AUSTRALIA — The Grains Research and Development Corp. (GRDC) unveiled a national research project to support the integration of long coleoptile wheat into Australian farming systems on 27th February 2023.

GRDC Chairman John Woods unveiled the 4-year project at the Grains Research Update in Perth, at Western Australia’s premier grains industry forum.

According to press release from GRDC, the $12 million project will be led by Australia’s national science agency CSIRO.

The University of Melbourne, NSW Department of Primary Industries, and QLD Department of Agriculture and Forestry (QLD DAF) will also be partners in the implementation of this project.

Others include, SLR Agriculture, the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the University of South Australia, and EPAG Research.

The coleoptile is the protective sheath that encloses the emerging shoot and first leaves, and the longer it is, the greater the emergence potential when deep sowing.

According to Woods, long coleoptile wheat could be a “game changer” for growers in low-to-mid rainfall zones as it could extend options for early sowing, to meet the challenges of increasing enterprise sizes and changing climates.

With today’s changing climates, ensuring you’ve adequate moisture for germination in those top five centimeters of soil is increasingly risky for growers. Long coleoptile varieties should make this less of an issue into the future,” Dr. Rebetzke says.

Long coleoptile wheat can be sown at depths of more than 10 centimeters, thus making better use of stored soil moisture in the targetted low-to-mid rainfall zones.

During the project, national trials will explore a range of genetic, environmental, and management factors concerning the long coleoptile wheat implementation.

The project will address knowledge gaps around how these genetics perform in contrasting production environments, soils, and farming systems, working to mitigate sowing risks for growers and provide greater flexibility around the time of sowing.

Climatic modeling work using on-farm field and usage trials suggests a 20% increase in yields from long coleoptile varieties because sowing varieties that have the right fit for a farming system ensures crop growth coincides with climatic conditions to which the crop is best suited.” Rebetzke, lead researcher and CSIRO plant geneticist, said.

Additionally, the project will include the development of a common industry standard for measuring and defining the categories for wheat coleoptile length.

This project builds on decades of research by CSIRO and previous GRDC investment of approximately $11.5 million to introduce new climate-adaptive traits into commercial wheat varieties,” Woods said.

Rowan Maddern, GRDC manager of sustainable cropping systems, reiterated that the new project with CSIRO and its partners would build on the previous work undertaken at national and regional levels to deliver a complete agronomic package to growers.

Led by SLR Agriculture in the west and QLD DAF in the north, the trials include CSIRO’s breeding lines and long coleoptile wheat lines from commercial breeding companies, released for sale for the first time in 2022.

It (the project) will involve significant consultation with industry including fertilizer and chemical companies and commercial breeders… to build on current work and collaborate with industry as a whole to benefit grain growers,” Maddern said.

The GRDC project is expected to be completed by the middle of 2026 and could significantly revolutionize Australia’s grain industry.

Meanwhile, the leading research geneticist in wheat breeding, Dr. Greg Rebetzke, received the GRDC 2023 western region Seed of Light Award during the forum in Perth;  recognizing his efforts in identifying and sourcing new genes from across the world to ensure the launch of this research project.

Another award presented at the event, the GRDC Seed of Gold award, went to former Great Southern grain grower and livestock producer Terry Enright recognized for his outstanding contribution to the Australian grains industry.

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