An additional billion tonnes of cereals per year is estimated to be required to feed the predicted population of 9 million people in 2050. In addition to cereals for human consumption, increasing volumes of feed and forage crops will be required to feed animals that can provide the estimated additional 200 million tonnes of meat needed. To achieve this, arable land is expected to expand by around 70 million hectares, and farming will become more intensive with high demand for irrigation.
New crops and production systems that use water efficiently and improve crop yields are vital in meeting these demands. As well as high yields, new cultivars must deliver high nutritional quality and meet the requirements of the food industry in terms of health benefits, convenience and good processing qualities.
Australia is a relatively small grain producer on a global scale, but is a significant contributor to world exports. Although only growing 3% of global wheat production it accounts for 10-15% of the $100m global wheat trade. The situation is similar for barley, for which Australia exports 65% of its 6.5m tonne annual crop.
Our cereal breeding programmes breed cultivars with improved agronomic traits – including resistance to pest and disease and higher yields – as well as characteristics of importance to the food industry – such as good milling quality and improved dough properties. We also use our knowledge of food digestion and nutrition to develop new cultivars for use in foods with added convenience for consumers. Feeding livestock is also a key target for our arable breeding programme, focusing on novel cereal, pea and brassica cultivars with improved nutritional qualities.
Our integrated production systems allow growers to make decisions that maximise the profitability of their farms and reduce their environmental footprints. New tools and technologies ensure soil health is maintained and chemical inputs – including water, nitrogen and carbon – are optimised.