​Media Release

Pasture genebank secures farming future

2 December 2014

South Australia is set to secure Australia’s rich pastoral heritage and ensure future farming success as the host of the Australian Pastures Genebank.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said the genebank would be located at the Plant Research Centre at Waite Campus, and would preserve more than 70,000 varieties of pastures and forage species providing valuable seed for future breeding programmes.

This latest initiative follows the opening of the Australian Grains Genebank at Horsham, Victoria earlier this year.

“Every cattle, sheep, wool and dairy producer in the country relies on pasture species which grow well, or are bred for, various climatic and soil conditions around Australia,” Minister Joyce said.

“From subterranean clover to grazing tolerant lucernes bred in South Australia, these pastures have supported our livestock and other industries for generations. Further improving yield and productivity will be essential in meeting our food and fibre demands, and helps producers bring a greater return to the farmgate.

“Now, samples from thousands of pastures species will be preserved in a central location at the Waite Campus at Urrbrae in Adelaide – the largest agricultural research precinct in the Southern Hemisphere.

“This integrated, national approach to the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources will enable plant breeders to better access varieties with the traits they want.”

South Australian Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Leon Bignell said robust and nutritious pastures bred for Australian conditions supported the premium meat, dairy, wool and mixed farming sectors, which contribute around $48 billion to the national economy.

“It’s fitting the genebank is located at South Australia’s Plant Research Centre where South Australia’s scientists have bred some of Australia’s leading lucernes, medics and clover varieties,” he said.

“With the bulk of Australia’s $100 million-a-year lucerne seed industry now centred in the South East region of South Australia, it’s also fitting that this centre is here in this State.” 

The Australian Pastures Genebank will be managed by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), with support from the Australian Government and all State and Federal government primary industries departments.

The centre will be funded by industry bodies Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation, Grains Research and Development Corporation, Dairy Australia, and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

SARDI scientist and genebank curator Dr Steve Hughes said that plant diversity is critical for national and global food security.

“Such diversity helps grazing and mixed farming enterprises to adapt and remain competitive with the challenge of a changing climate or whatever other challenges the future may bring,” he said.

“The operations of the Australian Pastures Genebank will be critical to help agriculture adapt to the future and would benefit not only primary producers, but also seed companies, breeders, processers, research, education, the environment and regional farming communities.”