Ground Cover North : Ground Cover 053 December-January 2005 - North
NEWS 3 DECEMBER 2004 By RICHARD HENDERSON It still takes a bit of getting used to ... the internet, cyberspace and all the new horizons that seem to be unfolding from its growing presence in our lives. The holodeck on the Starship Enterprise, a place where people communicate via a 3D image of themselves, is pure fantasy; as a few years ago would have been the notion of a "virtual agronomist" appearing through your computer. But the latest offering to members of the Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) is effectively just that -- a virtual agronomist. At the group's September field day, GRDC southern panel chairman Ian MacKinnon launched its new software/internet program, Virtual Agronomy, accessed through its website www.bcg.org.au/virtual_agronomy.php. Virtual Agronomy allows registered BCG members to follow the progress of research trials through images, video, audio and text, which is updated regularly as needed. Constructed by the Centre for Electronic Commerce and Communications at the University of Ballarat, the site currently features a farming systems trial, yellow leaf spot control on Yitpi wheat, day and night spraying of resistant ryegrass, the use of group-D chemicals with zero-till machinery, a cereal varieties trial, a comparison of oilseeds, and a trial on stripe rust in wheat. BCG extension officer Larissa Fawcett says that while there is a lot of information on the website, and more to follow, it has been designed with dial-up speeds in mind to keep the system practical. "At the moment the site is only available to our members, but it's our vision that other grower or farming systems groups will eventually use the software for their own trial data, therefore making it more universal and available to all Australian growers," Ms Fawcett says. She also says that general use of the BCG website has risen significantly since Virtual Agronomy went online. The site is functional and interactive. It will feature a virtual tour of the BCG main field site each year, and allows BCG members to contribute their own data and experiences to various trials in a chat room. It also features an online discussion forum with guest experts and scientists, in which growers can normally get an answer to any relevant question within 48 hours. Growers are also able to find historical BCG trial data using a keyword search, and refine the search by crop type, region and year. In addition to examining current trials, they can also assess progress through the season and the life of the trial, together with relevant figures such as rainfall, sowing dates and soil test results. Ms Fawcett and other BCG staff say they have to work diligently to keep the website up to date by taking photographs and video footage of trials, from the whole site to individual sample plants -- complete interpretations and analyses. "Even our older members -- farmers who wouldn't usually use the internet -- have found they love Virtual Agronomy," she says. "Agronomists are also finding it handy -- it's a continuous stream of cropping information throughout the growing season." Virtual Agronomy was established with funding from the GRDC and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. GRDC RESEARCH CODE BWD 00002, program 6 For more information: Larissa Fawcett, BCG, 03 5492 2787 By HELEN OLSEN The Australian Winter Cereals Molecular Marker Program has entered the second phase of its operation -- to increase breeders' and researchers' access to new markers. The program, to use advanced molecular marker technology to improve wheat and barley germplasm, is now two years old. Phase one involved the identification of stable genetic markers for marker-assisted breeding. These included the development of markers for traits such as protein quality and disease resistance. The focus now is to close the gap between the technology and its application. One of the first steps in phase two will be to reduce the costs of using markers, and to simplify access by breeders and researchers. Research fellow at the University of Adelaide, Dr Matthew Hayden, who heads the project, says cost is the biggest hurdle for using the markers that have been developed. "High costs can occur through having to use a specialist laboratory to carry out assays, and in the length of time waiting for results," he says. According to Dr Hayden, the current system also involves multiple assays that can be expensive in terms of consumables as well as time. Also, some current marker assays are either not reliable, or allow only a few markers to be tested at a time. "The aims of this project are to develop a standard assay to test for all markers and to create a system where breeders and researchers can assay for the markers of interest in their own laboratories," he says. Making the testing of markers more uniform means that breeders and researchers will be able to assay for any one of 1000 markers each for barley and wheat far more cheaply and quickly than is currently possible. "Ultimately we're planning to provide breeders and researchers with a marker database, complete with instructions on how to use it, and primer aliquots (samples) at cost, which will greatly reduce expenses," Dr Hayden says. The primer aliquots contain one of the main ingredients for the assays, known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, which only require a tiny amount of genetic material from each sample plant. The technology allows for multiple genes to be introduced into a wheat or barley breeding line, and quickly tested for by the polymerase chain reaction. This can be particularly useful for a disease such as rust. "Rust pathogens can easily overcome rust resistance if the resistance is conferred by one gene," Dr Hayden explains. "However, if multiple rust resistance genes are transferred to a plant, the pathogens find the resistance conferred by them much harder to overcome. Molecular marker techniques allow quick testing to see whether all the genes have been successfully transferred to the plant. Without the techniques, that would be virtually impossible." Along with disease and pest resistance, genes coding for quality traits such as grain hardness and agronomic characteristics can be added to a plant and tested for. GRDC RESEARCH CODE UA 00072, program 1 For more information: Dr Matthew Hayden, 08 8303 7158, firstname.lastname@example.org A cyberspace field trip: Larissa Fawcett and BCG's Virtual Agronomy website. Crop trials enter cyberspace Work starts to fast-track marker delivery Bumper 4 month interest rate Landmark's deposits rates are always highly competitive, and for a limited time we are offering a bumper rate for a 4 month term (minimum of $25,000). At call accounts and Term Deposit accounts (1 to 48 month terms) are also available with competitive rates. To find out how Landmark's bonus term deposit rate can help grow your business, just contact your local Landmark location or call 1800 622 015. *A special rate for a minimum of $25,000 is 6% p.a. for 4 months. This offer is for a limited time only and rates are subject to change without notice. For up-to-date deposits rates, visit www.landmark.com.au; contact your nearest Landmark location or call 1800 622 015. LM0073 Landmark Operations Limited ABN 73 008 743 217 AWB1214GC 6%per annum * Effective 1 December 2004 Closing the gaps: project leader Dr Matthew Hayden.
Ground Cover 054 February-March 2005 - North
Ground Cover 052 October-November 2004 - North