A DIRECTOR of a leading French plant breeding company responsible the barley variety Planet, which won rave reviews from Australian growers last harvest, says there is good scope for Australia to continue to tap into the emerging Asian malt market.
Samuel Gasté, new markets director with RAGT Semences, visited Australia recently for the opening of new headquarters for seed business Seed Force, in which RAGT has a share, said Australia was well placed to cash in on emerging demand out of Asia.
He said RAGT was delighted that Planet, which is grown across the globe, had got through the final stages of Barley Australia accreditation to be recognised as a malting variety opening up a range of malt markets for the cultivar.
Mr Gasté said RAGT had been thrilled, but not surprised at the strong performance of the variety last year.
"Planet has been tested for the past few years in a wide range of growing conditions across the globe and it has performed very well, including here in Australia," he said.
He said the variety had demonstrated great adaptability, withe capacity to adjust according to the environment and deliver high yield together with good quality.
Many barley varieties can maintain yield in dry seasons but often struggle on the quality front.
Maltsters have been working with the variety and Mr Gasté said they were now using it intensively.
"We are not really surprised by the level of interest in Australia as there is a lot of confidence built behind the variety," he said.
Planet will remain RAGT's priority in Australia for the time being, however other varieties are entering the National Variety Trials (NVT) pipeline.
"Our first goal is to succeed with RGT Planet by establishing it as a key variety for Australian growers, but we already have additional varieties out of quarantine, with some of these already tested within the NVTs which performed very well agronomically.
Mr Gasté said the malting industry wanted to see continuity in varieties and not quickly change from one cultivar to the next.
With this in mind he said the new RAGT varieties would be on hold commercially for now.
In terms of future traits RAGT is looking at, Mr Gasté said herbicide tolerant options such as Clearfield technology could be of interest, due to its ability to deal with problem weeds in certain environments, although he said the impact on the use of the grain as malt due to residue levels is something he said needed to be assessed.
Looking across the globe at the year ahead, Mr Gasté said he expected France in particular to plant more spring barley, making up for a lower oilseed rape (canola) planting.
He expected more spring barley, such as Planet, to be planted instead of winter barley types.