Growing Futures

Cereal crops for New Zealand conditions

Cereal crops for New Zealand conditions

Cultivars bred for the New Zealand environment improve the productivity of the cereal grains sector

New Zealand produces close to one million tonnes of cereal grains each year, predominantly wheat, barley and maize. These crops are used to produce high quality ingredients for New Zealand’s food industry, contributing to export revenues of $162 million, as well as feed for animals.

A large portion of milling wheat used in New Zealand mills, particularly in the North Island, is imported from Australia. New cultivars bred specifically for the New Zealand environment compete favourably in terms of their quality, yield and reliable delivery, increasing the amount of domestic grain produced and reducing reliance on overseas markets.

Breeding for the environment

The Plant & Food Research breeding programme, in association with Luisetti Seeds Ltd, is focused on breeding new cereal cultivars tailored for New Zealand conditions. The programme focuses on new milling wheat cultivars with properties that meet the requirements of the New Zealand food industry, as well as cultivars for feeding animals. Agronomic performance is key – new cultivars have improved intrinsic resistance to pests and diseases, and the programme also has an increasing focus on cultivars with efficient nutrient and water requirements.

The economic advantage

Since the mid-1990s, 12 new cereal cultivars have been released by Plant & Food Research. These new cultivars are more resilient to New Zealand growing conditions and, while traditional cultivars tend to have a four-year life in the market, these cultivars have a longer life span because of their improved resistance to local pathogens. Their increased resistance to pests and diseases common to New Zealand’s environment also results in the need for fewer pesticides, creating both economic benefits for the farmer and reduced impact on the environment. Cultivars from the breeding programme hold about 45% of the New Zealand market and generate $56 million from seed sales and harvested grains. In 2011, 100,000 tonnes of milling wheat was harvested from Plant & Food Research cultivars, reducing the cost of importing wheat from Australia by $62 million.

The grains cereal breeding programme is jointly funded by Luisetti Seeds Ltd and Plant & Food Research.

Created: September 2012

Share this impact case study: