WELL-KNOWN plant breeder Tony Rathjen has made a significant contribution to South Australia's durum industry through work on the breeding program at University of Adelaide's Waite campus for the past two decades.
During that time, the industry has moved from being virtually non-existent in the State to one that is set to produce 220,000 tonnes from 70,000 hectares this season.
With Dr Rathjen set to retire in mid-2012, a succession plan has been put in place. Dr Jason Able was appointed the new durum wheat breeder and lecturer in plant breeding at Waite last month.
As part of this role, Dr Able will take over leadership of the southern breeding operations of the Australian Durum Wheat Improvement Program. Initially, he will be under the mentorship of Dr Rathjen and be assisted by technical officers Christopher Stone and Ranjit Das.
Dr Able has been with the University of Adelaide since completing his PhD at the University of Queensland in 2001. He has more than 10 years of research experience in cereal genetics and is looking forward to applying that knowledge.
"I've basically focused on bread for the last seven years," he said. "I've always worked with cereals, but this is my first foray into durums."
Dr Able hails from Toowoomba, Queensland, and developed an interest in plant breeding.
"Since my undergraduate days, doing a Bachelor of Science in Queensland, I've always been interested in plant breeding," he said.
"I remember going on field trips with Pioneer Seed and Pacific Seeds and learning from their breeders."
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