WA wheat program bolstered by new expert recruit

WA wheat program bolstered by new expert recruit

Wheat breeding in Western Australia has just received a boost with a molecular breeding expert from South Africa recently joining specialist seed breeding company LongReach Plant Breeders.

WA farmers produce 15 per cent or $8.6 billion of Australia’s $59 billion agricultural production according to ABARES, with 65 per cent of that output consisting of wheat production.

Wheat breeder Dr Scott Sydenham (PhD, Molecular Breeding) was recruited by the LongReach Plant Breeders team to provide his expertise in molecular breeding and said that his main drive was to help growers to navigate common issues like pests, diseases, and climate volatility.

“In South Africa I was a pre-breeder on multiple national projects, specialising in molecular breeding, so one part of my job with LongReach is applying my molecular marker expertise,” Dr Sydenham said.

“More or less, that translates into creating competitive varieties with resistance to specific diseases and pests while looking at ways to modify seed varieties to better handle periods of drought.

LongReach Plant Breeders Dr Scott Sydenham
LongReach Plant Breeders Dr Scott Sydenham

LongReach has spent nearly two decades providing wheat growers in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland with superior wheat varieties to overcome an array of environmental challenges.

The company, a joint venture between Pacific Seeds and Syngenta Australia, has research teams across the country but this will be its first breeder in WA.

With climate volatility representing a constant hurdle for wheat farmers, the introduction of superior varieties has given growers greater surety during periods of drought and also support in disease and pest resistance.

“Along with product development officer Matu Peipi, here in WA I will be working on a national scale to lead certain trait introduction projects by targeting needed traits that complement the Australian environment.

“There are a lot of fascinating traits in Australian wheat that I hadn’t had exposure to before, which has given me an incredible opportunity to interact with world-renowned researchers.

“We’re currently looking at starting more regional developmental pipelines for diseases and abiotic stresses that are relevant to WA conditions – this is something we’ll be working on for the next three to five years and hope will produce significant outcomes for growers in this region.

“Through the LongReach program, our goal is to deliver growers robust and high yielding varieties with attractive traits for all the key production zones of the Australian wheat belt,” Dr Sydenham said.

“Ultimately it comes down to creating the best possible varieties for the growers and to boost their profitability.

“We’re really excited about what is to come in the next couple of years. There is a lot of potential in the pipeline.”

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Featured Image: LongReach Plant Breeders Dr Scott Sydenham