New Research into Higher Yielding Seed Varieties Sees Increased Yields by up to 69 Percent

Ballina, NSW ( October 21, 2010

New Research into Higher Yielding Seed Varieties Sees Increased Yields by up to 69 Percent

New Research into Higher Yielding Seed Varieties Sees Increased Yields by up to 69 Percent

Imagine being able to produce nearly 70 percent more from your backyard veggie patch without having to increase its size, but only by improving the seeds you use.

This is what researchers have found in a report released today by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) at the annual Tea Tree Symposium near Ballina, NSW.

The report – Improved Tea Tree Varieties for a Competitive Market – details the latest step in a long-running research program to breed and develop higher quality tea tree oil seeds.

The project has resulted in the development of seeds which have increased yields by 69 percent compared with unimproved seed.

According to Dr Roslyn Prinsley, General Manager of New and Emerging Industries, the report is further proof of the potential financial benefits to industry from research into higher yielding seed varieties.

“It’s estimated industry adoption of the project’s improved seed would increase average yields by 69% which could result in a significant windfall to Australian growers,” Dr Prinsley said.

“With fluctuating prices and growing international competition for tea tree oil, this is a significant result for established growers, and new industry players trying to remain economically viable in the long term.

“The cost of seed is a minor component to establishing a plantation, and yet its genetic quality is a major determinant of both oil yield and quality.

“Since the study began in 1997, improved seed developed under the research project has been released to industry, with excellent levels of grower uptake reported. Oil yields from project seed have progressively increased from 148 kilograms per hectare to around 250 kilograms per hectare.

“It’s clear this project has helped produce outstanding oil gains for the industry, which is one of the reasons why RIRDC will be funding a fifth stage of the project which will aim to further increase yields through improved seed from the project’s seed orchards.”

Speaking at the Symposium, Dr Prinsley released two other tea tree oil research reports: Genetic Tools for Improving Tea Tree Oil and Fabrication of Electronic Materials from Australian Essential Oils.

Dr Prinsley said Fabrication of Electronic Materials from Australian essential Oils is an exciting new report which found tea tree oil, an organic polymer, could be used to replace silicon in applications such as transistors, TV display screens and solar cells.

“The advantage of using organic polymers in the electronics and biomedical industries is that they are cheap, easily processed, light and flexible when compared to inorganic and expensive semiconductors such as silicon,” Dr Prinsley said.

“With producers continually looking for ways to value add for a high end product, this report could serve as a valuable tool to help take oils such as tea tree, lavender and eucalyptus into an exciting and potentially lucrative new direction.”

The third report – Genetic Tools for Improving Tea Tree Oil – applies new advances in the understanding of the biosynthesis of terpenes which is a major constituent in tea tree oil.

“After just three years of intense research, we have a thorough understanding of all of the genes responsible for tea tree oil quality. Generally this takes over 30 years,” Dr Prinsley said.

“After one year we have genetic markers that can explain up to 40% of yield variation.

“Understanding the specific genetic elements of tea tree oil is critical for growers, as it enables them to target selection against undesirable traits as well as for advantageous ones.”

All three reports are available on the RIRDC website

Media enquiries: Duncan Sheppard – RIRDC Public Affairs Manager – 02 6271 4175 or 0458 215 604

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