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The average net gain to Australia as a result
of the overall ICARDA research effort was
estimated at $13.7 million annually to 2022,
with most gains seen in faba bean and lentil
industries. The report also found benefits from
collaborative arrangements including screening
for pest and disease resistances, training and
the availability of reports and evaluations.
Similarly, an analysis of the benefit from
ACIAR's relationship with the Indian-based
International Crops Research Institute for the
Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) found Australian
breeding programs had utilised a large amount
of ICRISAT material. Overall, the net gain to
Australia of the research effort was estimated to
average $1.52 million a year.
Australia's relationship with the CGIAR centres
has also led to genetic benefits in rice, such as
cold-tolerance traits sourced from the Philippines-
based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI),
Dr Fox says. Various reports also found that
productivity gains from a number of crops bred
with international germplasm have more than
offset lower prices caused by yield increases.
MUTUAL BENEFITS CONSOLIDATE
INTO LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS
Ultimately, developing countries benefit from
Australia's participation in international efforts to
use biodiversity to safeguard food security---and
not just through the obvious benefits of financial
support. Relationships are forged, trust built and
new ways found to benefit from collaborations.
This was remarkably demonstrated when
Australia found itself in a position to donate
Indian germplasm back to India, where the old
landraces had been lost due to enthusiastic
uptake of modern CIMMYT germplasm.
"The Mexican wave in India became more
like the Mexican tsunami and blew away many
of the tolerance genes found in the old tall
wheats," Dr Fox says. "But we can repatriate some
of these genes for tolerance to soil stresses in
good high-yielding modern varieties, sending
germplasm back to India where the traits
originally came from more than 100 years ago."
This flow and reverse-flow of genetic
material is fostered by the collaborative
research environment of the CGIAR system, in
which Australians have been associated from
It's a relationship that continues today
through ACIAR's investment and through
Australian researchers working with
international colleagues in key centres
including CIMMYT, ICARDA and IRRI.
"I think in general the CGIAR has been
pretty important in fostering these global
communities," Dr Fox says. "And I think the next
phase is to push it a bit further to exchange
information more efficiently and just to target
ACIAR's Impact Assessment research
program manager Dr Debbie Templeton says
precise benefits to Australia from its investment
are difficult to measure. But even the most
conservative of assumptions could put the
return to Australia at just over 4:1, she says.
A 2010 benefit-cost analysis by Anthea
McClintock and Garry Griffith examining the
effectiveness of CGIAR investment in ACIAR's
mandated regions estimated that even under
the most conservative assumptions, for every
$1 million invested a return of $3.9 million was
delivered to developing countries in those
It found that ACIAR's investment in the
CGIAR centres supports the group's core
activities and provides specific project funding
to individual centres consistent with ACIAR's
country program strategies. n
CONSULTATIVE GROUP ON
RESEARCH CGIAR , www.cgiar.org
PROJECT: Suite of crop improvement,
bioinformatics, and genetic resource
CONTACT: Paul Fox, email@example.com
The legacy of Federation
When it comes to wheat, it is well documented
that the average annual economic benefit
from CGIAR research stretches into billions
of dollars. Less known is the historic role
that Australian genetic material played in
the development of such crops. It is a trail
that can be traced back to the 1800s and the
creation by William Farrer of Australia's "great
Federation transformed the fortunes of
Australia's wheat growers at the turn of the
20th century and today its legacy lives on.
Wheat genealogy expert Dr Howard Eagles
from the University of Adelaide says the
foundation of CIMMYT semi-dwarf varieties,
which formed the basis of so many modern
varieties, was created with the help of wheat
sourced from Australia via two routes.
First, CIMMYT breeders working under
Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug used
Australian wheats "quite substantially" in
their crossing programs during the 1950s and
1960s for their quality and disease-resistance
traits, leading up to the creation of semi-
dwarf wheats, he says.
But by poring over North American wheat
pedigrees, Dr Eagles has found a new twist.
Some CIMMYT germplasm has an even older
connection to Australia, with markers in it that
can be traced back to Farrer's Federation.
"Through another strand, CIMMYT breeders
used a North American wheat called Brevor
and we have now shown that Brevor in fact
contains genes out of Federation," he says.
This occurred because Federation was
exported to the United States in the early
1900s, where it was grown extensively in the
north-west and bred into Brevor, which in turn
was used by CIMMYT breeders.
"So we are finding we are getting some
of our old genes back through the CIMMYT
program," Dr Eagles says. "It's a part of the
Federation story that people don't know about."
Dr Howard Eagles
Dr Paul Fox
PHOTO: EVAN COLLIS
PHOTO: EMMA LEONARD
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