Monthly Archives: November 2010

The 2nd A. E. V. Richardson Lecture – Podcast Avaliable

Dissecting nitrogen use efficiency in modern wheat, or who cares about nitrogen, and what can we do about it? Listen to Dr Malcolm Hawkesford’s talk which was given for the Inaugural AEV Richardson Lecture held on the 29th November, 2010.

In this Lecture, Dr Hawkesford will discuss targets for crop improvement including nutrient capture, photosynthetic capacity and canopy longevity, nutrient remobilization, yield and quality stability and the grain yield – grain protein conundrum and the prospects for improving grain protein deviation. The basic approach taken during his research involves the field scale screening of a wide diversity of wheat germplasm under different nutritional conditions, as well as exploiting the world’s oldest plant nutrition experiment, the Broadbalk experiment at Rothamsted. Such materials are used for de-convoluting traits contributing to nutrient use efficiency and crop performance, and utilising this variation for novel gene discovery approach via transcriptome and/or QTL analysis. Validation of candidate genes is undertaken via transgenic approaches.

Dr Malcolm J. Hawkesford

The 2nd A. E. V. Richardson Lecture

Dissecting nitrogen use efficiency in modern wheat, or who cares about nitrogen, and what can we do about it?

Food security and sustainable crop production are major concerns for agriculture, particularly with an increasing world population and the pressures on land use combined with negative impacts of climate change. Underpinning crop production is the efficient use of resources including fertilisers. Nitrogen fertiliser is a key determinant for both yield and quality in crops; however inappropriate use has negative economic and environmental consequences. The logical targets for crop improvement in relation to nutrient use efficiency and production will be discussed by Dr Malcolm J. Hawkesford who has been invited to deliver the 2nd A.E.V. Richardson Lecture in recognition of his contribution to agronomy and commitment to integrating research from the level of the gene through to field physiology and agronomy.

The A.E.V. Richardson Lecture is named in honour of the former foundation Professor of Agriculture and first Director of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute. Before joining the University of Adelaide in 1924, Professor Richardson was the Superintendent of Agriculture for Victoria and played a large role in establishing the School of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne. His direction of agricultural education and research continued during his time as Director of the Waite (1924 to 1938). He preached and practised a constant theme: advances in agricultural practice and increased productivity depended on scientifically based experimentation. Richardson’s main fields of personal research were cereal agronomy, pasture research and wheat-breeding. From 1934 to 1946, Richardson was Deputy Chief Executive Officer of CSIR and then Chief Executive Officer until his retirement in 1949. Richardson directed research and development in Australian primary production over the period of its most rapid growth. A.E.V. Richardson died in December 1949.

Date/Time: Monday 29th November, 4pm
Plant Genomics Centre Seminar Room, Waite Campus
Speaker: Dr Malcolm J. Hawkesford (Rothamsted Research, UK)
: Free

The presentation will be followed by drinks and nibbles

For further Information contact: Dr Amanda Able

The Harold Woolhouse Lecture 2010 – Podcast Avaliable

“Looking back and looking forward: time for fresh thinking on roles of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi in plant phosphorus (P) uptake” Listen to Professor Sally Smith’s talk which was given at the Inaugural Harold Woolhouse Lecture on the 8th November, 2010.

This talk will start with some brief reflections on Harold Woolhouse at the Waite. Professor Smith will then 1) review the immediate relevance of studies of phosphorus (P) nutrition of plants, in the light of the low availability of P in soil, the need for P fertiliser application to achieve satisfactory crop yields and the limited global P resources; 2) introduce arbuscular mycorrhizas as the most common and widespread adaptation involved in plant P uptake; 3) provide an update on how recent research has fundamentally changed knowledge of how AM symbioses influence plant P uptake; and 4) present a new hypothesis to explain why some plants (including the important crops wheat, barley and tomato) sometimes grow better when non-mycorrhizal.

