Queensland Sugar Industry’s Breakthrough in Genetic Selection Boosts Crop Yields and Renewable Energy


Summary: Queensland’s sugar industry has achieved a major breakthrough in genetic selection, surpassing Brazil and India in research and validation trials. The technology, known as genomic selection, has the potential to improve sugar cane crop yields and increase revenue by $24 million in the first year of implementation. This advancement not only benefits the sugar industry but also contributes to the growth of the renewable energy sector by providing raw materials for biofuel production.

Queensland’s sugar industry has made significant progress in the field of genetic selection, outshining major players like Brazil and India. The innovation, known as genomic selection, has undergone successful validation trials, showcasing its potential to enhance crop yields in the sugar cane industry. Researchers anticipate that the technology will boost the value of sugar cane crops by 2% annually without requiring additional farmland, leading to an estimated revenue increase of $24 million in its first year of implementation.

The increased crop yield will not only result in financial benefits for producers but also positively impact the renewable energy sector. The surplus of sugar cane will provide a greater supply of raw materials for biofuel production, which in turn will bolster the country’s rising renewable energy grid.

This breakthrough is the result of a collaborative effort between the University of Queensland and Sugar Research Australia (SRA), spearheaded by Professor Ben Hayes. The technology utilizes DNA markers to expedite the breeding cycle of sugar cane varieties, accelerating the selection of seedlings with desirable traits. This genetic advancement ensures that Australian sugar cane growers remain highly competitive in both domestic and international markets.

Tom McNeill, the managing director of Green Pool Commodities and a sugar analyst, praises this breakthrough for addressing the global shortage of sugar. With many countries facing restrictions on expanding agricultural land, the innovation in the sugar industry becomes a vital tool in reducing costs and increasing yields while meeting environmental guidelines.

In addition to improving crop yields and financial returns, the genomic selection technology also benefits the renewable energy sector. Currently, Queensland’s sugar industry powers 27% of the state’s renewable energy grid. However, with the adoption of this innovation, growers can expect to expand their contribution, as the higher sugar cane productivity translates into greater production of biofuels. The increased efficiency in sugar production per plant aligns favorably with the needs of the biofuel industry.

Industry experts like Judy Thatcher, a sugarcane grower in Mackay, welcome the breakthrough and its potential impact on increasing crop yields and diversifying markets. Thatcher expresses optimism that this achievement positions the Australian sugar industry as a global leader in plant breeding and reinforces the benefits for both the industry and the wider community.

Tags: Queensland, sugar industry, genetic selection, crop yields, renewable energy, genomic selection, biofuel production, University of Queensland, Sugar Research Australia, renewable energy grid