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Accelerating crop improvement for grain growers

The Australian Grains Genebank located in Horsham, Victoria.
Photo: Agriculture Victoria

Minister for Agriculture Gayle Tierney recently announced a $30 million co-investment between Agriculture Victoria and GRDC to transform the AGG from a traditional seed bank into a bio-digital resource centre. This five-year co-investment is one year into development and will be completed by 2027.

Located at Agriculture Victoria’s Horsham SmartFarm at the Grains Innovation Park, the AGG is the national centre for grain crop genetic resources in Australia.

The new investment will make the plant genetic resources conserved within the AGG more accessible and valuable to the Australian grains industry.

Traditionally, it has been challenging for researchers to identify desirable genes within national and international gene banks. This investment will improve the connectivity between the AGG and international gene banks and link plant genetic resources to research and breeding knowledge to allow researchers to source diverse genes that underpin productivity and profitability improvements in grains crops.

It will also deliver management and operational efficiencies, build intellectual capacity through higher-degree research training, and support the attraction of new infrastructure investment. In turn, this will help develop climate change resilient, high-yielding and profitable grain crop varieties, further improving the $40 billion Australian grains industry.

The announcement coincides with the recent completion of a $1.8 million seed multiplication facility – a retractable greenhouse that uses leading-edge technology to enable more-rapid production and distribution of seed for plant genetic resources stored in the AGG. The facility is also located at the Horsham SmartFarm.

These investments expand on recent GRDC and Agriculture Victoria $6 million funding to build the Post-Entry Quarantine (PEQ) facility that allows industry to import more plant genetic resources while adhering to Australia’s stringent biosecurity and emerging international quarantine requirements.

The AGG transformation is part of the Victorian Government’s Agriculture Strategy, which is working towards enhancing the commercialisation of research and innovation.

The investment further coincides with the launch of a new online seed catalogue that facilitates access to the genetic resources for crop improvement purposes.

AGG director Dr Sally Norton says the catalogue is a searchable Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) database system. It is holds information about the more than 200,000 types of seed covering 1250 species that are stored at the AGG. Furthermore, the system ties in seamlessly with software used globally to manage the world’s essential seed and plant tissue collections.

"The new online catalogue will allow interested parties to look up information about our seed stock and request them for research, breeding, training and educational purposes,” Dr Norton says.

"It gives people online shopping cart functionality, allowing them to search seed lines and request samples with a few simple mouse clicks.”

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