Debate@TheWaite: Agriculture contributes more to society than Medicine

RoseworthyThe cultivation and domestication of plants and animals for human food in ancient times led to the development of civilisations and ultimately modern society. These days, however, agriculture and the science behind it is apparently seen as less important than other human endeavours, in particular medicine (and medical research).

The Australian health care and social assistance industry is the largest employing sector in the country, providing work to 1.3 million people. In 2010, there were more than 10 times the number of graduates from health-related degrees than there were from agricultural and environmental sciences. It is also incredibly costly to support this sector, but these resources are needed to care for our aging population. Thanks largely to medical advances, our life expectancy is approximately 30 years longer than it was a century ago, but this also brings a raft of challenges with it.

Hippocrates, considered the ‘father’ of medicine, understood the importance of food and diet in maintaining good health, and surely, prevention is better than cure? In fact, agricultural science has pioneered many essential medical techniques – even the discovery of vaccination relied on dairy farming.

Agriculture contributes enormously to our GDP/export earnings, provides essential food and fibre, manages vast areas of our landscape and has helped shape our national identity. Despite this, no agriculturalists have ever been named ‘Australian of the Year’ in the 54 years since that award was established, compared to 10 people who worked in health/medical research (and no less than 14 sports people). Agriculture wasn’t mentioned in the National Research Priorities between 2002 and 2013, while health and medical research was front and centre.

If, as it seems, doctors are more esteemed and rewarded in our society than farmers, why do we feel less appreciative towards those who provide the daily food that keeps us alive and healthy than we do towards medical practitioners who we only see when we feel bad? Given that both farmers and doctors help us thrive, why do we attribute more status to one than the other?

Isn’t it time that agriculture, its products and those working within the sector, got the recognition, esteem and priority they deserve? Or does agriculture rightly deserve a smaller share of the limelight than medicine?

In this exciting and important debate, moderated by Mr Ian Doyle, six experts in two teams will argue for your vote.

For the affirmative team …

  • Dr Kim Ritman, Chief Scientist, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences
  • Professor Bob Seamark,  Flinders University and The Robinson Institute
  • Associate Professor Sven Anders, Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology
    The University of Alberta

For the negative team …

  • Associate Professor Mark Hutchinson, Discipline of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide
  • Professor Steve Wesselingh,  Executive Director, SA Health & Medical Research Institute
  • Dr Jennie Louise, School of Population Health, The University of Adelaide

DATE: Thursday 27 March 2014
TIME: 6.00pm – 8.30pm
PLACE: Lirra Lirra (Aroma Café), McLeod House,
Waite Road, Urrbrae
Finger food and cash bar provided
BOOKINGS: Register online at

The event will be tweeted live via @waiteresearch and podcasts of the Debate will be available via our debate webpage or via the Harvest radio program webpage.

Agriculture, Food, Water and Energy Nexus

On Thursday Thursday 27 March 2014, AusBiotech is presenting a discussion about the role of biotechnology in addressing a growing global population and the need for food, water and energy security. With presentations from a range of industry experts and a lively panel discussion, this event will inform on global issues within a local context.

Moderator: Leigh Radford – National Editor – ABC Rural Australia
Speakers & Panelists:
Matthew Cossey – Chief Executive Officer, CropLife
Andrew Johnson – Group Executive Director, Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA)
Dr Dan Johnson – Managing Director, Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI)
Robert Kerin – Consultant, Executive Chair – Primary Producers SA, Chairman – Regional Developement SA
Professor Rob Lewis – Manager Strategic Projects, University of Adelaide
David Topping PhD, FTSE, FNSA, MAIFST – Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO
Meera Verma, PhD, FTSE, FAICD – Director, Headland Vision

Time: 2:30pm arrival for a 3:00pm start. Formal proceedings will be followed by networking drinks and canapés
Where: Plant Genomics Centre (ACPFG)
Building 22, Hartley Grove
Waite Campus – University of Adelaide
Cost: Members: FREE to attend but registration is required. Non-Members: $49.00 (incl. GST)
To register go to the AusBiotech website

Agroforestry: Sustainable Agriculture in PNG

Agroforestry is a system of land use where harvestable trees or shrubs are grown to preserve or enhance the productivity of the land. It can include activity which is quite different from the conventional understanding of ‘forestry’ such as short-rotation fuelwood production systems in Papua New Guinea (PNG) which is currently being funded by ACIAR.

Dr Ian Nuberg, a senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food & Wine currently supervises the ACIAR research conducted in PNG.

Dr Nuberg, whose main focus is in agroforestry, specifically in the context of developing countries, works on two ACIAR projects run out of PNG. They are “Promoting diverse fuelwood production systems in Papua New Guinea” and “Facilitating the establishment of charcoal producer groups in Papua New Guinea

Tony Bartlett, ACIAR’s Forestry Research Program Manager, recently travelled to PNG to see how the research to produce and sell the fuelwood was going. To read about his experience click the link below:

New Industry Opportunity for Ag Students


Interested in a career in Research and Development?
Have you recently completed your undergraduate degree and don’t know what to do next?
Do you have a secret passion for grains?

If yes, then this is the perfect opportunity for you!

A new partnership between the Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC), South Australian Grains Industry Trust (SAGIT), SARDI and the University of Adelaide are introducing a 12-month research traineeship in applied grains R&D.

But what does that mean exactly? Well its an opportunity for you to develop skills and contribute to research areas that include:
Grains pathology, Grains entomology, Weed management, Agronomy and Farming systems.

The research may be tailored to your specific interest, and may include being involved in trails across regional South Australia. You will also attend GRDC and SAGIT industry events such as field days and GRDC updates. You will also receive mentoring and professional development from SA’s leading research scientists!

