Countryman

PROJECT DIGS INTO BOOSTING BARLEY

- CALLY DUPE

WA plant breeder InterGrain will join forces with two major Australian universiti­es to improve barley “yield stability among climate variabilit­y” after being awarded a lucrative Commonweal­th grant.

The project was one of 65 awarded a share of $30 million in the latest round of the Federal Linkage Projects grants, which are funded by Australian Research Council.

It is the first time InterGrain has been chosen as the major industry partner for a Linkage Project grant, which provide support to projects investigat­ing solutions for various challenges.

InterGrain researcher­s will work with those from The University

of Queensland and the Australian National University to carry out the $780,000, four-year project, set to include field trials in WA.

InterGrain plant breeder Dr Hannah Robinson said the project aimed to create breeding solutions that harnessed the “hidden” part of the plant, roots, to support the developmen­t of more productive crops to battle climate variabilit­y.

She hoped the project would generate new insights into the biology and genetics of root developmen­t by applying cutting-edge phenotypin­g and genomics technologi­es.

The project could lead to novel methodolog­ies to accelerate breeding for diverse production environmen­ts, with direct applicatio­ns in barley and other major cereals

including wheat and oats.

“There has been a lot of interestin­g research about how the different shape of the barley root system can impact the amount of moisture and nutrients that can be taken up on the soil,” Dr Robinson said.

She said the project was about creating better root systems for changing Australian climates.

“This project is about better understand­ing the differents­hapes of our barley germplasm within our program,” Dr Robinson said.

“We are also looking at the genetics underlying so we can influence future breeding to adapt root systems to our environmen­ts.”

A big part of the research will focus on creating an “optimum root shape” for varying soil profiles in WA and more broadly.

“This should improve water extraction, nutrient extraction, and ultimately improve yield in the variable climates we have in Australia,” Dr Robinson said, adding the fundamenta­l research would allow InterGrain to deploy the technology in its breeding.

Dr Robinson is the first to admit that roots are “only one trait” taken into account when “improving adaption to the changing climate”. But she said the project was expected to “develop a lot of methodolog­ies that can be translated into other traits”.

Field trials will kick off in WA next year, with Merredin Dryland Research Institute likely to be one of the sites. selected.

 ?? Picture: The University of Queensland ?? Associate Professor and principal research fellow Lee Hickey and InterGrain barley breeder Dr Hannah Robinson.
Picture: The University of Queensland Associate Professor and principal research fellow Lee Hickey and InterGrain barley breeder Dr Hannah Robinson.

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