University of Adelaide Launches New Wheat Research Hub
The University of Adelaide has announced the launch of the new $11.4 million Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Hub for Wheat in a Hot and Dry Climate at its Waite campus.
The new facility was designed to bring together wheat researchers and the country’s top three wheat breeding companies – Australian Grain Technologies (AGT), LongReach Plant Breeders, and Intergrain, to use advanced genomic technologies for the accelerated development of wheat varieties that are bred specifically to be tolerant to the heat and drought faced in Australia’s climate.
“Wheat is one of Australia’s most important crops ─ worth over $5 billion a year… But yields in Australia are low, mainly due to water limitation and high temperatures," said Associate Professor Sigrid Heuer, Director of the Research Hub. “Typical yields are about 1.5 ton per hectare compared to 8 tons per hectare achieved in Europe,” adding, “A single hot day at the wrong time can reduce yield by up to 50%. With the Wheat Research Hub, we will develop wheat that is tolerant of combined heat and drought stress, while maintaining high protein levels.”
Researchers at the facility have gathered over 1,000 varieties of wheat and wheat-related plants from 57 separate countries to be screened to adaptability and tolerance to growing the specific growing conditions in Australia with the goal of finding and developing new genetic diversity.
Another goal of the facility will be to unlock the negative correlation between wheat yields and protein content. Although Australian yields are low, its wheat is sought for its high protein content, but as yields increase, protein content decreases because the nitrogen content is diluted through distributed to more grains.