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Australian wheat breeders’ relationship with Mexico spans more than 40 years

September 24, 2014

In Australia, over 90 percent of local wheat varieties can be traced back to CIMMYT varieties, reports Kim Honan in a 17 September article on ABC’s Rural website.

For 40 years, Australian wheat breeders, as a part of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)-funded CIMMYT/Australia/ICARDA Germplasm Evaluation (CAIGE) project, have traveled to Mexico annually to visit CIMMYT wheat fields.

“CIMMYT is a global program, it’s breeding for the world, so the nurseries they put together to distribute globally don’t necessarily have the traits that we’re looking for in Australia,” said Richard Trethowan, professor of Plant Breeding at the University of Sydney and former CIMMYT wheat breeder.

The trip allows the team to review materials and hand-select breeds with traits that might not have otherwise been available to Australian breeders. Each year, the scientists look for traits that show signs of potential yield increases, drought tolerance and heat tolerance. In particular, the breeders look for more diversity in each of those characteristics. During this trip, the team chose a set of about 350 varieties.

“This is a smorgasbord of diversity and here we can find that new resistance and bring that back to

Australia,” said Trethowan. “The breeder needs to take all this diversity for yield, resistance and adaptation to drought and heat, and improve that for grain quality to meet the Australian markets.”

Read Honan’s full report detailing the breeders’ trip to Mexico here.

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