Professor Sally Smith

Professor Sally Smith


AusBiotech 2010

The WRI and Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) were recently represented on the BioInnovation SA stand at Australia’s national AusBiotech 2010 conference in Melbourne 19 – 22 October.

Chia Barlow, Executive Officer from the WRI and Amanda Hudswell, Communications Manager for ACPFG attended the 4 day annual event which focuses on creating biotechnology solutions for the world.

The 2011 conference will be held in Adelaide SA.

For more information please visit

Keeping Food Fresh for Longer: Challenges & Solutions – Podcast and Slidecast

On the 23rd of September, Amanda Able presented a talk on Keeping Food Fresh for Longer. You can listen to the audio recording, or watch the slidecast below.

In order to keep Dr Amanda Ablehorticultural produce fresh for longer, members of the supply chain have various post-harvest solutions available to them. However the effectiveness of these technologies is reliant upon an understanding of the physiology of the produce.

The laboratory of Dr Amanda J. Able at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus focuses upon gaining this understanding and the development of suitable post-harvest technologies.

Current research includes:

  • Developing the use of the ethylene action inhibitor, 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), as a tool to extend shelf life of banana and determining the impact of 1-MCP on aroma, volatiles and consumer acceptability
  • Understanding why capsicum does not ripen when harvested green
  • The effect of Ca and B application (pre- and post-harvest) on the development of grey mould
  • The effect of 1-MCP and controlled atmosphere storage on health qualities of apples (such as antioxidant content).

However, there is a real need to link post-harvest technology with an increase in the long term benefits that could be derived from food (especially for human health). The Able laboratory is now seeking to examine the impact of post-harvest technologies on bioactive compounds, their bioavailability and impact on human health.

Improving Nitrogen and Phosphorus use of cereals to help food security

Friday 24th September marks the final day of the 15th International Workshop on Plant Membrane Biology, and is a feature day for the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG). In particular the day will highlight work at the Centre into the nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) of cereal

‘Given the environmental effects associated with production and usage of nitrogen fertilisers, and the suggestion that we may be approaching peak phosphorus, increased food production will require crops that use fertilisers more efficiently, that is, we need to increase the nutrient use efficiency of crops,’ said Dr Trevor Garnett, NUE researcher at ACPFG

Nutrient use efficiency researchers from around the world will meet on the Friday at the National Wine Centre to discuss their research and strategies for international collaboration to address this problem.

‘Currently the demand for food is close to the limits of what we can produce, but by 2050 it is suggested that we will need to increase food production by 60% according to a 2008 Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations report,’ he said.

Nitrogen (N) is one of the biggest input costs for farmers and the price is increasing because of the power used to industrially fix N from the atmosphere. Approximately 2 % of the world’s energy is used to produced N fertiliser; this causes a considerable greenhouse gas contribution.

‘Over 100 million tonnes of Nitrogen fertiliser is applied to crops each year and 60% of this on cereals,’ said Dr Garnett. ‘Given the costs and environmental effects associated with production and usage of nitrogen fertilisers, plants with increased nitrogen use efficiency are of great importance to future food security.’

Nitrogen is the fertiliser that plants require the most, but only 40-50% of the applied fertiliser is taken up by the cereal crops. The nitrogen not taken up leads to pollution of waterways and oceans, one consequence being algal blooms at river deltas causing dead zones.

Unused nitrogen fertiliser has a further environmental impact in that it is broken down in the soil by microbes and released into the atmosphere as nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Plants require less phosphorus than nitrogen but there is a lot less available. Current estimates are that the world will reach peak phosphorus by the middle of this century. Peak phosphorus, in the same way as peak oil, means the readily available supplies have been utilised and the cost of phosphorous fertiliser will dramatically increase.

The Friday session includes plenary speakers representing the key international groups specialising in NUE and research presentations describing key rate limiting steps in NUE that are currently being targeted to improve the NUE in crop plants.

IWPMB 2010 Website