Grains Innovation Park Horsham was established in the 1960s to breed wheat for Victoria. By the 1980s, the breeding programs had expanded to include wheat, barley, canola, field peas, lentils and chick peas as well as associated agronomy, plant pathology and grains chemistry.
Today, there is a national approach to research, development and extension. Horsham has become a national centre for breeding pulses and also carries out pre-breeding research in cereals and oilseeds.
The site houses more than 200 people and includes laboratories, 15 glasshouses and two plastic igloos. It also hosts one of Australia's largest plant pathology regional groups and agronomy research in the areas of climate variability and remote sensing.
Horsham is home to a major pulse breeding program which includes the development of agronomic packages to accompany the new varieties. Research activities include genetic improvements such as new genetic variation, improved adaptation, improved grain quality, disease resistance and abiotic stress tolerances.
There is also research investigating management practices for biotic and abiotic constraints, efficient farming systems and climate change.
The centre also holds the Australian Temperate Field Crops Collection, a seedbank that houses 34,000 varieties of seeds. The collection has one of the largest national collections of Brassicas and crop legumes in the world.
Just outside of Horsham is the DPI Plant Breeding Centre Farm, where breeding and pathology plots are grown. Researchers are also working on the Free Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment (FACE) project which investigates the potential impacts of higher carbon dioxide levels on cereal and legume crops, insects and soil.
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Securing seeds for a bountiful future
DPI and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) have negotiated a long-term investment to develop a grain crop genetic resource centre, named the Australian Grains Genebank (AGG), at Grains Innovation Park.
Each will invest up to $2.85 million in new AGG facilities, glasshouses and infrastructure upgrades. They will also each commit up to $600,000 in the annual operating costs for five years, with options on further five-year terms.
The Australian Grains Genebank will function as a national facility for the acquisition, conservation, characterisation and distribution of grain crop genetic resources.
It will also consolidate the tropical and temperate cereal, grain legume and oil seed collections held in several facilities throughout Australia into a single dedicated seedbank.
These resources will be used by scientists and others in Australia and around the world for plant breeding, research and other agreed purposes.
The Australian Grains Genebank will enable Australia to operate in the global system of genebanks in accordance with the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
This agreement underpins the conservation, distribution and use of the genetic resources.
Seeds in the Australian Grains Genebank could hold the key to feeding a growing global population in the future and will include seeds from the Middle East, China, the Indian sub-continent and Europe, which are all major centres for crop genetic diversity.