Project to design tree of the future
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.”