Collaborating with leading Chinese and Indian canola scientists in rapeseed breeding, pathology and agronomy could greatly benefit Australia’s oilseed industry.
In particular, WA growers may profit from India’s shatter-resistant pod research and China’s successful Sclerotinia resistance research.
Wallace Cowling, Associate Professor at The University of Western Australia (UWA) Institute of Agriculture and School of Plant Biology, said international collaboration could improve varieties and also canola biotechnology.
Along with Dr Sheng Chen, he has assessed genetic distance, rapeseed germplasm uniqueness and hybrid vigour in crosses between Australian, Chinese and Indian lines.
“We expect to find major hybrid vigour in rapeseed hybrid varieties from Australia, China and India,” Professor Cowling said.
“However, the big challenge will be canola diseases, which differ between Australia and China.”
UWA plant pathology research team, Dr Caixia Li, Dr Hua Li, Professor Krishnapillai Sivasithamparam and Associate Professor Martin Barbetti, have been assessing Chinese rapeseed germplasm for resistance to Sclerotinia, white rust and blackleg diseases.
Sclerotinia is an increasing threat to WA’s canola industry in the high rainfall region.
“Chinese scientists have developed Sclerotinia resistance in rapeseed over many years and UWA research confirmed this, which is the first step towards passing this technology onto growers,” Professor Barbetti said.
“The big challenge is to combine Sclerotinia resistance from China with the blackleg resistance from Australia, which annually costs WA growers more than $20 million in yield losses.
“In China, blackleg is not an issue, so their rapeseed is very susceptible to this disease.
“As WA rapeseed growers from the 1970s will verify, Australia’s canola industry would not exist without adequate blackleg resistance,” he said.
Resistance to white rust, a global Indian mustard disease that threatens Australia’s fledgling mustard industry, was also identified in germplasm from the project.
The UWA researchers now face the challenge of applying appropriate breeding methods to transfer improvements into Australian canola. China is becoming a major destination for UWA canola researchers for collaboration, as rapeseed is a major industry in that country.
Chinese scientists are rapidly breeding canola quality varieties from their traditional rapeseed types, according to Professor Cowling.
“Most WA growers are unaware of the big influence of Asian varieties in Australia, as half our canola ancestry is from Asian rapeseed varieties introduced here in the late 1960s.”
“Chinese scientists have been developing hybrid rapeseed varieties for more than two decades and China grows more hybrid rapeseed than the total Australian canola crop,” Professor Cowling said.
More than 30 collaborators from Australia, including representatives from the UWA School of Plant Biology and the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture, met Chinese and Indian associates at Huazhong Agricultural University (HZAU), China’s leading rapeseed research laboratory, in April.
Two UWA researchers at the meeting, Dr Ping Si and Dr Sheng Chen, are HZAU graduates.
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) supported the visit as part of the national ‘Oilseed Brassica Improvement in China, India and Australia’ project.
Associate Professor Wallace Cowling, Telephone (+61 8) 6488 7979
Professor Kadambot Siddique, Telephone (+61 8) 6488 7012, Mobile 0411 155 396