3 March, 2016
Sugar Research Australia (SRA) has announced the appointment of Dr Bert Collard to lead the sugarcane industry’s plant breeding program.
The SRA breeding program is the single biggest area of research investment that SRA makes on behalf of SRA investors, delivering new and improved varieties that are suited to local regions and that meet the requirements of growers and millers.
Dr Collard joins SRA with a PhD in plant breeding, pathology and genetics, and he completed his Bachelor of Science majoring in Biotechnology and Botany at the University of Melbourne. Prior to taking on this role with SRA, he was a Senior Scientist in the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology (PBGB) area at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Los Banos, in the Philippines. He led the breeding and applied rice research there since 2012, focusing on irrigated rice systems in Southeast Asia.
He formerly held the position of durum wheat breeder/program leader in the NSW Department of Primary Industries. While there, he led the Australian durum wheat improvement program, the national durum wheat breeding program funded by GRDC.
SRA CEO Neil Fisher said that Dr Collard’s diverse experience from outside the sugarcane industry offered enormous potential for innovation for the breeding program.
“His enthusiasm and experience in other crops such as rice and wheat as well as a background in molecular breeding offer a fantastic opportunity for the SRA plant breeding program and the Australian sugarcane industry,” Mr Fisher said. “This appointment is also a response to our investors’ feedback that they are seeking innovation and new ideas within the breeding program.
“Dr Collard will play a vital role in working with our very experienced and highly-skilled plant breeding team in driving valued solutions for a growing sugarcane industry.”
Dr Collard is based at Meringa outside Cairns, one of the key locations for the SRA breeding program.
Dr Collard said he looked forward to working with the Australian sugarcane industry, the plant breeding team at SRA, as well as researchers from both within SRA and external to SRA, who make contributions to the breeding program.
“Sugarcane is a vital agricultural industry in Queensland, and varieties are a foundation of the productivity and profitability of growers and millers,” he said. “I look forward to working with the industry on continuing to improve and strengthen the breeding program.”
Local Variety Approval Committee meetings are scheduled across the Australian sugarcane industry soon. At these meetings, the local industry will be presented with information from SRA to inform their decision on approving the introduction of new sugarcane varieties.
Media contact: SRA Manager Communications Brad Pfeffer 0419 175 815.