Project to de­sign tree of the fu­ture

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - The Round-up -

AUS­TRALIAN re­searchers have turned to plant ge­net­ics to help solve DNA mysteries and cre­ate the hor­ti­cul­tural tree crops of the fu­ture un­der a new $13.3 mil­lion joint re­search project.

De­liv­ered through Hort In­no­va­tion un­der the Hort Fron­tiers strate­gic part­ner­ship ini­tia­tive, this five-year project will de­velop a breed­ers ge­nomic toolkit for tree breed­ers and re­searchers to bet­ter un­der­stand how genes con­trol traits that are valu­able to Aus­tralian grow­ers – such as tree size, yield, dis­ease re­sis­tance and tree ma­tu­rity.

The re­search will be con­ducted by the Queens­land Al­liance for Agri­cul­ture and Food In­no­va­tion em­bed­ded within the Univer­sity of Queens­land and the Queens­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy.

The project aims to build a com­plete DNA map that will vi­su­alise the ge­netic make-up and vari­abil­ity of the na­tion’s five lead­ing tree crops, which rep­re­sent 80 per cent of the to­tal vol­ume of hor­ti­cul­tural tree crop pro­duc­tion in Aus­tralia.

This in­cludes av­o­ca­dos, mango, macadamia, al­mond and cit­rus fruit va­ri­eties. To­gether, these five crops ac­counted for around

56 per cent of hor­ti­cul­tural tree crop rev­enue in 2017.

Hort In­no­va­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Matt Brand said Aus­tralia’s abil­ity to be at the fore­front of hor­ti­cul­tural biotech­nol­ogy was es­sen­tial to en­sure the in­dus­try re­mained prof­itable, pro­duc­tive and pro­tected.

“While cur­rently prof­itable, the hor­ti­cul­tural tree in­dus­try faces nu­mer­ous and sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges that stem from plant dis­eases, slow pro­duc­tion and cli­matic changes,” he said.

“Plant pro­duc­tion is, by def­i­ni­tion, a slow and timely process. This project will break down the ge­netic code of our five lead­ing tree crop va­ri­eties to as­sess ways to de­velop more re­silient trees that can with­stand changes.”

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