AUSTRALIA’S s national chickpea breeding program has a new home following the opening of a $10 million purpose-built research centre at Tamworth in northern New South Wales.
A joint initiative of the Grains Research and Development Corporation and NSW Department of Primary Industries, the Chickpea Breeding Australia – Breeding and Research Centre was officially opened today.
The centre will headquarter a five-year $30M collaboration between GRDC and NSW DPI designed to improve and optimise production in existing areas, as well as facilitate the crop’s expansion into new regions across Australia with varieties that contribute to profitable farming operations.
Established in 2020, the CBA collaboration is focused on adapted desi and kabuli chickpea varieties and will benefit from being located in the new centre, which is designed to support best-practice breeding using innovative technology to fast-track new varieties to growers.
Located within the Tamworth Agricultural Institute, the centre was opened today by NSW DPI director general Scott Hansen and GRDC chair and Goondiwindi grower John Woods.
Mr Hansen said GRDC has been a research key partner with DPI over many years, coinvesting in R&D programs to meet and capitalise current and future industry challenges and opportunities.
“CBA was initiated to develop new and improved chickpea varieties for farmers to enhance yield, quality and disease resistance,” Mr Hansen said.
“Chickpea is a critical crop in many northern NSW farming systems, offering crop rotation potential and returns for farmers.
“This fit-for-purpose facility will help fast track our R&D to get the latest in crop technology to farmers sooner.”
Mr Woods said the CBA collaboration reflected GRDC’s commitment to investing with the nation’s best researchers and equipping them with the best technology in the best facilities.
“We want to support researchers to deliver high quality outcomes, and this infrastructure investment is a key part of that,” Mr Woods said.
“While this research centre is based in northern NSW, it has been developed as the headquarters for what is a major national project focused on delivering new and improved chickpea varieties to benefit growers across Australia.”
Mr Woods said the centre would help accelerate the development of new and improved varieties for growers in the traditional chickpea growing areas of northern NSW and southern Queensland as well new production areas such as Western Australia.
“We know growers are keen to have access to new varieties with improved disease resistance to Ascochyta blight and Phytophthora root rot as well as better yield and yield stability.
“GRDC has invested in CBA, on behalf of Australian grain growers, because we know how important the results from this project will be to their farming businesses.”
The centre has climate and light-controlled glasshouses which effectively double capacity, enabling the breeding team to produce a minimum of four generations in one year.
It will also allow chickpea germplasm crossing to be done year around, with a four-fold improvement in success rates compared with when this activity was limited to the cooler months.
Improve processing capacity allows researchers to screen more than 2500 lines each month for Aschochyta resistance, an increase from the 400 lines screened annually previously.
The centre includes staff workrooms, laboratories and cold rooms for critical germplasm, a large seed store to safeguard germplasm and improved logistics, and new glasshouses and polyhouses.
The facilities will also allow the deployment of new technologies including robotic seed packing and new grain image analysis technology to further increase the accuracy of selection for quality traits desired by export markets.