CROPPING

Acid soil tolerance projects hone in on crop genetics

FINDING genetic solutions to combat acid soil tolerance in chickpeas, lentils and canola is the focus of three projects being delivered by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) in conjunction with national partners.

Staff writer
 Canola is among several crop types that new research is looking into to help with acid soil tolerance. Photo Mark Saunders.

Canola is among several crop types that new research is looking into to help with acid soil tolerance. Photo Mark Saunders.

DPIRD genetic improvement portfolio manager, Darshan Sharma, said scientists were hoping to soon hand over new germplasm and tools to breeding companies to support the development of future varieties with improved levels of acid soil tolerance.

"Soil acidity is a major constraint to farming in Western Australia and nationally, limiting the yields of food crops, including canola, chickpea and lentils," Dr Sharma said.

"The long-term outcome from these three investments is for breeding companies to use the research outputs to develop varieties with improved levels of acid soil tolerance which can be made available to Australian growers for use on constrained soils."

DPIRD is leading chickpea research, in collaboration with Agriculture Victoria and the Western Crop Genetics Alliance, to identify germplasm with confirmed acid soil tolerance and associated genomic data for the development of breeding resources and tools.

DPIRD is also involved in field trials using a diverse set of canola germplasm from national and international sources to determine if there is genetic diversity for tolerance to acid soil, under a national project led by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

"For DPIRD, this involves documenting genetic variation for acid soil tolerance in a set of 300 lines of canola and its relatives at Merredin, on specifically prepared pairs of limed and non-limed strips," Dr Sharma said.

DPIRD is also evaluating whether lentil tolerance to soil acidity can be improved, with about 50 lines planted at Merredin last season to look at performance in soils with varying pH levels.

"The project will give Australian lentil breeders access to knowledge and germplasm carrying multiple diverse sources of plant tolerance to acid soils to deploy in breeding programs," Dr Sharma said.

"The aim of the project, led by Agriculture Victoria, is that by 2030 growers will have access to improved lentil varieties with acid tolerance for suitable production environments to maximise on-farm profit and minimise risk."

All three projects have co-investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

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