SYDNEY - Australian researchers are looking to Africa and the Middle East for drought- and heat-resistant crops as many grain farmers face another failed season.
Key farming regions in southern Queensland are forecast to miss their third winter grain crop in a row. The national crop this year is expected to be about 10 percent below the 10-year average.
Australia's Grains Research and Development Corporation, the GRDC, is carrying out a global search for climate-proof grains. GRDC's northern panel chairman, John Minogue, says crops in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa could be adapted to help farmers become more resilient in the face of a warming climate and less rainfall.
"We have got people in Syria, in Africa, in all of the parts of the world, which have historically had these crops grown for thousands of years," he said. "We have a lot of investments in people on behalf of the grain growers searching the world for plants that are resistant to drought and also that are able to handle stress conditions and heat, and identifying the germplasm [genetic material] that we can then integrate into the Australian crops."
Large areas of eastern Australia have been in drought for periods ranging from one to seven years. More than 95 percent of New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, is officially in drought.
The national climate outlook for August to October suggests drier-than-average conditions for large parts of Australia, with higher-than-average daytime temperatures across the entire continent.