Horsham opens Australian Grains Genebank

A NEW $6-million national seed bank in Horsham opened on Friday.

The Australian Grains Genebank at Grains Innovation Park will be a national centre for storing genetic material for plant breeding and research.

Victorian Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh opened the centre.

He said the genebank would house about 300 million seeds from around the world to be used in future plant breeding programs. 

“These collections could hold the key to plant breeders finding new ways to tackle drought, frost, plant pests and diseases in Australian and overseas crops,” he said. 

“The genebank will be pivotal to the future growth of Victoria’s grains industry.”

“The genebank will be pivotal to the future growth of Victoria’s grains industry.” - Victorian Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh

Mr Walsh said the bank was the result of many years of discussion between the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the State Government.

“The centre will ensure vital plant genetics are preserved and available to breeders,” he said.

“Genetic material is vital for our productive agricultural future and this national collection of pulse, cereal, oilseed and tropical seeds will include more than 180,000 samples from Australia and around the world.”

The government and grains corporation have each committed $3 million to the project.

Long-term commitment

“Another $600,000 will be committed each year for the next five years,” Mr Walsh said.

“The long-term commitment is a step forward and funding will be reviewed every five years.

“The genebank will merge three seed collections from Victoria, NSW and Queensland. 

“Both government researchers and other scientists can access the genebank for valuable grains research.”

“Scientists will have access to a new phenomics glasshouse and extensive laboratory and field facilities for crop trials to support the development of new grain varieties.

“This work will benefit not only grain producers, but also processors, marketers, breeders and regional farming communities.” 

Grains corporation director Sharon Starick said the centre was the result of many years of vision and hard work by researchers, industry and governments. 

“There is more than 2.7 kilometres of shelf space at minus 20 degrees Celsius, a capacity to hold 200,000 packets of seed and more than 2000 different crop species,” she said. 

Ten thousand seed samples from the genebank have already been shipped to Norway for storage in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

World map

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Global Crop Diversity Trust vice-president Tim Fischer accompanied the seeds to Norway.

He said the genebank would put Horsham on the world map.

“There is no doubt that from Norway to New Zealand, the Australian Grains Genebank in Horsham will lead to huge contributions to biodiversity and the future of food security of the world,” he said.

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