Focus on world-class barley research to benefit industry

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The University of Adelaide's School of Agriculture, Food and Wine will focus on its core activities of world-class agricultural research and teaching and has signalled its intention to exit from commercial barley breeding, which currently is in direct competition with private industry.

The move follows an independent review of crop breeding programs commissioned by the School, which is based at the University's Waite campus.

The review recommended that the School not engage in commercial crop breeding in competition with the private sector.

"Barley breeding has become a fully commercial activity in Australia, with significant and highly successful commercial competitors," says the Head of the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, Professor Mike Keller.

"Following the recommendations of the review, we’ve made an in-principle decision to exit commercial barley breeding as of the end of June and focus our efforts on research and teaching, which are the University's core activities.

"We can greatly benefit industry and the community by strengthening our focus on world-class agricultural research. This includes research into the processes that affect barley growth, disease resistance and stress tolerance, yield and quality, and new methods for breeding barley and other crops," Professor Keller says.

The independent review of crop breeding programs considered the School’s academic and technical capabilities and strengths, business models, and the external environment, including clients and competitors.

"Historically, the barley breeding program has served us well, but we focused on barley breeding at a time when there was 'market failure' – that is, it wasn’t commercially viable for the industry to be carrying out the work," Professor Keller says.

"Times change, and the commercial interest is most definitely there today. Independent plant breeding companies now have capabilities that will enable them to out-compete public breeding programs, such as that run by the University, and it no longer makes sense for us to be in competition against them."

Professor Keller says the School remains strongly committed to barley research.

"Our focus will be on 'pre-breeding' research, rather than the development of commercial varieties. In this way, our work will be able to assist the whole industry, with great benefits for the agricultural community," he says.

The School is consulting with staff and the Union regarding this decision.


Contact Details

Professor Mike Keller
Head of School
School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 8149

Media Office
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814