AUSTRALIAN plant breeders have landed in Mexico on a biennial shopping spree for new wheat germplasm.
Led by University of Sydney professor of plant breeding Richard Trethowan, the group aims to select new genetic material useful for Australia's breeding programs.
Prof Trethowan said almost all Australia's wheat breeds had a CIMMYT parent in its lineage.
Australia first brought in germplasm from Mexico after the Green Revolution in the 1970s and continues to import about 600 wheat lines each year to evaluate and cross with Australian genetic material.
Prof Trethowan said the visit to Mexico was part of the CIMMYT Australia Icarda Germplasm Evaluation program.
"We do this visit to CIMMYT every second year and to the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas in Syria in alternate years," he said.
"But we did not go to Syria last year because of the political unrest."
Prof Trethowan said CIMMYT had a "smorgasbord of new breeds".
He said CIMMYT sent wheat genetic material to Australia but Australian plant breeders had no input into what was delivered.
He said the biennial visit offered the Australian plant breeders an opportunity to view and select germplasm that had potential to benefit their breeding programs.
With the Ug99 stem rust gradually devastating crops in Africa and the Eurasian region as it heads toward Australia, there is interest in sourcing new genes with resistance to the fungal disease.
"CIMMYT has been at the forefront of the defence against Ug99," Prof Trethowan said.
"They have a huge focus on this disease.
"We are not only interested in Ug99-resistant genes but looking for new sources of resistance to stem rust, stripe rust, crown rots, nematodes and drought, frost and salinity tolerance.
"CIMMYT exists to bring together genetic diversity."