Get to know your lucerne breeder - Elders Rural Services

Get to know your lucerne breeder

S&W’s global lucerne-breeding program is heavily focused on producing high forage and seed yielding varieties, with high resistance across the pest and disease profiles.

The breeding program is also focused on a range of traits, including salt tolerance, low lignin, and high-quality varieties.

A global program allows S&W breeders to take advantage of growing seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres, which means they can concurrently run screening trials, Ms Williams said.

“For the farmer, this means quicker turn-around of material going from the evaluation stage to the commercial stage – best genetics, faster,” she said.

Plant selections are made across all major lucerne-growing regions globally. These selections are crossed to produce F1 seed, the first generation of seed of a new variety. This breeding line is then entered into all screening programs, including dormancy, forage, seed, salt, pest, and disease trials.

Once a breeding line has met the high standards that all S&W lucerne varieties must achieve to progress, the breeding line advances to the seed build-up stage and then onto commercialisation. The whole process can take up to seven years.

Some very exciting new products that will shortly be available with a range of dormancy from 5 to 10, catering for all domestic lucerne-growing regions and end use systems, whether cut-and-carry or grazing. These varieties have been extensively screened through the forage and seed yield as well as the pest and disease trials, producing elite, high-quality lucerne varieties.

Among S&W Seed Company Australia’s new varieties is SW6330, a high forage-yielding lucerne with a dormancy rating of 6. A fine-stemmed variety with a high leaf-to-stem ratio, SW6330 produces high feed-value forage and is suited to grazing, hay and silage production.

It recovers rapidly from grazing or cutting, showing excellent persistence, both in commercial operations and in replicated trials where its persistence rated at 100 per cent after the four years of evaluation. It has an impressive pest and disease package, being resistant to bacterial wilt, fusarium wilt, anthracnose, phytophthora root rot, spotted alfalfa aphid, pea aphid and southern root knot nematode and moderately resistant to blue alfalfa aphid and stem nematode.

Ms Williams continues to enjoy the challenge of breeding lucerne varieties that fit a global marketplace with exceptional yields and quality. She gains great satisfaction from seeing the S&W lucerne varieties performing well for growers and adding to the profitability of their farming businesses.

When she’s not busy breeding lucerne or sheep farming, you will find Ms Williams with her husband and two children enjoying the beach, savouring a glass of bubbles.

Article written by S&W Seed Company Australia for Seasons magazine.