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Development and application of improved selection methods to produce new crops

R.J. Fletcher, G.E.A. Ferguson, G.M. Kregor, and C.H. McConnell

The University of Queensland, Gatton College, Lawes, Qld 4343

The RIRDC/GRDC Project UQ-33A aims to identify new commercial crops for northern Australia. We are pursuing this objective by developing a method to identify those plant species most worthy of research and development. Also we have launched several initiatives to facilitate research and development in new crops. This report outlines recent activities.


To identify the species most worthy of research and development we must consider a number of criteria for a number of plant species. In formulating an approach to this problem we have made the following decisions:

• We will collect data only on useful species, rather than the entire world flora. From literature surveys we have identified over 4500 plants that have a useful product or application somewhere in the world. Our aim is to be market-driven, rather than production-driven. It is in the market, through demand for the product, that the ultimate economic value of any new crop industry is determined.

• We aim to collect a complete and comprehensive data set for each species, rather than only major criteria. This will permit a generic approach with long term applicability.

• A portfolio of new crops worthy of research and development will be sought, rather than only one crop. Such an approach spreads the research and development funding risk involved and has advantages in a benefit/cost analysis.

We are experimenting with genetic algorithm models, using the Evolver™ software running under an Excel™ spreadsheet, as a selection tool. Simple ratings (suitable; unsuitable but fixable; or unsuitable and relatively intractable) are being determined for a range of more than 120 criteria in marketing, economics and production. The portfolio of crops which has the least cost for commercialisation is being sought.


• The Australian New Crops Newsletter is published every six months and distributed to 1250 recipients worldwide.

• A survey of 400 Australian readers of the Newsletter in 1994 identified 116 current and 38 past researchers into new crops. Over 220 new crops are being currently investigated in Australia.

• The First Australian New Crops Conference will be held at the University of Queensland Gatton College on 8-11 July, 1996. The formation of the Australian New Crops Research and Development Association (ANCRADA) and the initiation of the Australian Journal of New Crops Research and Development will be considered at the Conference.

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