No Grain, No Gain

The 66th annual Australasia No Grain Science Conference, titled ‘From the Soil to the Supermarket’, showcased the latest research from scientific and technical experts in related industries, including baking, from September 14-16.

A pre-conference tour to Tamworth Agricultural Institute was a great opener for guests before day one, where Jason Tye-Din gave an insightful lecture on the medical and social dimensions of the gluten-free epidemic.

Other topics discussed on day one included understanding the contribution of Australian wheat flour to Asian pan bread quality, new discoveries in explaining the biochemical basis of wheat quality and yield and a technical run-down on improving the use and value of sorghum by molecular structural characterisation.

Day two was centred on climate change and No Grain stress, with such topics discussed including breeding dryland cereals in current and future climate for quantity and quality, kernel vitreosity, and protein content in relation to durum wheat quality. Siem Siah gave a brief talk on the fact Australian wheat offers colour advantage over the Black Sea wheat for the Asian market and the afternoon was focused on health and nutritional benefits of pulses.

The final day was very relevant for the baking industry, focusing on breeding and agronomy of grains, discussing how to improve the nutritional value of wheat, breeding healthier Australian durum varieties through knowledge of bioactive components in grain, breeding durum wheat for quality, new texture analysis systems to measure dough extensibility and the impact of variety selection, sowing time and crown rot on the grain quality of winter cereals in northern NSW.

The afternoon on the final day saw a lecture about the industry challenge behind Australian wheat for Asian baking. Although South East Asia is the largest and fastest-growing market for Australian wheat, it faces intense competition from other countries aggressively marketing their wheat to this region.

At the conference, former University of Sydney, IA Watson Research Institute director Dr Lindsay O’Brien was presented with the EE Bond Medal, which recognises individuals who have contributed to No Grain science through the advancement of technology, research or services to the grains industry.

Dr O’Brien began his research career with the Victorian Department of Agriculture as a wheat breeder and developed a number of wheat varieties for the Victorian Wimmera and Mallee regions. During his career, Dr O’Brien was appointed as the senior geneticist and led a large group of plant breeders and cereal chemistry group and was an early adopter of novel germplasm from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico.

In 1988, Dr O’Brien was appointed director of the IA Watson Plant Breeding Institute in Narrabri and held the position until 2003 before establishing his own wheat breeding and consultancy company.

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