Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, Series 4


Trifolium, Ornithopus, Genetic resources, Australia

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The introduction of improved pasture legumes into the cereal growing areas of southern Australia changed the face of our agricultural systems.

Subterranean clover was the first pasture legume to have a major impact, and the first varieties were available commercially in the 1930s. Since then, many varieties have been released, leading to the most recent release of Denmark, Gou/bum and Leura in 1992.

The development of burr, barrel and murex medics also had an impact on the pasture production of less acid heavy soils. Yellow serradella is still being developed for the more acid sandy soils.

This development of improved pasture legumes would not have been possible without breeders observing the distribution of plants and collecting seed of these exotic pasture legumes from Mediterranean countries and also those naturalised within Australia.

This germplasm is used in preliminary evaluation programs and is now stored in the safety of a genetic resource centre. Some of the germplasm is selected for use in breeding and field evaluation.

The Department of Agriculture is home to one of eight genetic resource centres in the nation. Its South Perth site houses the Australian Tritolium Genetic Resource Centre (ATGRC) to conserve gennplasm, in the form of seed, of Trifolium and Ornithopus species. Much of this research is funded by the Wool Research and Development Corporation. The ATGRC is part of an international network of plant genetic resource centres to conserve gennplasm of important agricultural plant species.