Date Posted

23 July, 2021

Posted by

Allyson Starky

Sugarcane growers in the Burdekin have a novel new variety to consider for their future farming operations.

The Burdekin Regional Variety Committee (RVC) met earlier this year to consider the commercial merit of the most advanced experimental clones in the Sugar Research Australia (SRA) breeding program and approved the release of SRA32.

Mr Rob Milla, Chair of the RVC and Manager of Burdekin Productivity Services (BPS), explained that the committee includes technical expertise across local production, agronomy, pathology, plant breeding and milling.

“The RVC is recognised under the Queensland Biosecurity Act with responsibility for minimum disease standards and is tasked with making release decisions on new varieties that improve whole-of-industry profitability,” said Mr Milla.

Dr Xianming Wei is SRA’s Variety Development Manager responsible for Burdekin plant breeding, which is expanding this year with 33,000 potential new varieties going into field trials at the SRA Brandon research station.

These potential new varieties then progress to Final Assessment Trials (FATs) conducted under commercial agronomic management conditions on farms across the Burdekin. A range of specialist tests are also completed to determine the disease resistance profile, sugar quality, and fibre quality of advanced clones.

SRA32 has completed testing through to second ratoon in seven Burdekin FATs between 2015 to 2020.

SRA32 has shown exceptional productivity with an advantage of 16 TCH when compared to standard, established varieties in these trials.

“SRA32 has also been very consistent, with cane yield above the average of the standards in 19 of the 20 harvests and 13 of these were statistically significant,” Dr Wei said.

“The new variety does have lower CCS than established varieties, averaging 0.8 units below the standards.

“However, the high yield potential of SRA32 means that the variety offers an advantage in terms of sugar per hectare. The difference in CCS varies with harvest date and crop age so there are opportunities to maximise CCS from SRA32 through management practices.”

SRA Executive Manager for Variety Development, Dr Jason Eglinton, said SRA32 is resistant to leaf scald, mosaic and Pachymetra.

“SRA32 is rated intermediate in reaction to smut, and in Burdekin observation trials infection levels have been higher than Q208 and KQ228 but significantly lower than SRA8. Planting into high smut risk situations should be avoided,” Dr Eglinton said.

Clean seed is a foundation for productivity, but it does take time to generate high volumes for new varieties, explained Rob Milla

“Following standard protocols for propagation through mother plots to distribution plots would see SRA32 become available to growers for billet planting in the 2024 season. However, thanks to SRA and BPS working together to use tissue culture to rapidly produce enough SRA32 plantlets to establish a one-hectare mother plot this year, growers will have clean seed of SRA32 available in 2023, one year ahead of the normal schedule,” Mr Milla said.

Growers interested in managing their own on-farm propagations can order tissue culture plants for delivery for spring planting in 2022, with orders to BPS closing at the end of October.

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