Horsham's Australian Grains Genebank vital for cropping future

THE Australian Grains Genebank will play a crucial role in securing the long-term health of the Australian grains industry.

Plant scientist and Genebank leader Sally Norton said the new centre was critical to the future of the industry.

“We maintain such a wide diversity of crop species here and related species and we’re conserving the traits or the properties of plants that are required to meet the changing conditions of the future,” she said.

“This is the genetic base for the plant varieties of tomorrow and without a collection like this you don’t have the diversity to breed for tomorrow, so it’s critically important.”

Dr Norton said diversity was essential to tackling variable environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures, floods or droughts.

“Here, we are conserving the cropping diversity of all Australian grain crop varieties for tropical and temperate environments,” she said.

“We conserve the seed under long-term conditions so that the seed can remain viable for 50 to 100 years.

“We maintain the collection and give plant researchers access to develop new varieties.”

On a tour of the centre, Dr Norton pointed out the precise conditions at which seeds were stored to ensure their longevity and quality, including a freezer maintained at minus 20 degrees. 

Researchers work with seeds in an environment controlled to 15 degrees and 15 per cent humidity to ensure seed moisture is reduced to between six and eight per cent.

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