Improving genetics can shift grain from bulk commodity to value added opportunity, enhance profit margins and help differentiate grain products in a competitive global market place.
Profitable and sustainable grain production results from developing new varieties, using molecular markers to track traits, capitalising on new market opportunities and collaborating internationally.
Presenting at an Institute of Agriculture, University of Western Australia (UWA) seminar, Canadian Associate Professor Istvan Rajcan from the University of Guelph, Ontario, discussed the benefits of genetically optimising seed composition to create value added opportunities.
He was at UWA to develop collaboration between his group and the Institute of Agriculture.
Professor Rajcan said molecular markers are useful tools for mapping important seed traits to improve conventional grain varieties and could also help develop disease resistance and improve crop adaptation to specific growing environments.
“Plant breeders should increasingly employ molecular markers to study disease trait genetics, especially resistance genes for white mould, which affect such broadleaf crops as lupins and canola,” he said.
“Developing new plants with novel traits takes advantage of new markets, especially in an industry with low and stagnating commodity prices, such as lupins in WA.
“There is great potential for growers to increase yields and profits by being open minded about new crop uses and closely monitoring market trends,” he said.
Professor Rajcan breeds high yielding and superior quality soybean varieties for specific markets and in the past decade he has developed 25 varieties.
“Novel seed quality helps growers enter new designer food and biofuel industries,” he said.
“Producing designer foods or functional foods, using varieties containing phytochemicals, can benefit human health.
“Reducing trans fatty acids to achieve higher quality oil also benefits human health because trans fats, a byproduct of hydrogenating oils high in linolenic acid, such as soybean and canola, are associated with coronary heart disease, which is on the rise in many countries.
“Decreasing linolenic acid in soybean seeds from nine to two per cent means we’ve produced healthier commercial varieties free of trans fats, which are worse than saturated fats,” he said.
The rapid growth of biodiesel plants and consumption in the US and Europe has increased the demand to produce biofuels from plant based oils.
Professor Rajcan’s breeding program is studying the potential to push soybean seed oil content from 19 per cent to 25 per cent, which would, ultimately, mean a cheaper per hectare oil price.
Professor Kadambot Siddique, Telephone (+61 8) 6488 7012, Mobile 0411 155 396