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Researchers gain access to genetic resources to speed up oat, lupin breeding

GRDC staff met with Traitomic staff in Canberra to discuss the new partnership to improve access to novel crop genetic diversity. (left to right) Pip Wilson, Juan Juttner, Justine Morgan and Michael Groszmann from GRDC, and Jan Gottlieb and Agnieszka Nielsen (Traitomic).
Photo: GRDC

Three essential ingredients for successful crop breeding are now more available than ever thanks to a new investment between the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Traitomic – a crop trait development company.

The three ingredients – access to novel grain crop diversity, knowledge about this diversity and a method to incorporate it into elite crop varieties – will increase the speed new and improved oat and lupin varieties can be developed for Australian grain growers.

The GRDC-Traitomic partnership will give Australian grain breeders and pre-breeding researchers unprecedented access to massive libraries of unique genetic variants for oat and lupin.

They will be able to rapidly (within weeks) search and access the libraries for new specific versions of genes that drive key crop traits – like disease resistance or drought tolerance – via the Traitomic FIND-IT platform.

“Initially the partnership will enable GRDC breeding and pre-breeding research partners to access genetic libraries in elite oat and lupin cultivars to generate and identify new versions of genes related to beneficial crop traits,” says Dr Michael Groszmann, GRDC genetic technologies manager (barley and coarse grains).

Oats are an important export market for Australian grain growers, while lupins are the biggest pulse crop in the country.

“Using the Traitomic service, breeders and pre-breeders will be able to increase the pace that they can develop new oat and lupin varieties with improved performance and desirable traits,” adds Dr Groszmann.

“New gene targets can be identified and provided to breeders at significantly lower cost, with a higher likelihood of success, and with greater freedom to operate than previously possible.

“It’s a really exciting development and we’re thrilled to be doing more business with non-traditional partners, in this case an international genetics services company willing to set up shop here in Australia.”

Based in Denmark, Traitomic is a trait development company comprising experts and specialists experienced in plant seed and microbial strain development for the food industry.

Image of Agnieszka Nielsen, Traitomic, and Professor Chengdao Li, Muroch University.

Agnieszka Nielsen, Traitomic, and Professor Chengdao Li, Muroch University – with Australian oat variety Bilby in the foreground and some of Chengdao’s oat lines in the background – showcasing the genetic diversity in oats. Photo: Sue Knights

The Traitomic resources and service provide the ability to generate and evaluate tailored versions of genes that can give rise to unique traits that may not otherwise be available through wild relatives or cultivated varieties of the crop of interest.

These gene variants are non-GMO and free from regulatory constraints allowing rapid integration and deployment through breeding programs.

“We are excited and humbled to embark on this journey with GRDC,” says Jan Gottlieb, Traitomic commercial lead and cofounder.

“GRDC’s commitment to assist scientists and industry to bring beneficial traits within oats and lupin is ambitious and inspiring.

We are confident that the acceleration our platform enables will create unprecedented momentum, benefiting both grain growers and the whole industry around both these crops.

Currently, GRDC has several investments in oats and lupins at various stages of development that will be able draw on the oat and lupin libraries, and is exploring access to Traitomic libraries for other crops too.

The GRDC-Traitomic partnership builds on other GRDC investments seeking to improve genetic resources to accelerate breeding efforts, including investment in the International Oat Pangenome, which provides in-depth insight into genetic variation and gene discovery.

Importantly, the GRDC-Traitomic assets are available to all Australian breeders and pre-breeders to help accelerate genetics research. Whether the project is funded by GRDC or another source, this service is available to any research group looking to improve genetic gains for the benefit of the Australian grains industry.

Information on how to access the libraries and costings will be communicated via the GRDC website, regional newsletters and social media in the coming months.

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