Meet the team: Steve Miller, Director AGBU

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Whilst you may not be familiar with Steve Miller, Director of the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), he and his team of 28 geneticists are behind some of the most important work taking place in the Australian honey bee industry.

AGBU, a joint venture between the University of New England and NSW DPI is one of the world’s leading genetics institutions. AGBU is renowned the world over for its work on improving genetics in cattle and sheep and Steve and his team are incredibly excited about getting to work applying their expertise into Australia’s honey bee industry.

“I’m incredibly excited to be working with honey bees,” Dr Miller said.

“If you look at the way that genetics have improved the global stock of cattle to be more productive, more sustainable, and more disease resistant you can see that the possibilities for our bee industry are endless.”

Despite a career working mostly with cattle, Steve and his team are well equipped to thrust Australian honey bee genetics into a new era.

“Despite the animals obviously being world’s apart, the tools and techniques available to us as geneticists is actually identical.

“What’s more – with the much quicker generational turnover, the opportunity for progress is much better for bees. If we can achieve what we’ve done with cattle just imagine what we could do with bees,” he said.

Steve believes that genetic improvement is the most important method for consistent increase in productivity, profitability, sustainability and overall performance for the honey bee industry.

“The great thing about genetics is that the net benefit is cumulative.

“We can make animals better by changing feed and forage available or by developing medicine or nutritional supplements but if we stop that, the benefits go away.

“With genetic improvement, once you increase the genetic merit of the stock, those gains are locked in forever.”

But the honey bee industry is admittedly late to the game, but according to Steve there is still a major opportunity for the industry.

“They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the next best time is today,” he said.

“The same applies to genetics.

“If you are a bee breeder who is collecting data on bees, or if you are simply looking to start collecting data we strongly encourage you to support the Plan Bee program. Every data submission puts us further along the genetic improvement journey.”

Breeders who are interested in submitting data to help improve Australia’s genetic stock should get in touch with Nadine Chapman, lead researcher for the Plan Bee program today (Nadine.chapman@sydney.edu.au

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