Tropical fruits in line for genetic boost

Aug. 17, 2023 | 5 Min read
Murdoch University scientists will establish an advanced genomics platform to help producers overcome industry challenges and improve the performance and value of popular fruit crops.

Murdoch University scientists will establish an advanced genomics platform to help producers overcome industry challenges and improve the performance and value of popular fruit crops.

Scientists at Murdoch University will study the genome of five fruits – banana, pineapple, papaya, custard apple and passionfruit – with the potential to develop tastier varieties that can withstand climate change impacts and deliver better returns to farmers.

Murdoch’s Centre for Crop and Food Innovation will establish an Advanced Genomics Platform, thanks to co-investment from Hort Innovation and other partners worth $13.3 million. Centre Director Professor Rajeev Varshney will drive the project with the end goal to study the genetic material in the plant cells to improve the quality and resilience of all five fruits.

“Australian growers not only face customer demand issues, but they are dealing with climate change, food security and agricultural issues,” Professor Varshney said.

“Our state-of-the-art platform will deliver genetic solutions and the development of modern tools to identify genetic variation for improvement in these five important horticultural crops.”

Researchers will create a compact, cost-effective genotyping tool that will aid in the selection process of quality traits to enhance crop yield, develop climate resilience and improve fruit quality and resistance breeding applications.

The genetic information and the data generated in the project will be made available to breeders and growers through a publicly available database.

Hort Innovation CEO Brett Fifield said breeders would be able to identify these traits more quickly in the future, ultimately helping growers through the development of more productive varieties in shorter time frames.

“This project will allow us to deliver innovative solutions to accelerate existing breeding initiatives that will greatly benefit growers through the development of improved varieties to address consumer preferences,” Mr Fifield said.

“It also has the potential to protect our food supply and provide producers with the support they need through variety development to maintain consistency in the supply of their products to retailers and exporters.”

Vice chancellor professor Andrew Deeks said Murdoch’s Food Futures Institute was committed to securing and sustaining the food bowls of the future.

“Growing enough safe, nutritious and sustainably produced food – without depleting limited land and water resources – is the challenge of our generation,” he said.

“Professor Varshney is one of the world’s leading agricultural scientists who has made significant contributions to food security in Asia and Africa.

“Thanks to the significant support of Hort Innovation, he can now turn his attention to these five important fruit crops as well.

“This is another great example of how research and innovation hubs not only support growers to improve efficiencies and effectiveness but generate benefits to the country, and our state.”

Australia’s $66.3 billion horticulture industry is renowned globally for its world-class quality fresh produce and production systems, but it does come with consumer challenges, including the pressure to meet growing global demand for quality food and consumer trends, the expectation of year-round nutritious fruit and vegetables and production impacts.

Additional funding and project collaborators include Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) of the University of Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Queensland, Griffith University (GU) and the University of Western Australia (UWA).

In addition to $13.3 million investment, MGI Australia is contributing to the project with the supply of the latest sequencing machines, worth $2.7 million, while Thermofisher Scientific is providing genotyping machines worth $1 million.

Categories Tropical trees