Pulse Breeding

Field peas

The Plant Breeding Institute's Narrabri centre is currently a partner in field pea breeding and evaluation initiatives with the Pork CRC and Pulse Breeding Australia.

  • The Pork CRC project is at the present time a targeted breeding program aimed at producing high yielding, disease resistant pea varieties with suitable grain quality characters for the pig producers of northern NSW and Queensland. This project utilizes a range of internationally derived germplasm from Plant Research NZ Ltd (PRNZL) via a long standing collaborative arrangement between the two organizations. This collaboration has resulted in the release of two varieties for northern NSW, Yarrum and Maki. A new complementary project commenced with the Pork CRC in 2008 focused on fast-tracking adapted, high yielding germplasm from crosses specifically targeting the northern region. In addition, this project will continue to integrate and screen for important disease resistances and some grain quality characters (high ME, low TIA).
  • The PBA project is a northern evaluation node of the national field pea breeding program. This project essentially tests fixed lines from the centralized breeding program in southern Australia. Initially this germplasm was relatively unadapted and therefore significantly lower yielding in the northern region. More recently, targeted crosses (particularly to Yarrum) have enabled this germplasm to perform better in this environment.
  • Plant Research (NZ) Ltd (PRL) is a privately owned limited liability company based at Lincoln University in Canterbury New Zealand. PRL is currently involved in a joint breeding effort for field pea in the northern areas of Australia with the University of Sydney and the Pork CRC. Involvement with the PBA historically occurred when the Managing Director of PRL, Adriana Russell worked as a plant breeder for the New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research.

PRNZL has a network of international collaborators to access the best germplasm available and through its northern hemisphere breeding nurseries has the ability to fast track variety development.

The association with the University of Sydney program is a long standing one that has resulted in adapted varieties to the northern cropping region.

The current field peas performance guides for the North:

Field Pea

Faba beans

There is a need for increasing grain legume production in northern New South Wales (NSW) and southern Queensland to provide alternative rotational crops in predominately cereal based farming system. Chickpea, faba bean and field peas are important grain legumes in this northern grain growing region. The potential of faba bean as an economically viable pulse crop in this sub-tropical region was realized with the establishment of faba bean breeding program within the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), at Narrabri NSW in 1995. The University of Sydney took this responsibility from the NSW DPI in 2011 and breeding activities were relocated to the University’s IA Watson Grains Research Centre at Narrabri. With the release of varieties, Cairo and Doza in the past, the faba bean production in NSW has increased to more than 120,000 tonnes in 2012. The production will increase further with another variety PBA Warda which was released in 2012. PBA Warda is higher yielding with improved disease resistance and seed quality, and will replace Doza and Cairo .

The faba bean breeding program at Narrabri is under the umbrella of Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA) Australian faba bean improvement program coordinated through The University of Adelaide. There are two breeding nodes to reflect the very significant environmental differences associated with the North-South distribution of the crop. The southern node is lead by The University of Adelaide and is responsible for developing faba beans for cooler and longer growing season environment of southern Australia including southern NSW, whereas the northern node is lead by The University of Sydney and is responsible for warmer and shorter season sub-tropical region of northern NSW and southern Queensland. Dr Kedar Adhikari leads the northern node of national faba bean breeding program and supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Faba bean production in a farmer’s field

Faba bean production in a farmer’s field

The breeding program aims to deliver high yielding, disease resistant and high quality faba bean varieties suitable for human consumption for northern NSW and southern Queensland. The program has a strong focus on improving disease resistance to ensure new varieties have a high level of resistance to the major diseases in the target zone. The pathological component is supported by the NSW DPI at Tamworth. Faba bean rust (Uromyces viciae-fabae) is the most important disease in this region followed by chocolate spot (Botrytis fabae) and viral diseases, viz. bean loaf roll virus. Radiation frost and heat stress during flowering and seed development stages are major abiotic stresses.

Rust resistant and susceptible breeding lines of faba bean at Narrabri

Rust resistant and susceptible breeding lines of faba bean at Narrabri


At Plant Breeding Institute, Narrabri, we are working on potential pulse crops such as chickpea that contribute to sustainability of wheat based farming systems in North and North-West New South Wales. The research on chickpea is focussed mainly on major biotic (Ascochyta blight and Phytophthora Root Rot) and abiotic stresses (Heat and Drought) and quality traits. We have developed collaborative research programs with New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSWDPI), Tamworth and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), India. We are aiming at utilisation of genetic diversity of chickpea in breeding Australian chickpea varieties with improved resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and with improved quality traits.