Chickpea growers Australia-wide stand benefit from infrastructure developments at Tamworth, New South Wales.
Tamworth has long been the hub for chickpea improvement, historically servicing New South Wales, but with the inception of Chickpea Breeding Australia (CBA) and now an infrastructure investment injection it stands to become the breeding powerhouse for Australian chickpeas.
A combined $10 million investment from GRDC and the NSW Department of Primary Industries over five years is helping. Commencing in 2021, the investment is delivering a new glasshouse, new polyhouses, storage facilities and capital items. These facilities are bringing efficiencies and boosting the scale of chickpea development.
Dr Kristy Hobson, CBA’s senior chickpea breeder, says the new glasshouse is a step change to accelerate chickpea improvement.
“The 550-square-metre glasshouse is equipped with LED far-red lighting and sophisticated heating and cooling to assist rapid cycling 10,000 individuals through four generations per year,” Dr Hobson says.
This facility also assists us in synchronising flowering between domesticated and wild chickpeas, so we can cross multiple generations a year. Successful crossing percentages have increased from 30 to over 80 per cent regardless of the time of year.
Two polytunnels have been installed – one 460-square-metre propagation tunnel with lighting, heating and cooling that can accommodate 5,280 pots every four months, and one 340-square-metre facility dedicated to Ascochyta blight screening fitted with misters and cooling.
“The 340 square-metre facility is enabling us to screen 7,752 individuals in a four-week period and accurately select more material at an earlier generation stage. This means we only take the best material to field based Ascochyta blight screening, having this knowledge at an early generation ensures we don’t waste resources on sub-standard material,” Dr Hobson says.
New processing, cool-room and storage facilities as well as freezers, grinders and a harvester are improving efficiencies and increasing CBA program capacity.
“The new facilities have given us increased ability to collaborate with pre-breeders and researchers as we can accommodate more traits and germplasm.”
Established and expanding regions
CBA takes a methodical approach to breeding chickpeas adapted to Australian regions, with traits categorised as short-term and longer-term priorities. Its’ breeders work closely with pre-breeders, identifying appropriate germplasm with these traits for rapid inclusion in breeding pipelines.
“New breeding technologies have been adopted, such as genomics and high-throughput phenotyping as well as the latest in experimental design, much of this enabled by the new infrastructure.”
CBA’s efforts continue to focus on the established regions of northern NSW and central and southern Queensland where most of Australia’s chickpeas are grown, but it is now well-equipped to expand into regions of southern and western Australia.
“Improved Ascochyta blight resistance is the number-one priority and we are making good progress with increased resistance in pre-release lines. Fundamental to this progress has been GRDC’s investment in the five-pronged program ‘Towards effective genetic and sustainable management of Ascochyta blight of chickpea’.
Phytophthora root rot resistance is important for chickpeas in the traditional areas and we have one desi chickpea line with improved resistance near release.
For expanding regions, CBA is making inroads for improved acid soil tolerance and chilling tolerance during flowering and podding, together with developing herbicide tolerant varieties for improved weed management.
“CBA Captain (PBR), released in 2020, continues to gain ground. It is an erect desi type with broad adaption to all regions of Australia, early to mid-flowering, moderate lodging resistance and has excellent harvestability.
“Collaboration with the research community and seed partners is critical to capturing the maximum value from new investments to deliver new chickpea varieties with improved yield and yield stability for Australian growers.”
More information: Dr Kristy Hobson, firstname.lastname@example.org