FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA, U.S. — North Dakota State University (NDSU) and the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) of Australia have joined forces to develop improved crop varieties, the groups announced June 17.

The two institutions will focus on cereals, grains and legumes research to deliver plant varieties with high productivity and adaptation to new climates in both hemispheres.

DPI is responsible for agriculture, fisheries, earth resources, energy and forestry in the state of Victoria. The joint venture is part of DPI’s $230 million Agribio venture with LaTrobe University in Bundoora, Australia, a suburb of Melbourne.

NDSU will be working with the Victorian AgriBiosciences Centre (VABC) at LaTrobe University.

“North Dakota producers will benefit by having access to modern technologies that will accelerate the development of improved cultivars,” said Ken Grafton, North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station director and dean of the NDSU College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources. “Our breeding programs will be enhanced by the application of state-of-the-art technologies with the goal of streamlining and accelerating the line selection process.”

The VABC has a major gene discovery platform for discovering important genes that can improve the productivity of plants, such as wheat and cool-season legumes, and the capability to generate novel transgenic plants carrying new traits of importance. The VABC also has a modern high-throughput molecular marker program and the largest dedicated bioinformatics facility in the southern hemisphere.

“The goal of the agreement is to develop mutually beneficial programs that lead to the improvement of North Dakota crops,” said Phil McClean, an NDSU Department of Plant Sciences professor and an assistant director of the NDSU AgBiotechnology Center of Excellence. “We will work together by sharing resources and expertise in the areas of genetics, molecular genetics and gene discovery.”

Another component of the partnership is an exchange program that will bring VABC students to NDSU and enable NDSU students and scientists to attend an advanced training program in modern and emerging techniques and approaches in biotechnology at the VABC.

Grafton, McClean, Bill Wilson, an NDSU Agribusiness and Applied Economics professor and an assistant director of the AgBiotechnology Center of Excellence, and Shahryar Kianian, an NDSU associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, made the initial scientific contact between NDSU and the VABC in 2009 through a visit to Australia. This was followed by a visit to NDSU by German Spangenberg, executive director of DPI’s Biosciences Research Division. The final agreement was signed earlier this year.