Improving the profitability of Australian wheat

September 30, 2015

The new Australia-China Centre for Wheat Quality is looking to map the entire wheat protein genome.

Improving the quality and profitability of Australian wheat is the aim of Murdoch researchers

Murdoch University researchers have received more than $4 million in funding over five years from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) to improve the quality and profitability of Australian Wheat.

On the global market, the price paid for wheat is usually determined by the amount of protein in the wheat. Usually wheat with more than 14 per cent grain protein content (GPC) will achieve a premium price.

However, Murdoch University’s Professor of Grain Protein Chemistry, Professor Wujun Ma, said only about five per cent of Australian wheat has more than 14 per cent GPC and that this has become a road block for the Australian wheat industry to achieve desirable marketability and profit.

“The low wheat GPC in Australia is caused by poor and sandy soil conditions and rainfall distribution during wheat growing season,” Professor Ma said.

“Climate change and modern agricultural technologies have also raised the nitrogen dilution effect that reduces nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), resulting in an increased usage of nitrogen fertilisers to achieve desirable grain yield (GY) and GPC, which not only increases the wheat production cost but also inserts a negative environmental effect.

“Increasing NUE for high GY and GPC is critical if wheat growers are to achieve desirable profits and this will be the continued focus of my research.”

Professor Ma and his team have already identified a range of wheat germplasms that possess high NUE and GPC. A tentative molecular mechanism has also been found.

“This GRDC funded project will advance our knowledge in this area and introduce high GPC and NUE genes into wheat breeding, allowing farmers to grow higher quality and yield wheat and achieve premium prices.”

Murdoch University will work in collaboration with the Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food as well as three wheat breeding companies including Australian Grain Technologies, Edstar Genetics Pty Ltd, InterGrain Pty Ltd on this research project.

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