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Global warming spurring need for plant genetics: Costa boss – The Australian Financial Review

“The teams battled with the new pests and diseases that you see in Far North Queensland, and just battled with the conditions.”

Costa, which farms and packages goods from berries to avocados, said it runs a genetic program which involves selecting “parent” plants, based on their desirable traits, and then cross-breeding via hand pollination.

Strong genetic programs

Seedlings are grown, and a small percentage are selected for next stages in which they are “clonally propagated” using plant cuttings to create more plants for testing, Costa said.

Mr Hallahan said a blueberry that could be cultivated in North Queensland could also potentially grow in China or Mexico. Costa hoped to have its first North Queensland commercial crop of 200 tonnes for this season and up to 600 tonnes next year.

He said strong genetic programs had always been important commercially. “Heading into an era of at least more volatile weather and warming weather conditions, I think it is going to become really quite critical,” he said.

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Paul Thompson, chief executive of almond grower Select Harvests, also argued that industry was becoming more efficient in using both water and plants. That included Select Harvests using the outer covering of almonds, called the hulls, in biomass plants for energy.

But he said they would never be able to convince environmentalists who were “dark green” in terms of activism about change in the sector. He held out hope of communicating with more moderate environmentalists – whom he labelled “teal”, in reference to the recent independent political candidates.

“I think agriculture’s got real problems with the dark green. Full stop,” Mr Thompson told the conference.

“I don’t know what they’re going to eat and clothe themselves with.

“The light green, or now the teal, are willing to listen, and understand what’s going on. And I think it’s really important that they do.”

He said chief executives at the conference wanted a healthy Murray Darling Basin that was not over-planted with permanent crops.

“We don’t want crap water in it,” he said. “Our families survive on the bloody thing, and people sit there and think we just get up every morning and work out a way to abuse it.”

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