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Australia backs Indian food security research

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Media release

10 September 2008

Australia Backs Indian Food Security Research I have used a visit to an Australian-funded agricultural research project in India to emphasise the need to protect the world’s food crops from the adverse impact of climate change.

Australia and India have several joint research programs that are applying the latest advances in biotechnology and plant breeding to develop improved crop varieties able to sustain high yields under dry conditions. Indian and Australian farmers share similar agro-climate conditions in their grain growing regions.

I visited a new sorghum research project being funded by the Australian Government at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) near Hyderabad, India.

The sorghum project - improving post-rainy sorghum varieties to meet the growing grain and fodder demand in India - is funded through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), which commissions agriculture research programs between

Australian and developing-country scientists.

The Australian Government has committed $1 million to the sorghum project through ACIAR.

The aim of this Australian-funded project is to speed up the development of advanced, more robust sorghum crops through the use of advanced biotechnology - in particular a plant-breeding process known as marker-assisted selection (MAS). The objective is to develop crops that are better able to cope with water stress during drought.

MAS technology allows scientists to identify individual plants whose genetic make-up gives them an ability to use water more efficiently when growing. The accurate identification of such plants provides breeders with reliable stock from which new ‘drought tolerant’ varieties can be bred.

I visited the ICRISAT research facility and spoke to international researchers using MAS

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technology to breed drought-tolerant sorghum.

Australia’s involvement in collaborative agricultural research and development programs demonstrates the Australian Government’s international commitment to achieving more productive and sustainable agriculture.

Media inquiries: Mr Smith's office 02 6277 7500 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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