$2.6m project to eliminate wheat defects
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
University of Adelaide biochemist Daryl Mares has been awarded $2.6 million to lead a collaborative project to eliminate defects in wheat.
Dr Mares, from the University's School of Agriculture, Food & Wine, will work with CSIRO Plant Industry and the Queensland Department of Primary Industry & Fisheries on the four-year project.
The organisations will collectively develop new technologies to reduce and eventually eliminate grain defects, which cost Australian wheat breeders and the industry millions of dollars each year.
The Grains Research & Development Corporation has committed the funds to help understand the causes of grain quality defects, which include pre-harvest sprouting, late-maturity alpha-amylase and black point (enzyme and seed-associated diseases).
"These are all triggered by adverse environmental conditions prior to harvest and periodically cause substantial losses of otherwise profitable crops," says Dr Mares.
"The incidence and severity of losses are variable, making it difficult to predict the risk of downgrading.
"This project builds on prior research and expertise, and will develop improved genetic material and screening technologies, including molecular markers, and better knowledge of the underlying genetic, biochemical and molecular mechanisms."
Australia leads the world in the development and adoption of molecular technologies to accelerate plant breeding.
Dr Mares heads the University's Grain Biochemistry Program, which focuses on the biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology of traits related to wheat quality and production. These include: grain defects that result in downgrading of quality prior to harvest; grain and flour components that affect colour and appearance of Asian noodles; and characteristics that improve both the quality of durum (a hard wheat used for making pasta) and its adaptation to southern Australia.
For the past 20 years Dr Mares' work has focused primarily on bread wheats, including those used for Asian noodles.
Wheat is the country's second biggest agricultural export behind beef, earning Australia approximately $3.4 billion in offshore sales in 2006.
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