Middelberg said the university’s focus on durum breeding over many years had made an important contribution to the industry’s viability.
“The University of Adelaide is proud of its long association with durum breeding and its enduring legacy, which can be found throughout the Australian durum industry today,” Professor Middelberg said.
“With our focus on pre-breeding research, studying the specific traits that are needed for tolerance and resilience to Australian growing conditions, the university’s strong connection with industry will continue.
“We will work closely with Australia’s leaders in durum such as San Remo, AGT, and the Southern Australia Durum Growers Association to ensure the very best outcomes for industry and for consumers nation-wide, applying world-class science to add further value to an industry that is critically important to Australian agriculture and the economy.”
AGT chief executive officer and head of breeding, Haydn Kuchel, said he was pleased the company had been successful in securing the germplasm and looked forward to leveraging new opportunities for Australian durum grain growers.
“Breeding durum has been part of AGT’s story for 20 years and we have successfully developed several elite varieties for Australian conditions,” Dr Kuchel said.
AGT already has two durum varieties in the market, Bitalli for the southern region, and Westcourt in the north.
“Using cutting-edge breeding technologies to increase efficiency and genetic gain means we offer Australian durum growers the benefits of a globally competitive breeding company.
“AGT is excited about continuing to work with durum growers and manufacturers to advance this high-value crop’s impact and importance in Australian agriculture.”