The sorghum breeding program based at Hermitage research station was started in 1957 by Queensland Government and since that time it has been a critical part of the Australian sorghum industry. In 1993 the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) began co-funding the project. In 2010 University of Queensland joined the partnership and took on the leadership of the program through the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI).
The program aims to improve the productivity of Australian sorghum growers and end-users by:
- Producing germplasm adapted to Australian conditions with improved characteristics that is delivered to growers via the commercial seed industry.
- Developing high throughput screening methods for traits of interest to the industry
- Coordinating Australian sorghum research through its annual research meetings and provision of access to genetic resources (eg mapping populations), information (eg phenotypic and genotypic data) and logistic support (eg trial planting and harvesting etc)
The pre-program has been extremely successful with 100% of commercial sorghum hybrids grown in Australia containing genetics from the program. Currently 16 out of 18 current commercial varieties have royalty generating genetic contributions from the program. Historically the program has made major contributions to the industry through the deployment of traits like sorghum midge resistance and stay-green.
Less obviously, but more importantly has been the impact of germplasm from the program on grain yield. Australian sorghums productivity gain due to combinations of genetics and management has been running at more than 2% per annum for the last 30 years with this rate increasing in recent years. These rates of gain are the highest in the world for hybrid sorghum and among the highest of any mature crop. Germplasm from the program is used by commercial breeding programs in USA, South America, Africa and Europe.
The current research areas include various aspect of water productivity and drought resistance as well as grain quality and resistance to high and low temperature stress.