Ground Cover North : Ground Cover 048 February-March 2004 - North
CSIRO Plant Industry has developed a simple high- throughput testing system that identifies wheat and barley varieties. "Accurate identification of wheat and barley varieties provides assurance of quality for products that require different grain characteristics, like bread, noodles and beer," says Dr Kevin Gale, of CSIRO Plant Industry. The variety ID system tests leaf or grain samples using a panel of DNA markers. Each marker gives a 'yes' or 'no' result. The pattern of results generates an individual 'bar code' for each variety. "Every wheat plant's DNA is distinctive and we can use the results of an individual plant to match its barcode with a specified variety," says Dr Gale. Designed to be simple and accurate, the system can process hundreds of samples in a day. "The test will allow the grains industry to confidently supply markets like Japan that require malting barley shipments to be essentially pure with respect to a specified variety," says Dr Gale. "Variety testing also helps ensure end- point royalties are paid on improved new varieties, giving breeders the resources to keep producing better varieties of wheat and barley for farmers and consumers into the future." The wheat variety ID test is licensed by Agrifood Technology. The wheat and barley ID systems have been developed with Graingene (a joint venture between CSIRO Plant Industry, the GRDC, AWB Ltd and Syngenta) and ABB Grain Ltd respectively. GRDC RESEARCH CODE GC00001, program 1 For more information: Dr Kevin Gale, CSIRO Plant Industry, 02 6246 5317 RESEARCH UPDATE 5 FEBRUARY 2004 New ID checks are quick and simple By EAMMON CONAGHAN If the world is their oyster, Australian farmers may be about to land the pearl. 'Pearl', or mutabilis lupin, is an ancient crop cultivated by the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia in the foothills of the Andes mountains, in South America. When they began growing the crop centuries ago, they could not have envisaged that because mutabilis contains such superior nutritional and processing qualities it could hold the key to a potential $100 a tonne premium price for graingrowers in present-day Australia. According to Dr Jon Clements, a researcher from the University of Western Australia-based Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA), mutabilis has up to one third more protein and up to three times more oil than common narrow leafed lupin, making it similar to soybean. "Mutabilis oil is high in unsaturated fatty acids, low in erucic acid and compares favourably to canola oil, while protein quality would suit stock and aquaculture feed. "However, its adaptation to WA's mediterranean environment has not been fully assessed, and its level of resistance to anthracnose, brown spot, cucumber mosaic virus and bean yellow mosaic virus is virtually unknown." Supported by the GRDC, Dr Clements and Dr Mark Sweetingham, of the WA Department of Agriculture, are trialling mutabilis to determine its suitability for southern Australian environments. Although authorities in the countries of origin are guarded about trading germplasm, this project has landed 80 mutabilis lines in WA for assessment, mostly via Europe. Thousands of other lines may remain untapped in the nooks of South America, but efforts continue to seek out further germplasm. Negotiations with the Vavilov Institute in Russia have helped augment the seed collections currently under review in Australia. According to Dr Sweetingham, past attempts to develop commercial mutabilis varieties in Europe have met with limited success, due mainly to the inability of the pods to ripen in those environments. "A fully domesticated sweet (low alkaloid) cultivar bred in Chile proved agronomically unsuitable due to its late flowering. "However, some semi-domesticated varieties exist which are early flowering, soft seeded (water permeable) and have large, pure white seeds that we are now crossing and selecting for low alkaloids. "Early signs are promising, but a lot of research is needed to put a suitable variety into Australian paddocks. Herbicide tolerance is emerging as a potential stumbling block." If mutabilis proves too difficult to adapt to local conditions, CLIMA has a plan B, which involves crossing it with the albus or narrow leafed lupin species that already thrive across southern Australia. This would incorporate some of the mutabilis genes for seed quality into otherwise less valuable lupin grains. The catch is that such interspecific lupin crosses have proved notoriously challenging, with limited success elsewhere in the world. The most accomplished proponent of this difficult science has been Professor Ewa