Heritage Seeds has a substantial investment in plant research and development. ‘Shrublands’ is Heritage Seeds primary research station and the focal point for the coordination of applied Research & Development (R&D) of new plant cultivars. Numerous complimentary off-station trial sites (on commercial farms) along with collaborative plant breeding and research programs by Australian and overseas institutions, ensure that new release plant cultivars are fail-safe.
Research management practises at ‘Shrublands’ is typical of that on Australian farms. Evaluation trials are run under conditions similar to those on commercial farms including extreme summer temperatures, varying levels of moisture stress, physically difficult soils, moderate fertility and animal grazing.
The validation and trialing process is so stringent that less than 1% of breeding lines tested are progressed towards commercialisation. Simply put, potential new cultivars have to offer a significant improvement in attributes, proven over a minimum time frame (years) and across a range of environmental and farm management practises–or they are rejected.
Heritage Seeds mix of employees range from staff with 43 years seedmanship experience to young PhD and postgraduates scientists across a range of disciplines. In aggregate the company’s employees account for more than 100 years of tertiary study and more than 350 years of seed industry experience.
‘Shrublands ‘ was the first Australian private research institution to be issued with an open quarantine license by AQIS, enabling the grow-out of breeders seed supplied from overseas.
There are numerous research streams represented at ‘Shrublands’. Species in various stages of breeding and trial program include: Italian, hybrid and perennial ryegrass; Mediterranean and continental tall fescue; cocksfoot, white clover, red clover, chicory, lucerne, forage cereals (oats, barley, triticale), milling wheat, durum wheat, malting barley and turf grasses
Typically, it takes 6-12 years depending on the species and around AUD$1m R&D costs to bring a new variety to market.