Australia: Speed breeding of crops by Queensland researchers in bid to battle global hunger - PressFrom - Australia
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AustraliaSpeed breeding of crops by Queensland researchers in bid to battle global hunger

22:31  14 march  2019
22:31  14 march  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Queensland researchers are speeding up the life cycle of crops in a bid to feed a future world that is facing population growth and the impacts of climate change.

The speed - breeding platform developed by teams at the John Innes Centre, University of Queensland and University of Sydney, uses a glasshouse or an March 14, 2019 - Speed breeding of crops by Queensland researchers in bid to battle global hunger ABC NewsQueensland researchers are

Speed breeding of crops by Queensland researchers in bid to battle global hunger© Provided by ABC News Dr Lee Hickey inside a speed breeding greenhouse at night on campus at St Lucia.

Queensland researchers are speeding up the life cycle of crops to develop new varieties for Australian farmers in a bid to minimise the impacts of drought and climate change.

With the United Nations estimating the world's population will hit 9.8 billion by 2050, Australian researchers are at the leading edge in a global search for ways to dramatically improve crop yields, land use and food security.

The world-first speed breeding technique was developed by scientists at the University of Queensland's alliance for agriculture and food innovation (QAAFI), who use light and temperature-controlled greenhouses to accelerate plant growth and deliver more tolerant crops.

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Zero hunger refers to lack of food or widespread food shortages caused by war, drought, crop failure or government policies. In developing countries, food fortification has gained momentum in recent years through the work of organizations like the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).

With each new generation, researchers attempt to breed in desirable traits while breeding out undesirable ones. The quicker they can take a “We have successfully used the speed breeding technique developed by UQ researchers in peanut for a number of years now,” Graeme Wright, a

Senior research fellow Dr Lee Hickey, who has led the program for more than a decade, said it could take 20 years to develop crops with drought and disease resistant traits, but the greenhouses delivered these results in half the time.

"We can now grow up to six generations of wheat, barley, chickpea and quinoa per year in greenhouses instead of just one or two in the field," he said.

"We're trying to track down the genes controlling drought tolerance or disease resistance and so this can have big flow-on effects to accelerate the development of more robust crops for farmers."

The temperature of the greenhouses are kept between 22 to 17 degrees Celsius and LED lights remain on for 22 hours a day to create conditions that lead to early flowering and seed harvest in the plants.

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Robotic approach to crop breeding . Jennifer Manyweathers takes a look at a robot that is being used to B Dr Chris Lambrides, a research fellow at the University of Queensland , is nearing the end of a project E When the project first began, the researchers used hand-held infrared thermometers to

Researchers are developing a system to enable six harvests a year of staple food crops that can survive climate change.

Once the plants have been bred with the improved genetics inside the greenhouses, they are put to the test in the field to ensure they produce good yields before being handed over to farmers.

The first wheat variety completely bred and developed in the speed breeding system was released to Australian growers last year.

It includes a trait that stops mature grain crops from prematurely germinating after rain or a storm.

Dr Hickey said the technique was originally designed for wheat crops, but had been adapted for barley, canola, chickpea, peanuts and potatoes.

"As we've seen, the past 12 months has been a bit of a rollercoaster for our farmers, going from one of the worst droughts we've ever had in Queensland and New South Wales, to floods in the north — it's a bit like being in a lottery being a farmer," he said.

"Climate change is happening now, it's not a futuristic thing.

"What does this mean in terms of our crop production? It means we really need to deploy a whole bunch of different traits — like deep rooting so the plant can access stored soil moisture — into these crops to make them more robust."

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Biofortification uses conventional plant breeding techniques to enhance the micro-nutrient concentration This approach, known as biofortification, uses conventional plant breeding techniques to enhance These crops have been introduced into many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

But as researchers , we are particularly interested in a different kind of hunger – one that is less Micronutrient deficiencies, also known as hidden hunger , occurs when there is a lack of essential This approach, known as biofortification, uses conventional plant breeding techniques to enhance the

QAAFI researchers are also sharing the technology with the United Kingdom and with Asian and African nations in a bid to combat severe crop losses from drought and heat.

Dr Hickey recently returned from a trip to India where extreme heat had forced researchers to look into building large speed breeding warehouses to grow sorghum, millets, pigeon pea and ground nut plants.

Growers eager for more robust crops

Food growers on the Darling Downs have experienced their third dry summer in a row and the combination of below-average rainfall and hot weather have halved crop yields.

Grain farmer Wayne Newton grows sorghum, mung beans and dryland cotton on his property, west of Dalby, and is hoping for some decent rain in the coming months.

"It's been another one of these disastrous summers," he said.

"Summer is normally the time we get most of our rain, but we've just come through January and we've basically had no rain to talk about."

Mr Newton said grain varieties had improved in the past 30 years, with higher yields, improved resistant to disease and water use efficiency.

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Australian researchers have demonstrated a ‘ speed breeding ’ technique for common crops . Their method yields far more food per unit area than conventional farming, relying on specially calibrated LEDs that emit light at specific frequencies onto crops to accelerate plant growth.

The improved breeding speed will allow scientists to conduct research at a faster clip. " Globally , we face a huge challenge in breeding higher yielding and more resilient crops ," Brande Wulff, a researcher at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England, said in a news release.

"Crop breeding, crop research and development is a key cornerstone to our industry and thankfully the grain industry collectively contributes an awful lot through levies that are used to fund the research work that is carried out by universities, the CSIRO and the Department of Agriculture," he said.

"It makes a big difference to our final yield and to the final profitability of a crop ... and it's not just us as grain farmers, our commodities like sorghum and wheat are used to feed livestock so there's a whole larger industry that is dependent on the things that we can grow."

CSIRO research scientist Richard Richards said there were also other techniques to fast-track the identification of plants with good genetics.

One technique utilises thermal imagery to scan crop fields for plants with good root systems.

"The speed associated with this technology was not available five years ago," Mr Richards said.

"It has only been made possible with sensitive thermal cameras that are not too expensive, cheap airborne systems such as drones, the ability to rapidly store and process thousands of images and the knowledge that the temperature of plants vary according to health.

"Given we can capture thermal images of thousands of plots in seconds with this new technology, then breeding gains may be enhanced."

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