UN seeks Oz food security input

23 Jul 2013

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UN seeks Oz food security input

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has sought input from Australian researchers to address global food security issues at a gathering of scientists and policy makers in Rome this August.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has sought input from Australian researchers to address global food security issues at a gathering of scientists and policy makers in Rome this August.

The FAO Perennial Crops for Food Security workshop will highlight breakthrough research findings the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), CSIRO and Charles Sturt University have contributed to growing and breeding perennial wheat crops.

DPI research agronomist, Richard Hayes, has been invited to present information based on trials of perennial wheat in the Cowra district, where for the first time in the world USA-developed germplasm survived and yielded grain for three consecutive years.

"The workshop will bring together experts from Asia, Europe, United States, Africa and Australia to address food production issues and focus on the advances we need to make to feed an estimated nine billion people by 2050," Mr Hayes said.

"Perennial crops have the potential to offer positive solutions for farmers across the world as they work to sustainably manage production systems and produce food for the planet.

"We are looking at management options for local and global farming systems with seed from our perennial wheat trials now growing on trial sites in the USA, Canada, Italy, Nepal, South Africa, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

"Annual wheat crops require sowing every season but perennials, which are in the field for years, can help restore soil health and fertility, maintain biodiversity, boost environmental health and make better use of scarce resources, including water and nutrients.

"Perennial wheat varieties would deliver new cropping options and more flexibility, allowing farmers to better respond to changing seasonal and economic situations. 

"In Australia we expect perennial wheat to be used as dual purpose crops in the higher rainfall areas, for grain and forage for stock, which could be managed in response to seasonal and market conditions.

"We are also exploring inter-cropping systems where perennial grain and legume crops are grown side-by-side; legumes would help sustain the grain crops as they provide nutrition by fixing biological nitrogen in the soil."

The development of commercially viable perennial wheat varieties is a long-term plan with Australian and international scientists working together to develop workable strategies for global-scale food security at the FAO conference and into the future.

Australian researchers have forged strong relationships with international research institutions, including Washington and Michigan State Universities and The Land Institute in Kansas, which developed the germplasm that survived in the three-year NSW trial.

Photographs are available bernadette.york@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Contact: Bernadette York (02) 6391 3936 or 0427 773 785

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Media contact: Bernadette York (02) 6391 3936 or 0427 773 785