18 February 2016

The company: Seed Genetics Australia

Getting higher seed yields - and making more money as a result - has been a Holy Grail for growers. Through his company Seed Genetics Australia (SGA), former CSIRO scientist Dr Ross Downes is turning it into a reality.

SGA breeds, produces and markets new plant varieties. With company directors taking an active interest in plant breeding, it operates as a successful cooperative.

SGA has filled a gap in the seed-crop market place. Previously, seed varieties were popular primarily for characteristics such as disease resistance. 'We were concentrating on getting a high seed yield and I had made a discovery during previous research that enabled us to rapidly develop our varieties', Ross Downes says.

The products: lucerne and white clover

Using this breakthrough technology, SGA developed a number of high-seed-yield varieties of lucerne and white clover. 'Now, because our growers are getting higher seed yields, they make more money', Ross Downes says. 'We haven't had too much trouble finding people to grow our seed!'

'Our strategic advantage is that our seeds ripen at the right time of year. The growth pattern is modified to some extent - the seeds don't get affected by frost and this contributes to the varieties' performance.'

The value of plant breeder's rights

SGA believes that PBR safeguards are essential to protect varieties, although Ross Downes notes the challenge of policing those rights.