Behind the recently announced quinoa variety Kruso White is years of dedicated research by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development officers in Kununurra.
Trials started at the department’s research facility in 2012, with just three grams of seed to determine whether the crop would perform well in the north.
It did, with the following years of research leading to the development of Kruso White, a medium standing, robust variety which has attracted interest from growers in Western Australia and interstate.
The department’s Kununurra research station manager Mark Warmington said in 2013, trials were expanded to a quarter hectare site using seed harvested from the previous season to look at potential yields and ability to withstand insect pressure and impacts from disease.
“In following seasons, we took various plant selections down to one for commercial release based on the following characteristics – yield, height, potential to withstand disease and insects, growing time, whether it could be direct harvested or windrowed, whether there was any heat impacts and having consistently white larger seed.
“Trials were also undertaken at Geraldton, Dongara, Eradu, Cunderdin and Manjimup, as well as interstate, by department research scientists Harmohinder Dhammu and Richard Snowball, with co-investment from AgriFutures Australia.
“Last year, Plant Breeders Rights were granted and seed was sent to the USA and China for seed characteristic analysis (protein, weight, amino acid package).”
DPIRD has developed a basic agronomic package for Kruso White, which will be available to growers.
Mr Warmington acknowledged former University of Western Australia scientist Dr Jon Clements, from whose experimental quinoa trials the seed was sourced.
Presenting recently via video-link at the International Quinoa Research Symposium in the United States, Mr Warmington said Western Australia had significant competitive advantages for producing quinoa.
“Australia’s clean green image, high quality of product, and range of climatic zones work in our favour,” he said.
“In areas like the Ord, double cropping is one way of increasing income on farm – plant a quick crop early in the season, such as quinoa or mung bean, and then turn around straight away and plant a crop such as corn for harvest before the wet season.
“There are challenges however, including a lack of genetic material available to growers to establish commercial quinoa production across Australia.”
Research into quinoa continues in conjunction with global research partners.
DPIRD has collaborated with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the Northern Australia Crop Research Alliance (NACRA) to investigate more than 1000 lines as part of a global research project.
“The Kununurra Research Station has been part of a large international trial phenotyping lines to characterise the genetic diversity of the species,” Mr Warmington said.
“In 2017 and 2018, nurseries with a total of 1340 and 1142 plots were planted including three check lines of easily recognised varieties.
“Last year, this was reduced to 490 plots after weeding out phenotypes not suited to the Kununurra environment.”
Just before maturity, KAUST representatives travelled from Saudi Arabia to complete a full phenotyping of the nursery. This information will be compared to a number of other countries taking part in the research project.
All plots were hand harvested, thrashed and the seed stored for future trials and reference material. Bagged selections for pure genetic material were also safely stored away for future plantings.
Jodie Thomson, DPIRD media liaison +61 (08) 9368 3937