Lentil breeding boost announced ahead of World Pulse Day

Grain Central, February 8, 2022

A thriving crop of PBA Hallmark lentils growing in Victoria’s Wimmera district last year. Photo: Crop Smart

THE lentil-breeding program at the Grains Innovation Park in Horsham will receive a revamp thanks to a significant investment boost from Agriculture Victoria and the Grain Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

The new investment adds to a longstanding commitment by GRDC to support research, development and extension (RD&E) into lentils and their place in the farming system.

Over the past decade, GRDC and its research partners has invested $16 million in the Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA) lentil-breeding program, which has delivered nine varieties with improved yield and better fit for southern farming systems.

Additional investment into lentil agronomy has seen lentil production in Australia increased from 196,000 tonnes in 2011 to over 500,000t in 2021, with an estimated annual farm-gate value of $350 million.

Agriculture Victoria senior research scientist Garry Rosewarne said the latest investment partnership with GRDC was welcomed by the research team as an opportunity to continue creating new and improved lentil varieties for growers.

“Over the next five years we will see a huge increase in capability, capacity and infrastructure for our lentil breeding program,” Dr Rosewarne said.

Trials in expansion zones will double, particularly in Western Australia and New South Wales, where relatively small trial sites will develop into advanced trial sites.

“Overall, it means we can operate a larger and more efficient lentil-breeding program.”

Dr Rosewarne said varieties currently will take eight to 12 years of research to develop, and the additional investment means that can be reduced by “a few years”.

Dr Rosewarne said the news was particularly welcomed as they looked forward to celebrating World Pulse Day on Thursday.

“Victoria’s lentil industry contributes $200 million to the Victorian economy each year, with 95 per cent of lentils grown in Victorian exported to countries all around the world, including Bangladesh and India.”

He said the new infrastructure and equipment installed at the Horsham SmartFarm will include new glasshouses that can provide optimal year-round growing conditions to support both summer and winter trials.

GRDC was committed to delivering for growers through improvements to the lentil breeding program.

“GRDC invests in pulses for the enduring profitability and sustainability of farming systems, particularly in regions that have not had the benefits of pulse crops,” GRDC manager of pulses and breeding platforms Francis Ogbonnaya said.

“While this investment supports and optimises pulses for traditional growing regions, it is also focused on increasing the availability of adapted lentil varieties for new regions.”

Find out more about World Pulses Day here.


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