During 1998-99, as research projects approached completion, the Wool CRC’s emphasis shifted towards encouraging adoption of completed research results and to commercialisation of potentially valuable outcomes.
Genetic Technologies (Program 1)
The results of earlier research, showing how to rapidly increase productivity through both reducing fibre diameter and increasing fleece weight, have been compiled into computer packages and the software integrated into the Rampower project as an aid to practical breeding programs. Further research has been conducted (with Program 3) to show wool breeders how to predict the processing outcomes of alternative selection programs.
One completed project has shown that providing additional supplementary feed above maintenance requirements of the ewe during the last third of pregnancy has no positive impact on follicle initiation or the wool producing capability of the offspring.
Staple Strength (Program 2)
Clear evidence has been obtained showing that, by stocking young, spring-shorn sheep more heavily from early winter, productivity can be increased significantly in terms of higher staple strength, reduced fibre diameter and total wool cut.
Another project has shown that supplementary feeding at a frequency as low as once per week can maintain staple strength and enhance wool growth. In choice of supplements, canolameal has proved superior to pulses. Furthermore, protection of lupin protein by formaldehyde treatment did not enhance wool growth unless methionine was added.
Encouraging results have been achieved in using fibre profile as an alternative to staple strength in predicting top length.
Early research has shown follicle shutdown could be an important source of production loss due to a high rate of failure of follicles to re-initiate fibre production.
Fibre Structure (Program 3)
The analysis of fibres from transgenic sheep (Program 5) has continued to be an important component of the Wool CRC’s biotechnology program. Studies of keratin in transgenic sheep have identified relationships between processing properties and keratin structures and in isolating the role of high-tyrosene keratin in determining fibre characteristics.
In collaboration with Program 2, further work has been undertaken to demonstrate that autumn-shorn wools in Mediterranean climates tend to have finer ends, contributing to improved comfort properties for resulting fabrics.
Another collaborative project, supported by Agriculture Western Australia, has involved five overseas worsted spinners in a successful trial to demonstrate the very effective use of long-Hauteur fine wool top in terms of greater efficiency and improved product quality.
Education and Training (Program 4)
1999 is the final academic year of the Wool CRC’s four undergraduate units delivered by videoconference. Work has begun, and on schedule, to capture the undergraduate material in an electronic format for subsequent delivery by CD ROM and World Wide Web to educators at all levels of the training sector. A demonstration model of the highly flexible format was enthusiastically received at the CRC Association Conference in April.
The final CRC postgraduate scholarship has been awarded and two AWRAP (Woolmark Company) scholarships extended for six months. The five PhD students in China (AusAid funded) will complete their degrees on schedule in 1999/2000.
Industry training initiatives have been on hold, but plans have been initiated to hold a major symposium and workshop in October 1999 to develop more effective on-farm technology transfer strategies.
Sheep Transgenesis (Program 5)
A sharp reduction in funds contributed to this program by AWRAP, caused a reordering of priorities and a restructuring of the projects (funding by AWRAP ceased completely in June 1999).
Microinjection has continued as the main mechanism for gene transfer. However, results have been disappointing, creating increased urgency to establish nuclear transfer as a standard technique for transgenesis and to develop cloning of elite animals as a routine process.
The prospect of achieving those outcomes was enhanced by SARDI’s recruitment of an expert in animal cloning techniques from Monash University and the secondment of the project leader, Dr Simon Walker, to the Roslin Institute in Scotland (the birthplace of ‘Dolly’) for six months.