Wheat breakthrough at Murdoch

August 1, 2016

Researchers at Murdoch University have made a major breakthrough in improving the quality and profitability of Australia’s $6 billion wheat crops.

Adjunct Professor Ian Edwards with the Tungsten crop in Toodyay, Western Australia

Adjunct Professor Ian Edwards with the Tungsten crop in Toodyay, Western Australia

The team have increased the protein content of wheat to more than 14 per cent in a new high-yielding variety, allowing farmers to command premium prices for superior crops on the global market.

This latest breakthrough provides Australia’s farmers with a stronger competitive edge against countries which have been delivering wheat with higher protein content to some of Australia’s key customers.

Dr Ian Edwards is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Edstar Genetics, the independent wheat and barley breeding company that developed the new wheat variety.

The adjunct professor leads the wheat research project at the Western Australian State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre (SABC) at Murdoch’s Perth campus.

Dr Edwards explained: “The wheat market is worth more than $6 billion to the Australian economy.

“Increasing the protein yield of Australian crops will increase the revenue that Australia receives for its wheat, making our growers more competitive.

“We are now producing higher-yield wheat which can be grown in poor quality soils with lower production costs.”

Dr Edwards has 50 years’ experience in his field, having participated in the development and commercial release of 53 new wheat varieties on four continents.

The challenge facing researchers was how to create a variety of high-protein wheat which uses available soil nitrogen more efficiently, and could be grown in Australia’s less fertile, sandy soils.

Poor growing conditions and light-textured soils lead to a lower protein yield, or grain protein content (GPC).

To compensate, farmers add nitrogen fertiliser to wheat crops. This helps increase GPC, but also increases production costs.

Dr Edwards and his team of researchers have worked for nine years to develop a wheat variety with more than 14 per cent GPC, requiring less nitrogen fertiliser per unit of grain protein.

This combination of less fertiliser and higher GPC will help lower production costs and deliver higher profits for growers in some of Australia’s toughest regions.

The new wheat variety, which they’ve named Tungsten, has been tested in National Variety Trials and is now ready for full commercialisation in 2017.

Thanks to a higher GPC, the wheat is also better for bread baking. This is a critical factor when foreign buyers are selecting the highest quality of wheat available for import.

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Media contact: Thomas Smith
Tel: 08 9360 6742  |  Mobile: 0431 165 231  |  Email: thomas.smith@murdoch.edu.au
Categories: General, Research, Animal and plant studies, environment and bioinformatics, agriculture
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Comments (One response)

ANDREW TAGGART August 2, 2016

Hi Ian

Great to see the high profile your research gained over the past week. You make a wonderful contribution to Murdoch, many thanks.

This work plus the activities of Yonglin Ren and Mike Jones and colleagues makes Murdoch stand tall.

Andrew

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