Shapter, FM, Malory, S, Chivers, I & Henry, RJ 2008, ‘Accelerated domestication of Australian grasses as new sustainable food and fodder crops’, paper presented to 58th Australian Cereal Chemistry Conference, Gold Coast, Qld., 31 August - 4 September.
Global cereal production is sourced from approximately only 0.2% of the world’s grass (Poaceae) species. None of the currently domesticated species are native to Australia and are therefore not well adapted to our environment. Australia’s short agricultural history and geographic isolation provide a unique opportunity to mine the 1000 grass species naturalised to this continent for new fodder and cereal crop alternatives which are intrinsically adapted to Australia’s variable and changing climate. Advances in molecular genetics over recent decades have provided new insights into the process of domestication and the key genes which have been selected for, both actively and passively, to produce cultivated species. Microlaena stipoides, a distant relative of rice, is being used as a model species for accelerated domestication by harnessing its genetic variation from both natural and induced mutations. The abundance of cereal genomic data is a key resource and is utlilsed in conjunction with endonucleolytic mutation analysis by internal labelling (EMAIL) and large scale SNP analyses for breeding selection. Accelerated domestication of native species may help to ensure food security in a future of declining water availability and changing climate.