AUSTRALIAN sorghum producers are set to benefit from cutting-edge technology being used in the breeding sector that will cut down the time it takes to have new varieties commercially available.
Pacific Seeds, a leading breeder of sorghum in Australia, is one company using ag-tech solutions to speed up the breeding process.
Solomon Fekybelu, plant breeder at Pacifici Seeds, said the company was currently in the process of introducing multispectral imaging and drone technology into their grain sorghum breeding programs, which will rapidly speed up the data collection process.
“These innovative technologies are making the collection of data a more precise process,” said Dr Fekybelu.
“Tasks that used to take hours and even days to complete now only take 20 minutes or so and can be completed at multiple stages during the crop cycle,” he said.
“Drone multispectral imaging technologies use green, red, red-edge and near infrared wavebands to capture both visible and invisible images of crops and vegetation.”
But it is not just the speed of the process which is exciting according to Dr Fekybelu.
“In the future we will be able to explore traits that simply are not possible to investigate with the current manual process due to the physical impediments of doing so.”
He said the company was searching for tougher, hardier sorghum varieties and that the testing process was helping identify traits that could help.
“These technologies will speed up the development of comprehensively tested grain sorghum product that will be most relevant to changing climatic conditions.”
Dr Fekybelu said the next phase of implementation is focused on developing the best possible software and mathematical algorithms to enable breeders to analyse and interpret the significant amount of data now at our fingertips.
“This development is being completed with the support of our global network and in particular drawing on the expertise available in the United States, where the amount of money being invested into agricultural technology start-ups has increased 10-fold over the last decade,” said Dr Fekybelu.
He said Pacific Seeds would continue to breed sorghum varieties specifically suited for Australia’s tough climate.