Sawicka-Sienkiewicz, of the University of Wroclaw, Poland. Refined over several years, her breeding techniques produce hybrids from up to seven percent of the lupin flowers she cross-pollinates -- an unprecedented strike rate. Supported by CLIMA start-up funding, Professor Sawicka-Sienkiewicz recently visited Perth to pass on her techniques to Dr Clements, who will employ them to cross mutabilis with locally adapted species. "We will cross it with adapted domestic varieties and perform embryo rescue, if necessary, to develop a WA-suited mutabilis cousin -- and boost profitability for lupin growers," Dr Clements says. GRDC RESEARCH CODE UWA00043, program 2 For more information: Dr Jon Clements, 08 9380 2505, email@example.com Mutabilis: a pearl of ancient wisdom By EAMMON CONAGHAN Federal authorisation for the commercial release of GM canola through the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) has the industry priming itself for the possible introduction of GM crops. Although State Government moratoriums prohibit the commercial production of GM canola across Australia, the OGTR's environmental tick of approval brings it a step closer to Australian paddocks. However, one burning question is how it would affect sales to markets preferring non-GM produce. While there seems to be endless conjecture about whether or not Australia's markets have any preference at all, research continues on the assumption that some markets, at least, will demand non-GM produce. This would require handling systems able to separate GM and conventional canola during the hectic harvest schedule and throughout the supply chain. WA grain handler CBH is now working with Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia and the WA Department of Agriculture to see if segregation can be guaranteed. In 2002 Monsanto commercially released the conventional canola variety 'ATR-EyreA', which provided an opportunity to test the movement of a novel canola variety through the supply chain. "By segregating it as though it was a GM grain, we could identify potential risk points in the supply chain and develop testing regimes that gave confidence in the identity preservation process," CBH crop production specialist, Mr Peter Nelson, explains. Ten Geraldton region growers participated in the trial. They had to clean harvesting equipment thoroughly, always fill trucks via chaser or field bins and collect samples of the first and last residues to pass through all equipment during the transfer of grain. Residue samples were submitted with the loads to the Geraldton receival bins. Deliveries containing ATR-EyreA canola, even when mixed in small proportions with other canola varieties, were fed into a segregated supply. "The ATR-EyreA canola was railed to the Metro Grains Centre and then trucked to the Riverland Oilseed Processors," says Mr Nelson. "Samples were taken each time the canola was moved into or out of a vessel." As one CBH operator said, diminutive canola grains are "like water" and can leak through a small hole in the chute or through loose valves, which makes its isolation a particular challenge. So how do handlers contain elusive canola, with its reluctance to be an inmate of a closed loop handling system? Enter Saturn Biotech, a molecular research company based at the WA State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre. It has developed molecular gate-keeping technologies which use DNA fingerprinting and mass spectroscopy to police any fugitive grain trickling into the mainstream handling system. "These technologies have been used to differentiate varieties of wheat, barley, oats, lupin and potato in the past and we are now developing a diagnostic tool to identify DNA markers that can distinguish between ATR-EyreA and other canola varieties," Saturn Biotech Executive Director, Mr Mark Pitts says. Once the technology is ready, CBH can test all the samples collected during the 2002 trials and analyse how well separation was maintained. Even if GM never enters Australia's handling system, the definitive segregation of crops for different end uses, such as industrial and food products, is still expected to become a necessity. PAGE 32: The Gene Scene For more information: Peter Nelson, CBH, 08 9454 0359 Mark Pitts, Saturn Biotech, 0419 700 493 GM moves put focus on segregation Promising: Dr Jon Clements (left) and Dr Mark Sweetingham with a mutabilis lupin plant that might be crossed with locally adapted species. Sharing knowledge: Professor Ewa Sawicka-Sienkiewicz, of the University of Wroclaw, Poland, has been sharing her techniques on cross-pollinating lupin flowers.
Ground Cover 049 April-May 2004 - North
Ground Cover 047 November-December 2003 - North