Paul Telfer has been appointed by Australian Grain Technologies to head up its new barley breeding program.ONE of Australia’s largest wheat breeders will expand its operation and begin breeding barley.

Australian Grain Technologies (AGT) will combine germplasm from its international shareholder, French-based Limagrain and local varieties in its barley breeding program.

AGT chief executive Steve Jefferies said the business would look to develop malt barley varieties.

“Obviously if we come across something that is very high yielding we will release it, but at this stage, the focus is to try and release malt lines.”

Dr Jefferies said he thought there was good potential in barley, in spite of a downward trend in acreage in other nations, such as Canada.

“I think in Australian conditions we aren’t going to see barley plantings drop by too much as climatically there might not be the other options such as we see in Canada, where barley acres are pressured by canola.

“We’ve seen some very good returns with barley in Australia this year and if we can help boost genetic gain then it may become an even more popular choice.”

“There are definitely opportunities in barley breeding in Australia, it’s the second most widely grown crop in the country and a lot of acres are planted each year, and we also have the synergies of breeding another cereal crop in wheat.”

Dr Jefferies said AGT always intended to move into breeding crops other than wheat.

But he warned growers not to expect anything too soon.

“We’re taking a 20 to 50-year view with this one.

“Hopefully we can get some lines in the 2016 National Variety Trials (NVT) which at the best case scenario means we could get something out commercially by 2018, but that is the earliest.”

The AGT barley breeding program will be supported by from grower-owned French cooperative, Limagrain, along with material it can access from Australia.

Limagrain has a massive footprint in barley as the world’s second largest commercial barley breeder.

“We have exclusive access for Australia to Limagrain’s wheat and barley germplasm and this will be combined with the germplasm and breeding tools available to all Australian breeders from the various GRDC, University and State government pre-breeding investments,’’ Dr Jefferies said.

“We see some potential fit for the direct introduction of Limagrain’s barley germplasm, but our real aim is to combine the positive traits in the Limagrain varieties with the positive traits of Australian varieties.

“Limagrain’s germplasm includes exceptionally good quality, disease resistance and straw strength – varieties are grown under yields of 8-12 tonne per hectare. We hope to combine this with local adaptive traits to help take Australian barley to a new level.’’

AGT has appointed Paul Telfer to head up its barley breeding program.

Mr Telfer has been the project lead for the company’s heat stress research at Roseworthy, SA for the past two-and-a-half years.

“Head loss and lodging are serious problems in the Australian barley industry. This is a key area that we are looking to improve in Australian varieties, as well as grain yield, grain quality and brewing characteristics,” Mr Telfer said.

“All early crossing will be done at Roseworthy and then the mid to late generation material will start to spread through AGT’s national breeding network to all barley producing areas of Australia, to look at adaptation in the different regions.’’

Dr Jefferies said initial offerings using European germplasm may be better suited to medium to high rainfall zones, in line with the varieties’ heritage, but down the track he said AGT was keen to release cultivars for all of the nation’s barley producing areas.

“We’re hoping to combine the yield and other benefits of the European varieties with the robust adapted traits of Aussie germplasm.”

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