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Valley Seeds – breeding pasture varieties for Australian conditions

Video transcript

Anthony Leddin:

As a farmer, this is what you would see at Valley Seeds. It’s a bag of seed and this variety, Astound Tetraploid Annual Ryegrass, was a variety that I developed when I first began with Valley Seeds over 10 years ago. So it’s a long process of developing new variety that you eventually see as farmers, as a bag of seed that you can sow out in the paddock.

But the story goes back a lot longer than that. In 1972, Jim Coles began Valley Seeds as a company, and it’s grown over time to what it is today, being a company that develops new varieties in the Australian marketplace for farmers of pasture species. Valley Seeds began as a company in 1972, and it’s grown now to today being managed by his son, Donald Coles. And the company is owned by Donald and Elizabeth, his wife, and it is one of the fastest growing pasture seed companies in Australia, developing new varieties, not only for the Australian marketplace, but for the international marketplace as well.

Donald Coles:

The tradition continues with our son, George, heading up the lawn and turf seed division of the company.

George Coles:

A new variety can take up to 15 years to get to market. It’s a complex process.

Anthony Leddin:

G’day, I’m Anthony Leddin, the plant breeder for Valley Seeds. So the whole process involves starting with space plants. And so they’re individual plants that are spaced out in the field, so that you can see the differences between plants and then you select ones that eventually you choose to become the parents of a new line. And so, you get those together and you plant them down in a seed production area, where they’re surrounded by a pollen barrier, and that pollen barrier can be something like rye corn.

What we do with the space plants is we measure them over a year for annuals, and three years for perennials. And in that time we select for traits such as yield, disease resistance, persistence, all those sorts of things so that when we select the parents, we hope that those traits will carry on to the next generation when we create the cross and create a new line to test in trials.

So once we’ve selected the parents, we take them down to the rye corn, and we plant them inside the rye corn, and the rye corn is a tall cereal crop that surrounds the plants, and it acts like a pollen barrier. So, that pollen barrier stops foreign pollen coming in from outside the rye corn that could potentially contaminate the cross.

And so once that cross occurs, then we ended up with just a small handful of seed that then we use that seed to start our first, what we call replicated trials. So, that’s where you see it in small plots and we start measuring things like yield and disease resistance, and when the varieties start producing seed, we measure all of these characteristics, and we do that over a number of years. And eventually, you might start with maybe 20 or 30 lines that you’ve created, and eventually that goes down to just one line that becomes the marketed line.

So over that period of eight years for an annual, and over the period of up to 15 years for perennial, those trials take place until you edit down to finally the variety that is received by the farmers.

Sarah McMaster:

The varieties are bred and tested at research sites and stations at Yambuk in Southwest Victoria, in Yarck in North East Victoria and Bellingen in Northern New South Wales. The whole process from the beginning of the plant breeding to the seed production, there is quality control at each step. So we have seed tests on each variety and certification inspections in each paddock. So, we go out in the paddock and we actually inspect it in person to make sure everything is correct.

Donald Coles:

So what sets us apart?

George Coles:

Valley Seeds is making important developments with new varieties for Australian conditions.

Donald Coles:

So the relationship we build with our customers and our distributors are crucial to our success. The company abides by the Australian Seed Federation code of practice for labeling and marketing, and this gives our customers the confidence that not only is the product labeled correctly, but the claims we make are based on good quality scientific evidence. We breed and produce pasture varieties and lawn seed specifically for the Australian environment.

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