Mataroi set for release as Italy’s durum interest prevails

Liz Wells, August 23, 2021

NSW principal research scientiest Dr Mike Sissons has been involved in a project looking at the GI of pasta. Photo: NSW DPI

A NEW variety of durum is to be released in time for planting next year to mark the end of an era in durum breeding in New South Wales.

Named DBA Mataroi, it is expected to be the last durum variety to be commercialised by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) which has been breeding durum since the 1930s.

The program hit its straps in the 1990s under Ray Hare, and was augmented and enhanced over the past decade by Gururaj Kadkol, who was the leader of Durum Breeding Australia’s (DBA) northern node, and finished up with the DPI on June 30.

Industry sources have told Grain Central that AGT is acquiring the NSW DPI germplasm to use in its own durum-breeding program based in Narrabri in the heartland of Australian durum production.

AGT has in recent years bred one commercially available durum variety, Westcourt, for the northern region, while Seednet owns rights to the varieties which dominate plantings in northern NSW, namely DBA Bindaroi, DBA Lillaroi, and DBA Vittaroi, as well as DBA Mataroi.

The Seednet varieties have all come from the DBA northern node which has been based at the NSW DPI’s Tamworth research facility and, like the Adelaide-based southern node, funded largely by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

When tendering DBA Mataroi last year, the NSW Government described it as a high-yielding variety adapted to rainfed durum-growing regions of northern NSW and southern Queensland.

It said DBA Mataroi had performed consistently in internal DBA trials as well as in the National Variety Trials.

Seednet general manager Simon Crane said Mataroi had shown a yield improvement over other Tamworth lines, and its disease resistance was significant.

“Mataroi is moderately resistant to the new east-coast stripe rust strain, whereas the other Tamworth lines are moderately susceptible,” Mr Crane said.

DBA Mataroi seed is being bulked up on two northern NSW properties, and is expected to become available in ample time for planting in 2022.

Quality, quantity matter

Mullaley grower Ross Durham is one of the Liverpool Plains’ regular and volume durum growers, and this year has 350 hectares planted.

“Lillaroi has been our main line, but this year we’ll have about 30 per cent Lillaroi and the rest Bindaroi,” Mr Durham said.

He grew some Westcourt last year, and while it yielded well, he said staining in the kernel saw it downgraded to ADR3 and feed at the receival point.

This resulted in a dockage of $50 per tonne on the first load and $100/t on the rest.

“We grew it side by side with Lillaroi and Bindaroi, and maybe it was the timing of the fungicide.

“In the kernel, there was staining there that the ‘rois didn’t have.

“They can handle the weather better, and I hope those traits don’t get watered down.”

It points to the importance of kernel qualities in ensuring growers achieve maximum value for the discerning domestic and international market.

“The ‘rois have served us very well over many years, and we hope that breeding line is continued in the future through whichever company has acquired it.”

Drought in Canada means the world’s largest durum exporter will not be able to service its markets from the crop now being harvested, and Australian durum is in demand.

“Durum is running at about $150-$180/t over ASW; last year it was more like $30-$40/t.

“Our prices are starting to kick into gear.”

Mr Durham said the global shortage of durum could mean global buyers might be less critical of visual problems with the Australian new crop, but quality was as important as quantity.

“They mightn’t care so much about staining in a year when there’s not a lot around, but if there’s plenty around, it’ll be back into the feed market if we do have quality problems.”

Italy is by far Australia’s biggest export market for durum, and North African nations can also be volume buyers.

Mr Durham said the quality of durum Australia was able to present had enabled it to crack and keep the Italian market.

“The Italians…really like the ‘rois.

“Ray Hare got those quality parameters right.”

Australia exported 270,000t of durum to Italy between January 1 and June 30 this year, and is expected to be a volume buyer of new crop.

Scope for low GI

The closeness of Australia and Italy on the pasta front has been evidenced by NSW DPI principal research scientist Mike Sissons recent work with Italian food scientists in analysing the glycaemic index (GI) of pasta made from durum with elevated resistant starch levels.

“Elevated resistant starch levels can improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, reduce appetite and provide various benefits for digestion,” Dr Sissons said.

“Tests of 10 healthy adults confirmed consumption of pasta produced from the speciality durum wheat was able to lower the GI.

“One variety of speciality durum, SBEIIa, showed a clear benefit and could be used to produce pasta with a lower GI than regular pasta.

“Additional tests showed the quality of pasta produced by SBEIIa was also acceptable to consumers and much more appealing than wholemeal spaghetti.

“The speciality wheat produces a higher level of starch amylose compared with normal durum wheat, offering the potential to alleviate lifestyle diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“Regular durum semolina pasta is high in protein but not an ideal source of dietary fibre as most is removed during milling.”

He said wholemeal pasta offered high-fibre health benefits but was not as popular with consumers due to its different appearance and taste.

“The key was to modify the nutritional value of the refined wheat products, while largely retaining the sensory qualities and consumer appeal of regular pasta rather than adding bran, wholegrain meal, legumes or gums to improve fibre content.”

Italian researchers bred two specialty durum wheats, SSIIa and SBEIIa, by crossing the Svevo Italian variety with mutant lines which increased the amylose content.

Final analysis suggested a minimum resistant starch content of around 7 per cent is needed to lower GI in spaghetti, which corresponded to an amylose content of around 58pc.

Research was conducted by NSW DPI at its Tamworth and Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institutes, and the University of Bari, Italy, and funded through NSW DPI, Agroalimentare e Ricerca and the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research.

AGT, GRDC and NSW DPI were contacted for comment on the future of durum breeding and are yet to respond.

GRDC is a stakeholder in AGT.


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