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WA Research Targets Wheat Protein

23 November 2011

AUSTRALIA - Western Australian growers will benefit from new research which will help produce wheat varieties containing higher levels of protein and extra ‘functionality', without requiring additional fertiliser.

The research is funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) with the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), and is being conducted in conjunction with Murdoch University.

Functionality refers to the properties of grain, including protein characteristics, which are relevant to the processing of grain into end products.

Growers who produce wheat with higher protein levels receive a premium for achieving harder wheat grades, used to make products such as yellow alkaline noodles, pan bread, flat bread and instant noodles.

WA scientists involved in the GRDC funded project are collaborating with Italian researchers in a bid to provide Australian wheat breeding programs with germplasm which will help breed varieties with higher protein levels and additional functionality.

New Australian wheat varieties with higher protein levels and functionality would potentially allow WA growers to achieve the very high protein Australian Prime Hard (APH) grade and access non-traditional markets.

Novel Italian wheat lines containing a new gluten protein have been imported into Australia so the genetic material can be crossed into Australian bread wheat varieties.

DAFWA senior molecular geneticist based at Murdoch University, Wujun Ma, said key aims of the project were to help Australian growers maintain their global competitiveness and increase their profitability by improving protein levels and functionality without the necessity of high nitrogen inputs.

Dr Ma said higher protein content could be achieved by farming on soils high in nitrogen, or supplying adequate nitrogen fertiliser.

“But the sandy nature of many WA soils means the amount of nitrogen fertiliser required to achieve desirable wheat protein content comes at a high cost for wheat growers,” he said.

“Rain or wet seasons – as experienced by many WA farmers in 2011 - can make grain protein more difficult to achieve as soil nitrogen is leached before uptake and plant nitrogen is diluted with high yields.

“This can result in low protein content.”

The alternative was to breed wheat varieties with novel protein which improved the functional properties of wheat flour used in baking and other end uses, but required minimal added nitrogen.

The novel Italian wheat lines imported under the current project contained a new gluten protein gene.

“Common Australian wheat varieties contain a maximum of five gluten protein units,” Dr Ma said.

“The extra gluten protein gene from Italy will be crossed into Australian bread wheat varieties so that Australian wheat cultivars contain a total of six gluten protein units – leading to a higher percentage of functional protein in wheat end products made from Australian wheat.”

TheCropSite News Desk

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