Wheat growers could improve yields by up to 15 per cent, due to a genetic breakthrough which will allow breeders to develop varieties tolerant to boron.
Scientists from the University of Adelaide have found genes that make wheat tolerant to boron, a chemical element which, when present in soils, damages the quality of grain crops.
The university’s Dr Tim Sutton says while breeders have tried to produce wheat varieties with boron tolerance before, they can now do so with 100 per cent accuracy.
"Most of our modern wheats do have sources of boron tolerance in them," Dr Sutton said.
"But the breeders haven’t known specifically what the basis for those sources of tolerance were.
"Now we can provide them with tools to select confidently, in their breeding program, for a level of boron tolerance that they require."
Research has shown boron toxicity can downgrade yields by 15 per cent.
Dr Sutton says boron toxic soils are widespread in southern grain growing regions.
"Throughout the Eyre Peninsula, the Mallee regions in southern Australia, in Victoria and into the low rain fall regions of Western Australia," he said.
"Our environments have a number of challenges, both above, and below the ground.
"So we hope this is part of the puzzle that breeders can use to develop more specifically tailored wheat varieties for southern Australia."
He says the technology is already available to the industry.