Genetic improvement in grain yield and quality of Australian durum wheat over six decades of breeding
Background and Objectives: Durum wheat breeding commenced in Australia in the 1930s by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), Australia. Dural was developed in 1956 from a cross between North African landraces. Since then, another 20 varieties have been released in the following six decades by NSW DPI and the University of Adelaide. These were evaluated for agronomic and detailed quality traits including pasta-making quality over three seasons. This study aimed to quantify progress achieved in Australian durum breeding for yield, quality, and some agronomic traits since the release of Dural. Findings: A demonstrated grain yield improvement at the rate of 27.8 kg ha−1 year−1 up to 2017 has been achieved when generally maintaining low screenings and high thousand grain weight. The recent varieties are medium early in their maturity relative to Dural and possess improved lodging tolerance which has resulted in better adaptation to seasonal conditions under dryland cultivation, and also, adaptation to high input irrigated cropping. Breeding has also resulted in higher technological quality, specifically, improved semolina yellow color, higher dough strength, improved pasta brightness and yellowness but with slightly declining grain protein content. Strong genetic gain was observed in semolina color traits, namely, reduction in a* and increase in b*. Conclusion: The progress in Australian durum breeding over the last six decades compares well to the progress achieved in other countries for yield, agronomic, and quality traits. The improvements in yield and quality are expected to continue with future developments focussing on adaptation to meet the changing climate and improving tolerance to a major disease, crown rot, while maintaining high technological quality. Significance and Novelty: This is the first study quantifying the progress made in Australian durum breeding efforts and the first study that includes pasta-making quality traits from an historical breeding perspective.
Grains Research and Development Corporation