How gene technology will combat exotic pests and boost crops

Biosecurity, gene technology and crops boosted by NSW Government investment

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Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall discusses the workings of a robotic liquid handling machine with NSW DPI technical officer Monica Suann in the EMAI laboratory.

Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall discusses the workings of a robotic liquid handling machine with NSW DPI technical officer Monica Suann in the EMAI laboratory.

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The state government is investing $17.1 million for the Advanced Gene Technology Centre with the expansion of infrastructure at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute with new buildings and greenhouses including a gene foundry.

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Detecting exotic pests faster and transforming crops to combat drought will be under the microscope with new investment in gene technology.

The state government is investing $17.1 million for the Advanced Gene Technology Centre with the expansion of infrastructure at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute with new buildings and greenhouses including a gene foundry.

The advanced gene technology expansion is expected to help NSW "supercharge" its agricultural production by helping researchers develop more resilient crops and assist in the protection from biosecurity threats.

This will help farmers grow crops with higher yields, less water and be more tolerant to environmental extremes such as drought. The use of these crop will help NSW address production issues including drought, salinity, soil acidity, pests and diseases.

Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said investments like this were pivotal in helping to grow the agricultural sector from $16 billion to $19 billion with more than 150,000 jobs in the next two years.

"We are strengthening our defenses against exotic diseases and committing to delivering critical infrastructure to further strengthen our world-class food and fibre sector," Mr Marshall said.

"This will allow us to detect and differentiate exotic pests and pathogens faster and also improve the production, diversity and nutritional value of food crops."

The funds will also go towards the construction of controlled environment growth facilities, supporting researchers to simulate the effect of different seasonal conditions, such as day length, temperature and rainfall.

"Traditional breeding and development methods may take a decade or more to deliver a new variety - the combination of these investments in gene technology and infrastructure has the potential to dramatically reduce, even to halve, these times," he said.

Dr Deborah Hailstones from the Department of Primary Industries said the investment would bring a suite of technology that could be applied to plants, animals or micro organisms.

"We will be able to build on gene discovery technology components and how we can manipulate these genes for Australian conditions to fast-track this and get the best possible ones in farmers' hands," Dr Hailstones said.

"By extending the range of techniques we can deploy and speed up the process in delivering outcomes and develop methods to transform elite crop lines with genes that are tolerant to drought.

"We will also be able to use environmental DNA profiling (for example) using a water sample to detect whether an invasive marine animal may have been present in the water, we won't need the animal."

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