But am I eligible for such an amazing opportunity? Well, if you’ve completed a Bachelors of Agricultural Science (or equivalent such as Bachelor of Sciences or Honours graduates) then YES YOU ARE!

Successful applicants will start work in February 2014, with an annual salary of $68,000

Applications are Due on November 30th, 2013

To Apply Send:
1. Current CV
2. Names of 2 Academic and/or Work related referees
3. Your Academic Transcript
4. A brief letter (maximum 2 pages) addressing these questions
a. How would you like to make a contribution to Australian Agriculture?
b. How does this opportunity fit with your career goals?

To: Pauline Bowden, SARDI

For any further information contact:
Dr. Kathy Ophel Keller
Research Chief, Sustainable Systems
Phone: 08 8303 9368

Almond breeding is featured in the lastest e-Science magazine

almond eScience

Almond breeding is a focus of the lastest edition of e-Science magazine. The article, written by almond breeder Dr Michelle Wirthensohn describes the genetics of sefl-fertility and self-incompatibility.

Produced by the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Adelaide, e-Science is a free magazine that offers interactive feature articles written by our researchers and complimented by resources specifically designed for teachers.

More information and links to download e-Science can be found on the e-Science magazine web page.

Debate: Grape and wine quality doesn’t matter – it’s marketing that sells wine!

Green Vines

The Australian wine industry has made huge gains based on investment in research and development during the past 30-50 years, giving us the edge in a competitive global market. Industry levy and government-funded research has led to knowledge and applications that have enabled significant improvements in grape and wine quality, as well as productivity and yield increases.

In an era of more costly inputs and diminishing returns, and with Australian wine no longer the ‘flavour of the month’ internationally, is it time to shift investment to support marketing efforts that increase the future growth and profitability of the industry? Many winemakers feel the challenging global economic and market forces they now face are more immediate and grave than longer-term environmental threats such as soil salinity and climate change.

On the other hand, the fruit of much labour in R&D is slow to reveal itself – a 20-year time lag between discovery in the lab and application in the field is commonly cited in agricultural science. In some areas this has dropped to as little as six years to meet industry imperatives. An exciting period lies ahead, with many more possibilities evident on the knowledge horizon, but the rising costs of research, funding cuts and a diminution in the perceived value and importance of R&D to the industry are real threats.

Why bother making better wine if we can’t sell it? Can consumers tell the difference between average wine and great wine anyway? Is increasing the marketing spend (especially if it’s at the expense of R&D) a sound investment strategy, or a sign of desperation from an industry under pressure in a world that has become short-sighted, shallow and dollar-driven?

In this exciting and important debate, moderated by Dr Paul Willis, Director RiAus, six experts in two teams will argue for your vote.

For the affirmative team …

  • Professor Pascale Quester Deputy Vice Chancellor & Vice-President (Academic), The University of Adelaide
  • Professor Larry Lockshin Pro-Vice Chancellor, Strategic Coordination, Professor of Wine Marketing and Head of the School of Marketing, University of SA
  • Dr Roberta Veale Program Director – Wine Business The Business School, Marketing, Faculty of the Professions, The University of Adelaide

For the negative team …

Will you be for or against?

Date: Thursday 17 October 2013 Time: 6.00pm (for a 6.30pm start) to 8.30pm
Place: Lirra Lirra Café, McLeod House, Waite Road, Waite Campus, Urrbrae Finger food and cash bar provided
Event is free. Please register at

Easy way to keep track of favourite wines

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Tuesday, 17 September 2013.


University of Adelaide wine staff and students have developed a free iPad app that will help consumers learn more about the wines they are drinking and keep track of their favourites.

‘My Wine World’ guides users through the assessment of wine appearance, smell, flavour, taste and the feel of the wine in the mouth. Users can record tasting notes and their own ratings in a searchable archive.

“We needed an educational tool to help our winemaking and wine business students develop their sensory skills,” says Senior Lecturer of Oenology Dr Kerry Wilkinson. “This promises to be really successful as an e-learning tool, but then we thought, why should students have all the fun?”

The app was developed by Dr Wilkinson and fellow Oenology Senior Lecturer at the Waite Campus, Dr Paul Grbin, together with Viticulture and Oenology student Matthew Roussy. It is available to the general public through the Apple app store.

My Wine World starts with a wine tasting tutorial and uses touch tools with colour displays, sliders and input screens where wine drinkers can enter the sensory attributes of the wines they are drinking. They can add a photo of the label, and easily refer back and cross-reference at a later date.

“Traditionally, technical wine assessment involves recording detailed observations and perceptions of the sensory properties of wine with tasting notes usually recorded in a diary or journal. But these can be cumbersome, messy and easily lost or damaged,” says Dr Wilkinson.

“This is an ideal tool for anyone who has a serious interest in developing their wine sensory skills, but also for those who just love wine but don’t have much technical knowledge. And then there are plenty of people who simply like to drink nice wines but can never remember the ones they liked, or what they like about them.

“My Wine World makes it very easy to build up a searchable archive of your favourite wines, with star ratings and even photos of the wine labels.”

Viticulture and Oenology student Matthew Roussy said he could have done with this app during his 10-year career as a sommelier.

“I knew that the need existed for a tasting note recorder and, now as a viticulture and oenology student, I realised I could help make My Wine World a very handy educational tool,” says Matt.

My Wine World won second place in last year’s Australian eChallenge, the annual entrepreneurial business planning competition run by the University’s Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre. The app was developed with a small grant from the University of Adelaide’s Wine2030 research network.