Farrer medal awarded to wheat breeder

Wednesday, 4 September 2002

A leading research scientist has encouraged Australia's wheat industry to focus on increasing the speed at which new wheat breeds are developed.

Associate Professor Gil Hollamby, former head of the University of Adelaide's wheat breeding program, says if Australia is to remain a leader in quality wheat production, it must develop new varieties with improved yields in a more timely fashion.

"These new yields need to be adaptable to the stresses of our climate and soils, and be resistant to prevalent diseases, and must also have quality attributes desirable to our overseas customers," Professor Hollamby said.

"To be more reactive to market changes, overcome changes in disease resistance, and increase yields, we need to speed the breeding.

"A range of new scientific discoveries and resulting technologies are becoming available. With changes to the organisational structure of wheat breeding in Australia, there is the opportunity to quickly implement these technologies."

Professor Hollamby outlined the challenges facing wheat breeders when delivering the 2002 Farrer Memorial Oration, "Flours ain't flours: Breeding wheats for discerning markets", at the University of Adelaide last night.

He said the four major stages in the wheat breeding cycle were being targeted - creating new variation, early generation selection, widescale evaluation and seed multiplication.

"With changes in each of these stages, I believe the time of the breeding cycle can be significantly reduced, and farmers provided with improved varieties more quickly than they are at present," Professor Hollamby said.

"The result will be varieties that give higher, more stable yields of grain with qualities that our consumers desire."

Professor Hollamby is the recipient of the prestigious 2002 Farrer Memorial Medal, presented last night during a ceremony at Elder Hall by Dr Richard Sheldrake, Chairman of the Farrer Memorial Trust.

The medal is given annually to provide encouragement and inspiration to Australian agricultural scientists.

Professor Hollamby has made a significant contribution to the wheat industry in Australia, having been involved in breeding wheat varieties since 1961.


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