Home' Partners : Partners: Focus on Africa Contents PARTNERS NOVEMBER 2010 FEBRUARY 2011
BY GIO BRAIDOTTI
F armers in India, China and Australia are
among the beneficiaries of a research
collaboration in which genetically rich
germplasm collections have been exchanged
between the three countries.
The ACIAR-sponsored collaboration enabled
unprecedented interchange among Australia,
India and China, giving breeders, farmers and
the oilseed industries access to a larger gene
pool from which to select for advanced traits.
For Australian growers that means the potential
for greater tolerance to heat, drought and
The project ran for 5 years, culminating
recently in the final exchange of breeding
populations. These lines are now in the final
evaluation and bulking stage before they
are handed over, with no strings attached, to
breeding programs responsible for developing
more resilient, better-performing oilseed
varieties for farmers.
The exchange also had the support of
Australia's Grains Research and Development
Corporation (GRDC) and involved 13 research
organisations. The project was led by Associate
Professor Phil Salisbury of the University of
Melbourne and the Victorian Department of
Primary Industries (DPI).
Associate Professor Salisbury says that
historically China and India have been reluctant
to allow access to their genetic resources. "It
took a lot of negotiating to set up the exchange
and it only happened when each partner could
see mutual benefits," he says.
"So the level of exchange we got was a real
first. Ultimately, it has been very successful,
not only in exchanging germplasm but also
working on screening techniques and ways to
test for diseases such as sclerotinia rot, which is
particularly difficult to detect."
The researchers focused on germplasm from
two brassica species---Brassica napus (the main
species used in Australia for canola production)
and B. juncea (an oilseed species developed for
its greater drought tolerance).
The traits of greatest interest to each
GENETIC RESOURCES PUT TO WORK FOR FARMERS
Three countries have exchanged brassica oilseed breeding material, including canola,
in a collaboration that sets a valuable precedent for research cooperation and the
sharing of Chinese and Indian plant genetic resources
country were identified at the project's outset.
Researchers then selected lines from national
collections to exchange in the first and third
year of the project.
Additionally, breeders selected and
enhanced the traits of greatest interest to each
of the partner countries. These traits included
resistance to diseases such as sclerotinia
rot, white rust and blackleg, quality traits
such as reduced levels of erucic acid and
glucosinolates, and drought tolerance.
"China's sclerotinia tolerance is probably
the best tolerance anywhere in the world,"
Associate Professor Salisbury says. "India and
Australia stand to benefit from greater levels of
drought tolerance in Indian juncea. In terms of
Australian germplasm, our partners were most
interested in quality traits."
Associate Professor Salisbury explains that
India and, to a lesser extent, China do not
necessarily produce canola-quality oil. It was
Canadian, European and Australian breeders
who undertook the breeding that converted
rapeseed into the higher-quality canola plants
that produce healthier oil and meal.
"The ACIAR/GRDC project transferred
quality traits into lines adapted to production
in the recipient countries," he says. "In return,
the Australian industry has gained access to
breeding lines that are more stress tolerant and
resistant to diseases."
Despite the ACIAR/GRDC project ending,
Associate Professor Salisbury believes
that relationships forged among research
organisations in the three countries will endure
into the future. For Australian researchers that
means ongoing collaborations with Indian
and Chinese scientists, especially cytologists
such as Dr Surinder Banga, an expert at making
interspecific crosses that allow the movement
of valuable traits from wild species into
cultivated oilseed varieties.
"The cytological skills of Indian scientists are
remarkable," Associate Professor Salisbury says.
"And the brassica family is large and incredibly
diverse, with many wild species expressing traits
of interest. So we would certainly look to try and
continue working with Dr Banga. But overall
there are many potential areas for collaborations
in both China and India in the future." n
Associate Professor Phil Salisbury.
PHOTO: PAUL JONES
PROJECT: CIM/1999/072: Oilseed Brassica
improvement in China, India and Australia
CONTACT: Phil Salisbury,
Links Archive Partners: Connecting policies with farmer benefits Partners: Partnering with NGOs Navigation Previous Page Next Page