Plant Breeding

 Have you thought about what sorts of plants are chosen to grow your food? This page is about plant breeding, how it has changed over time and below some charts of the main steps in the breeding family histories of some cereals, legumes and an oilseed.

Plant breeding is an important branch of Science that has been continually improving our food plants for centuries. Their histories show a continual advance in nature of the Scientists (farmers, before specialists) and the methods they used to keep improving what  can grow in local environments.  In doing so they improve sustainability for the farmer and for the world which has benefitted from improvements in food supply:

  • Observant people domesticated plants from the wild for foods and became farmers.
  • Farmers, were the Scientists, for many centuries observing which plants grew best for their environment and choosing to keep their seeds for the next year’s crop- continually improving and adapting seeds to environments.
  • It’s been just over a hundred years since a big effort was put into mixing varieties together to try to get improvements. At first farmers did this, then specialised plant breeders emerge in set-aside places eg Farrer near Canberra breeding many wheats of which Federation is most famous.
  • This effort has become global since the 1970′s with the establishment of large seed banks, like ICARDA and CIMMYTA, for wild, and domesticated varieties of broad-acre crops.
  • Even more recently with gene technololgy have given methods that make the selection of specific traits more targeted and quicker to develop new varieties to combat specific problems of disease, pests, salt and climate, and so continue to increase yields to feed more people on less land.

This page provides an introduction to some of the  broad-acre crops that are grown on Wimmera-Mallee  farms and their varied breeding history. The histories are quite complex and not easy to research, so I have compressed them into some ‘family tree’ diagrams below. Click on the diagrams to see a larger view.  These show the major parents in their pedigrees, with notes on them to show:

  • when varieties were released
  • any great advance  made
  • country/region for external varieties , eg Wheats from USA in the 1800’s; pulses from the Middle East more recently.
  • and the shape of the seeds represents their shape in reality
As a freelance environmental educator, I  create things that I can’t find on the web, eg family seed charts. As my work in researching and creating these charts was unfunded (and it took a lot of time and effort!) please acknowledge Jeanie Clark, Warracknabeal, enviroed4all (R) as their creator and for placing them on the web free for you to use in education classes under a (cc) licence. (For other uses, please contact me for permission.) I introduce these charts with a  physical activity – if you are interested in that, contact me. Feedback and donations are appreciated if you use my resources.  



feed (for animals)  – Hindmarsh P1120543 Hindmarsh barley feed

and malting (for beer) –  Commander P1120550 Commander barleymalting and Gairdner P1000158 malt barley Gairdner

oats  – feed (for animals) – Wintaroo and Mitaka oats  .to WInraroo and Mikita oats

wheats;  – Correll P1120558 wheat to Correll  or to Kord CL Plus P1120556 wheat to KordCLPlus


chick peas, PBA Slashser desi and Genesis 020 kabuli- P1000157chickpeas

Faba Beans – Fiesta P1000164faba beans Farah

Kaspa type field peas – Gunya P1120539kaspafieldpeas

red lentils – Nugget and Flash  P1000162 red lentils Flash

 Sweet Australian Lupins – Mandelup P1000168 Lupins Mandelup


Canolas – Pioneer CL  P1120560 canola

For more on these crops go to the Crops page 


page last updated 4/8/2014

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