A 10-year joint venture between The University of Western Australia and PGG Wrightson Seeds has been launched to provide farmers better access to advances in seed technology.
Annual Legume Breeding Australia (ALBA) aims to provide producers with new varieties of annual forage legumes, developed with a focus on producer needs. Key species of interest are subterranean clover, arrowleaf clover, balansa clover and Persian clover.
The joint venture will build on UWA’s research and training capacities in pre-breeding and biotechnology and PGG Wrightson Seeds’ experience as the largest forage breeding company in the southern hemisphere.
Professor William Erskine from UWA’s Institute of Agriculture and School of Agriculture and Environment said the UWA pasture research team was active in multiple areas of relevance to ALBA including annual legume selection and pre-breeding, pasture agronomy, nutrition, disease and physiology and engineering of seed harvest machinery.
“UWA researchers and our partners have sequenced the genome of subterranean clover and developed a major phenotypic and genotypic pre-breeding platform and rapid generation technology,” Professor Erskine said.
“We’re very excited that PGG Wrightson Seeds have partnered with us on this project, as it will provide a more direct pathway for our science to reach producers and markets.”
Associate Professor Megan Ryan from UWA’s Institute of Agriculture and School of Agriculture and Environment said that the joint venture aimed to provide significant benefits for producers across southern Australia.
“Annual pasture legumes are important in Australia because they fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and put it back into the soil – adding to farming system sustainability,” Professor Ryan said.
“Aside from improving soil fertility, they also provide a high-quality source of feed and can be used as a break crop to reduce crop weeds and disease.”
Professor Erskine said ALBA would also provide exciting opportunities for UWA students to engage with industry on projects that supported the advancement of agriculture throughout Australia with the potential for undergraduate engagement, Masters research and PhD projects.
PGG Wrightson Seeds General Manager John Stewart said that the company was pleased to be able to bring expertise in product development, production and marketing to what will be a core plant breeding program for Australia’s pastoral industries.
“Annual legumes have long been an essential component of sustainable grazing systems and the combination of UWA’s strong science capability and PGG Wrightson Seeds ability to commercialise pasture seed technologies promises to deliver exciting new innovations to pastoral farmers,” Mr Stewart said.
The breeding and selection of new cultivars will be conducted by Associate Professor Phillip Nichols and Senior Research Officer Bradley Wintle from UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment, who bring extensive pasture legume breeding experience to ALBA.