Future grains research focus at Merredin

Posted by Josette Dunn on 9th August 2010

Agriculture and Food Minister in WA Terry Redman today detailed two leading crop research and development facilities to be established in the State’s Central Wheatbelt.The two facilities, based at the Department of Agriculture and Food’s Merredin research station, will play an important role in the development of new crop technologies for Western Australia.

The first is the ‘New Genes for New Environments’ facility that will enable the grains industry to evaluate growth and yield characteristics of genetically modified traits in a controlled testing environment.

The second is a Managed Environment Facility (MEF) for specialised research on non-GM crops.

“These facilities at Merredin are examples of how the State Government is working to modernise the department’s assets to enable it to deliver better outcomes for the State’s farmers,” Mr Redman said.

“Both will target improvements in crop production needed to sustain the grains industry under climatic stresses such as drought, heat and frost.

“For our farmers to be at their most productive it’s important for them to be growing crops that are suited to our environment.

“These facilities will play a vital role in evaluating new genes and breeding lines, sourced through national and global partnerships, and adapting them to local conditions.

“It is apparent that dry seasons like the one we’re currently experiencing will become more common. However, I’m confident that with the right tools, such as the crops that will be developed in these facilities, the grains industry in WA can continue to thrive.”

The ‘New Genes for New Environments’ facility is part of a $9million project announced in the State Budget.

“This facility, along with another at Katanning, will be set up to evaluate not only GM canola but also wheat, barley and lupins over coming years,” the Minister said.

“A key stepping stone in GM crop development is the stage where materials make their first transition from the laboratory bench and glasshouse, out into the field in the real agricultural environment. This site will allow that to happen under containment arrangements that meet national gene technology regulations.”

Mr Redman said trials to be evaluated over time could include key features required for future adaptation and productivity such as drought tolerance, nutrient use efficiency, disease resistance, grain quality traits and reduced susceptibility to frost.

The Managed Environment Facility, one of three MEFs being established in Australia, is a joint investment by the department and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

It will facilitate world class research into crop yield and quality improvements, with a focus on identifying non-GM adaptive traits and farm management strategies.

Rain exclusion shelters and irrigation treatments at the MEFs will be used to control conditions and induce or relieve drought in ways typical of WA drought-prone environments.