The aim of a five-year Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) research project now underway is to identify the genes that make canola heat tolerant.

Field trials for this research were planted in New South Wales and Western Australia in 2020.

The long-term objective of the research is to provide heat-tolerant germplasm to plant breeders.

And your next question is, so what? Why would that be important?

As climate variability emerges as one of the biggest threats to food security, heat stress had been identified as a major issue.

This is also an increasing global concern, with average temperatures projected to rise in coming decades.

Dr Sheng Chen, lead researcher at The University of Western Australia’s (UWA) Institute of Agriculture continues.

“Plant breeders may then incorporate this germplasm into new commercial varieties, and help the industry maintain productivity as mean temperatures rise.”

“Canola is particularly sensitive to high temperature stress. Previous research undertaken at UWA has identified that temperatures of more than 30°C during flowering reduce seed yield,” he said.

“In current canola varieties grown in Australia, losses could be as much as 300 kilograms per hectare for every 1°C increase in mean daily temperature at flowering.”

“However, the genes that influence a plant’s ability to withstand water stress are different to those that make them heat tolerant,” he said.

Dr Chen said drought and high temperatures often occurred in combination, putting a dual stress on plants, which made it difficult to separate the combined influences in the field.

WA produces about 14 million tonnes of grain each year from around 4000 rain-fed farms.

These range in size from 1,000 to 15,000 hectares.

Wheat is the state’s major grain crop with about seven million tonnes produced each year followed by barley, canola, oats, lupins and peas.

This is important research that Western Australia is leading the way in, with a strong positive collaboration nationally as grain industries continues to evolve to combat future challenges.