Horsham's $6m Australian Grains Genebank opens

AGRICULTURE Minister Peter Walsh opened the $6-million Australian Grains Genebank in Horsham on Friday.

He said the centre, at Grains Innovation Park, would store grain used for research to prevent disease and enhance the climate resistance of plants.

“This is the national gene seedbank and it comes after years and years of discussion and negotiation between the states and between the Commonwealth to bring it all together here,” he said.

“It is centralising three seed collections, one in Queensland, one in NSW and one here.” 

He said the State Government and the Grains Research and Development Corporation had each provided $3 million towards the project.

The government had also committed $600,000 a year to maintain the genebank for the next five years, with an option for two further five-year blocks of funding.

Grains Research and Development Corporation director Sharon Starick said the genebank ensured easy access for plant breeders from throughout Australia.

“It enables all the genetic material in Australia to come together in one place,” she said.

“It is sorted in a really good manner, which means it is viable when it comes out the other end.”

Genebank leader Sally Norton said the centre would focus on diverse breeding material, landraces and wild relatives.

It would store pure genetic material, not genetically modified material.

Dr Norton said landrace crops had developed over a long time to adapt to their environment.

“We have canola, wheat, barley, oats, vegetable brassicas, lupins, lentils, chickpeas, field peas and tropical crops such as soybeans, maize, mung beans and other beans,” she said.

Plant Health Australia chairman and Warracknabeal farmer Tony Gregson said the seedbank brought Australia into step with other countries in contributing seed varieties.

Mr Gregson said the seedbank was extremely important from an international perspective.

“The world is watching. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, the International Treaty Secretariat, the Global Crop Diversity Trust – they’re all watching and they’re all cheering and clapping saying ‘thank goodness Australia has come into the real world’,” he said. 

“In the past we’ve been regarded as a bunch of hillbillies who are just taking stuff all the time. Now we can put something back of our own unique material.”

The centre has 2.7 kilometres of shelf space, capacity to hold 200,000 packets of seed and more than 2000 different crop species.

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