Dr Mobashwer Alam and Professor Bruce Topp examining new macadamia varieties (Photo: QAAFI)

July 2, 2024

A long-term breeding program at the University of Queensland aims to “future-proof” the State’s growing macadamia industry.

Professor Bruce Topp said the National Macadamia Breeding and Evaluation Program was breeding new cultivars that would be more profitable for farmers.

“One of our aims is to improve efficiency by reducing the generation length or production time,” Prof Topp said.

Four new cultivars released in 2017 took more than 20 years to develop.

“If we can halve the time it takes to produce a new variety, then we’re doubling the annual rate of genetic gain,” Prof Topp said.

“We are expecting two new cultivars to be ready for release as early as 2025.”

Fellow researcher Dr Mobashwer Alam is developing a cost-effective and fast-tracked breeding strategy using wild macadamias.

“With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), we aim to select gene markers that can be used for accurate genomic prediction for yield and plant size to directly benefit the development of Australian bred macadamia varieties,” Dr Alam said.

“AI can also help us select the best parents for future crossbreeds.

“If this project is successful, we will be using only a small number of molecular markers which will drastically reduce the cost of genotyping.

“If we reduce that cost from $50-70 per sample to $10-12, this can bring significant genetic gain to the industry in a short time.”

Australia’s macadamia industry is expanding with 800 growers nationwide and more than 41,000ha of orchards.

According to the Australian Macadamia Society, three-quarters of the crop is exported to the value of $300 million.


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