News

Field Day 2016: Where Genetics Meets Management


4 October 2016

Associate Professor Brett Whelan demonstrating the capabilities and agricultural applications of drones.
Associate Professor Brett Whelan demonstrating the capabilities and agricultural applications of drones.

Genetics and management were at the forefront of discussions and demonstrations at this year's Plant Breeding Institute Field Day at the University of Sydney's I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre, Narrabri.

"Close to 200 growers, farmers, industry professionals, alumni, students and researchers joined us at the Narrabri campus in September for a fantastic day to showcase our developments in genetics, plant breeding and management research, and to take a look at some of our latest developments in technology that can be applied on-farm," said Professor Richard Trethowan, Director of the I.A. Watson Research Centre.

Participants were treated to a demonstration of the Integrated Harrington Seed Destructor, some of the latest models in agricultural drones from Rise Above, and the Faculty of Engineering and Information Communications brought along one of their newest robots, SwagBot for a demonstration of its capabilities in navigating difficult terrain. Forward thinking farmers were keen to know what sort of timeframes they can expect to see these developments in the commercial marketplace and what sort of tailored equipment they will be able to add to the technologies to suit individual requirements.

"The University's Field Day offers an excellent opportunity for professionals in the region to get a glimpse of what is coming from the University and our partners, chat about their requirements and help us consider where our future research may be directed," said Professor Trethowan.

Australian Grain Technologies, Longreach Plant Breeders, NSW DPI and the University of Sydney displayed anticipated new cultivars that will be available in 2017. Attendees were able to walk amongst field grown sample plots and compare what they are currently growing to new and recently released lines. Crops included bread wheat, durum wheat, faba bean, chickpea and field pea.

Professor Alex McBratney, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment and the team from CLAAS with the University's new combine harvester.
Professor Alex McBratney, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment and the team from CLAAS with the University's new combine harvester.

Visitors also inspected pre-breeding lines which will be part of future cultivars, including crown rot-resistant wheat which far outperforms current varieties under high crown rot pressure, high yielding and frost tolerant faba bean, and extremely high yield potential wheat for irrigated systems from CSIRO.

The University of Sydney's Associate Professor Michael Kertesz and Dr Paola Corneo provided an update on their latest findings on a long-term agronomic trial looking at the effects of genotype x environment x management on soil health. The researchers spoke about the importance of plant-microbe interactions for nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration, and how they are working to identify genetic traits in wheat and combining these with different management practices to come up with the best scenarios to improve soil health.

"Michael and Paola identified that their research will benefit growers in numerous ways. Wheat genotypes they have identified will be selected for not only for increased grain yield, but for their ability to improve soil health which will provide sustainability for growing regions. These genotypes could help to sequester more carbon in the soil; enhance soil structure and water retention capabilities; increase the soil microbial diversity and activity; and favour the association with beneficial soil microorganisms," said Richard Trethowan.

"Gene technology is at the forefront of our pre-breeding research here at the I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre. We are constantly improving our knowledge and techniques to get ahead of the game in improving resistance from diseases, coping with extreme heat and increasing yields. Field Day at Narrabri provides a great opportunity to showcase our progress, and to look at the results of our collaborations with commercial breeders that develop, trial and deliver our research outcomes to growers," he said.

"We are so pleased to be able to host such a successful, informative day for the benefit of growers. The willingness for adoption and progress is so encouraging for an organisation dedicated to research that is focussed on the future of our food," said the Director of the I.A. Watson Grains Research Centre.

More information about Field Day or research at the Plant Breeding Institute, Narrabri.