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The challenge

Maintaining crop yields during dry times

New farming systems tools are needed to help growers maintain yields through dry conditions and drought. 

Our response

New wheat traits suitable for dry or drought conditions

We are integrating new traits in wheat that provide farmers with flexibility to sow at deeper depths when faced with low surface soil moisture.

The trait was first delivered in two CSIRO-bred varieties (LRPB Bale and LRPB Dual), and is being incorporated into new wheat varieties. These varieties have a longer coleoptile – the protective sheath which encloses the emerging shoot and first leaves. A longer coleoptile allows sowing to depths greater than 10 centimetres to better access deeper, stored soil moisture.

Early germination allows livestock to graze on dry matter produced early in the season and builds potential for greater yields.  It also ensures that early-sown varieties flower at the optimum time to avoid hot, dry conditions during the development of grain yield. 

Our crop growth models show an average yield benefit of 18 to 20 per cent with deep sowing compared to conventional sowing.

We are combining our intricate knowledge of plant genetics, farming systems and modelling to better define the conditions under which deep sowing with long coleoptile wheat varieties is advantageous.

Our progress: supporting integration into farming systems

In 2023, Grains Research and Development Corporation launched a $12.7 million collaborative project we’re leading to support the integration of long coleoptile wheat into Australian farming systems.

The research will address knowledge gaps in how these new varieties perform in different production environments, soils and farming systems to inform best practice guidelines for successful adoption.

The results

New drought-tolerant wheat varieties available to farmers

Australian breeding companies are using our genetics to breed new wheat varieties with longer coleoptiles.

A few long-coleoptile wheat varieties are available to parts of Australia now, with more being developed for commercial release in the next two to three years.

This will see more farms across Australia realise the benefits of these varieties in coming years.

In a Nature Climate Change paper, we estimate that long-coleoptile wheat varieties would increase farmers' profits by $2.3 to 2.4 billion on average, per year annually across Australia.

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