Drought tolerant wheat trials show 20 percent yield increase
Australian developed drought-tolerant wheat is showing up to 20 percent higher yields than non-GM control crops. It is hoped that this new GM variety will be the solution to drought affected wheat growing areas.
June 18, 2008
Drought-tolerant wheat developed in Victoria, Australia is returning yields up to 20 per cent higher than non-GM control crops, the Premier of Victoria, John Brumby, today announced at the BIO International Convention.
Mr. Brumby said large wheat-producing countries affected by drought, such as Australia, the USA, Argentina, China and India, were having to embrace new technologies to continue to meet the demands of the global wheat market.
"These initial results are very promising and suggest that these genetically modified wheat lines may be part of the solution to help farmers maintain and improve their crop yields in a changing global environment," Mr. Brumby said.
"Drought significantly reduced Victoria's wheat crops in 2006-07. With average yields worth approximately $300 million, a 20 percent boost could provide as much as $80 million to our wheat industry.
"Around the world, 35-50 per cent of wheat-growing areas are under drought risk. The number of drought-affected wheat growing areas is likely to increase with the effects of climate change."
Mr. Brumby said Victoria's $230 million Biosciences Research Centre – a joint venture between the Victorian Government and La Trobe University in Bundoora – would boost Victoria's capacity to make important discoveries.
Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Research Division Executive Director Professor German Spangenberg, who has been leading trials near Horsham and Mildura, said analysis of the crop, grown last year and harvested early this year, confirmed increased crop yields and maintenance of grain size.
"Twenty-four lines of GM wheat were tested and, of those, seven were identified as providing higher yields under drought stress," Professor Spangenberg said.
"Two lines exceeded the yield of the control experimental variety by 20 per cent."
The four-year moratorium on genetically modified canola lapsed this February. Genetically modified wheat is only grown under trial conditions.
Drought-tolerant GM wheat lines will require many years of research and assessment before they could be considered for commercial use. Professor Spangenberg said the results required confirmation in next season's field trials.
DPI has lodged an application with the Federal Gene Technology Regulator to plant additional trials of GM wheat lines over the next two years.
The new $230 million Biosciences Research Centre, a joint venture between the Victorian Government and La Trobe University, will boost Victoria's ability to make these important scientific discoveries. The centre, at Bundoora, will deliver internationally recognised research and development. Other agencies are invited to work with the centre.