Research by Professor David Raftos and Dr Tim Green at Macquarie University found that immunising ‘oyster parents’ may lead to disease resistant offspring.
The finding could open up a new era of disease management for Australia’s iconic oyster industry and has resulted in Professor Raftos winning the inaugural RRDC’s Eureka Prize for Rural Innovation.
Professor Raftos said: “Potentially, immunising just a few oysters could create a population of disease-resistant offspring and we are now just starting to implement this technology in trials.
“We have also determined that the oysters selected for their better capacity to switch on infection-fighting genes are also better able to cope with environmental stresses.
“Oyster farmers in NSW have been very supportive of this research and the breakthroughs could not have been achieved without their input.
“This project has also demonstrated that world class scientific research can have a direct and real benefit to farmers.”
Professor Raftos has already helped breed stronger, more disease-resistant oysters that promise a 10 to 20 per cent increase through his extensive research with Select Oyster Company, a private company wholly-owned by farming organisation NSW Farmers.
NSW Farmers oyster spokesperson Caroline Henry said research advances in disease resistance is exciting news for oyster farmers.
“Viral disease outbreaks have killed millions of oysters and have led to collapse of oyster farming businesses in some estuaries, with an associated loss of jobs and income in the surrounding rural communities,” Mrs Henry said.
“This Innovative and proactive research program led by Professor Raftos really targets the key issues of disease impact on oyster production and goes a long way to ensuring that our oyster industry can meet the challenges of our ever changing environment.”