Scientists closer to unlocking the lupin

Claire Tyrrell and DAFWACountryman

WA scientists are closer to unlocking the genetic secrets of the lupin with the release this week of the world's most comprehensive genetic lupin map.

Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) grains industry executive director Peter Metcalfe said the genetic lupin map, created by department researchers, was more detailed than any wheat or barley genetic map and took a decade to develop.

He said the new data would unlock opportunities for lupin breeders and fast track the development of new varieties.

"We can now identify multiple genes that contribute to disease resistance, drought tolerance and yield improvement," Mr Metcalfe said.

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He said the new genetic map used DNA sequence analysis to show the position of known genes and genetic markers relative to each other with far greater detail than previously possible.

"About 9000 locations on the lupin genome have been tagged, increasing the marker density by up to 20 times," he said.

"A high-density map such as this one enhances the reliability, precision and ability to select genes directly based on the plant's DNA."

Mr Metcalfe said DAFWA had already identified a gene which showed more resistance to anthracnose from the Tanjil lupin.

"Future lupin varieties could consistently meet the same resistance levels and become an industry benchmark," he said.

DAFWA genetic and product innovation director Robert Loughman said the next phase of research was identifying how lupin genes behaved in different environments.

"There is a need to significantly increase research to link these markers with more traits in lupin germplasm so commercial value to growers will continue to increase," he said.

"This involves growing and testing key lupin breeding populations for their response to yield, disease resistance, environmental adaptation and marketable features.

"Testing is critical to identify genes and quantify their commercial value, giving breeders the confidence to select them with molecular markers."

Mr Metcalfe said the new innovation could lead to increased lupin plantings across WA.

"If our research increases quality and yield and reduces risk and input costs, it would increase the profit margin for lupins," he said.

According to the Grain Industry Association of WA, 334,000 hectares of lupins were planted in WA this year.

This compares to 4,521,000ha of wheat, 749,000ha of canola and 1,098,000ha of barley.

The research was headed by DAFWA's national lupin breeding team, funded by the Grains and Research Development Corporation through pulse Breeding Australia.

Murdoch University also contributed to the genetic map through developing technologies for applied breeding.

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