Monthly Archives: May 2013

Designer eucalypts for urban landscapes

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Thursday, 23 May, 2013

One of the new grafted varieties E. Nullarbor Rose, a cross between Eucalyptus youngiana and E. macrocarpa.

One of the new grafted varieties E. Nullarbor Rose, a cross between Eucalyptus youngiana and E. macrocarpa.

University of Adelaide researchers are working with the Australian nursery industry to produce ‘designer eucalypts’ more suitable for our home gardens and urban landscapes than many trees currently available.

Led by Dr Kate Delaporte at the University’s Waite Campus, the researchers and nurseries are developing a new way of propagating eucalypts that aims to be cheaper and more efficient, and, importantly, will enable production of plants with a particular flower colour, size and form.

“Eucalypts provide habitat for native birds, insects and animals and, often, are resilient to our harsh extremes – there is great potential for them to be used more in our gardens and urban areas. But there are only a small number of these specially-improved eucalypts currently available to gardeners in Australia,” says Dr Delaporte.

“Eucalypts produce a lot of viable seed but their inherent variability means that there is no guarantee that a tree with red flowers will produce seed that grows into new trees that have red flowers. Only through producing improved cultivars, propagated using methods like grafting and tissue culture, can we guarantee that the buyer knows what they are getting in terms of flower colour and tree size and shape. Most garden plants are propagated this way.”

Before potential new cultivars can be released on the market, they need to be grown over some years to test for commercially desirable characters – height and shape suitable for urban environments, attractive flowers and buds – and to ensure there aren’t any undesirable characters, like limb dropping or excessive growth.

Tissue culture is a fast and reliable way of propagating promising cultivars, but in the past, tissue culture from mature eucalypts has been extremely difficult. The new method being developed involves germinating seeds in culture and then propagating the lines from the initial seedlings.

The researchers have some promising lines of trees that can be propagated through this method which are still going through field trials.

“If we can successfully develop an economically viable method of clonal propagation through tissue culture, it will be the key that opens the door to a whole range of beautiful new designer plants,” says Dr Delaporte. “There’s so much opportunity to bring new eucalypts into the garden, all with bright flower colours, attractive foliage, bark and nuts, that are a good small size.”

The tissue culture research is building on a long-term project going since 1996, the Ornamental Eucalypt Development Program. This work has led to the new varieties released last year, Nullarbor Rose and Nullarbor Lime, produced through grafting.

Partners in current research include Humphris Nursery, Yuruga Nursery / Clonal Solutions Australia and Narromine Transplants. Other industry partners have included Longford Flowers, Redlands Farming and Ausbuds. Research has been funded by Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and Horticulture Australia Ltd with support from The Playford Trust and The Frank and Hilda Perry Trust.

Breeding superior almonds for a growing industry

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Monday, 20 May, 2013

Almonds. Image courtesy of Dr Michelle Wirthensohn

Almonds. Image courtesy of Dr Michelle Wirthensohn

More nutritious almonds for consumers and a greater range of high-quality varieties for industry – these are the aims of the Australian Almond Breeding program at the University of Adelaide, which has just received industry funding of $2.35 million to continue developing new almond varieties.

The almond breeding program, based in the School of Agriculture, Food & Wine at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus, is the only one of its kind in Australia.

The new project, which will cost $2.35 million over five years, has been funded by Horticulture Australia Ltd using the Almond Industry levy and matched funds from the Australian Government. This funding will enable the program to run commercial trials of promising almond selections already developed at the Waite Campus.

“Australia is now the second biggest producer of almonds in the world, with most being exported to India. Our goal is to increase current production by 15% in the next five years, and to decrease the reliance on existing cultivars over the next 10 years, to allow the industry to take advantage of this growing market,” says the leader of the Australian Almond Breeding program, Dr Michelle Wirthensohn, a Horticulture Australia Research Fellow at the University.

Dr Wirthensohn says the major challenges for the almond industry are kernel yield and quality, disease tolerance and self-fertility.

“The best almond variety currently in Australia is Nonpareil, which needs other varieties and bees for pollination. This means that up to half of the trees in some orchards are less productive, and potentially decreasing bee populations could limit production even further, which places the industry at some risk,” she says.

“That’s where our breeding program will have benefits for industry, by providing a bigger range of almond varieties, by improving the productivity of those varieties, and at the same time producing a more nutritious almond for the consumer.”

Dr Wirthensohn says the program currently has a number of promising breeding lines in large-scale trials, which have been developed from crossing Australian, Spanish, French and American cultivars.

“We expect to release up to five superior almond varieties by 2018,” she says.

$2.4m to help make the wine consumers want

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Wednesday, 1 May, 2013

Wine research and training has been given a significant boost today with the announcement of $2.4 million for a new training centre focussed on innovative wine production at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus.

The Australian Research Council grant was awarded under the Federal Government’s Industrial Transformation Research Program and is one of just four training centres and four research hubs from the program’s first round.

Training Centre Director Professor Vladimir Jiranek, Professor of Oenology, said the Centre would provide new knowledge, methods and technologies, as well as skilled researchers, to help the wine industry tackle its big challenges. Key objectives are to better manage flavour and alcohol content in Australia’s wines.

“The Australian wine industry is facing major challenges through climate change, water restrictions, changing consumer preferences and rising wine alcohol content. As such this research training initiative comes at a critical time for the industry and will help in retaining the global competitiveness of Australia’s wine industry,” Professor Jiranek says.

“Essentially we seek to help the industry make wines of the composition, style and quality that consumers want despite these challenges.”

The Industrial Transformation Research Program aims to support industry-research partnerships to boost the competitiveness of Australian industries.

The Training Centre provides an opportunity for the University of Adelaide’s Waite Research Institute to work with its research partners in the Wine Innovation Cluster (the Australian Wine Research Institute, CSIRO – Plant Industry, and SARDI) as well as industry partners: BioSA, Laffort Oenologie Australia Pty Ltd, Lowe Wines Pty Ltd, Memstar Pty Ltd, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd (UK), Tarac Technologies and Treasury Wine Estates Vintners Ltd.

The Centre will incorporate at least 12 PhD candidates and 3 postdoctoral fellows, all of whom will have an opportunity to spend extended periods embedded within a partner organisation.

A major goal of the Training Centre is to provide researchers with extensive experience working at the university/industry interface, enabling them to move seamlessly between the two and facilitating interactions between these groups.