Monthly Archives: March 2011

Robyn van Heeswijck Lecture – Podcast

Dr Brendan Choat

Water transport and water stress in grapevines: new insights using novel imaging techniques.

Listen to Dr Brendan Choat’s talk which was given at the 2nd Robyn van Heeswijck Lecture on the 28th March, 2011.

Plants are capable of transporting water to heights in excess of 100 m, and can extract water from drying and saline soils. To achieve this, they have evolved a transport system that relies on water sustaining a tensile force, such that the xylem sap is at negative absolute pressures. However, this transport mechanism comes with its own set of problems; most notably that water under tension is prone to the formation of emboli, gas bubbles that block xylem conduits and reduced the ability of the plant to move water to the canopy. W, xylemater stress is the principal cause of embolism, which can lead to declines in productivity and ultimately, plant death.

Grapevines are commonly exposed to water stress in the field and are therefore vulnerable to embolism during the growing season. Given predictions of more prolonged and severe droughts associated with climate change, a proper understanding of how water stress induced embolism may limit productivity in grapevines is of great importance to the Australian grape and wine industry. My research addresses two unresolved questions related to plant water transport. First, how resistance to water stress induced embolism differs between plant species and cultivars and second, how plants are able to repair embolised xylem conduits and thus restore lost transport capacity. Recent advances in imaging technology such as micro computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging provide an opportunity to observe plant water transport at unparalleled resolution and in real time. These results show that grapevines are capable of repairing embolism on diurnal timescales and give insights into the physiological mechanism by which repair is achieved.

Short Speaker Biography

Brendan Choat obtained his BSc (Hons) in 1997 (JCU) and his PhD in 2003 (JCU). From 2003-2005 he worked as a Post Doctoral Fellow at Harvard University in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. He held a second Post Doctoral Fellowship in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis from 2005-2008. In 2008 he returned to Australia to take up a Research Fellowship at ANU before moving to a Senior Research Lectureship at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (UWS). He is an editor for the PrometheusWiki Project and on the editorial review board of Tree Physiology. In 2010 he was awarded a Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers.

L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowships

L’Oréal has three $20,000 Fellowships intended to help early career women scientists to consolidate their careers and rise to leadership positions in science. The Fellowships are awarded to women who have shown scientific excellence in their career to date and who have an appropriate research plan that will be assisted by the one-year Fellowship.

Applications for the 2011 fellowships will open on April the 1st.

If anyone from the Waite is thinking of nominating (or has already nominated) please contact Heather Bray so any nominations can be tracked. Heather is also able to provide editorial feedback/advice to people preparing nominations if desired.

For more information about these Fellowships please visit the Science in Public website.

The Waite Research Institute welcomes Dr Heather Bray

Heather Bray

Dr Heather Bray recently joined the Waite Research Institute as Special Projects Officer.

Her initial focus will be on the Waite Research Institute’s communications activities and developing programs to enhance the research management and leadership capabilities of staff and students at the Waite.

Dr Bray has a background in agricultural and animal science in addition to science communication and education. She previously worked with the Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre’s Education and Training program and is currently Project Manager for the ALTC funded project ‘Plant Breeding by Example’ led by Professor Diane Mather. She has also recently developed research links with Associate Professor Rachel Ankeny from the School of History and Politics through a number of small projects examining attitudes to the use of genetic modification in the production of food and beverages.

Dr Bray will be working with the Waite Research Institute two days per week (mostly Tuesdays and Thursdays) and will be located with the Waite Research Institute staff when they relocate in May.


Mannum Science Forum

Dr Wendy Umberger

On Monday March 21 2011, there was a free science forum held in Mannum which was organised by the SA Murray-Darling Basin NRM Board (Ranges to River NRM Group). Presenters included Dr Wendy Umberger from the University of Adelaide (Lecturer in Agri Food and Wine Business) and the one day forum explored issues around farming sustainability and the technologies that are transforming our agricultural practices. The global problems of food security were also discussed. For more information please visit the SAMDBNRM website, podcasts will soon be made available here.

Speakers at the Mannum Science Forum

Audience at the Mannum Science Forum

Robyn van Heeswijck Lecture

The 2nd Robyn van Heeswijck Lecture will be held on Monday 28th March 2011, 4pm Plant Research Centre, Waite Campus, University of Adelaide


Dr Brendan Choat, University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Water transport and water stress in grapevines: new insights using novel imaging techniques.

For more information please refer to the website.

The audience is invited to stay and talk with the speaker and colleagues over refreshments.

Tim March and Matteo Marangon – 2011 Science & Innovation Awards for Young People

Dr Tim March

Dr Tim March

Each year the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry supports Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. These awards recognise innovative scientific projects proposed by 18-35 year olds that will contribute to the ongoing success and sustainability of Australia’s agricultural, fisheries and forestry industries.

This year eleven scientists from across Australia were successful and the awards were presented at the ABARES Outlook Conference Dinner in Canberra on Tuesday 1 March. Of the eleven awards, two were to scientists from the Waite Campus.

Dr Timothy March of the Barley Group in the School of Agriculture, Food & Wine won the Grains Research and Development Corporation Award, and Dr Matteo Marangon from the Australian Wine Research Institute won the Grape and Wine Research Development Corporation Award. The awards are worth up to $22,000.

Tim March has been instrumental in the development of a new genotyping assay called Hi-SELECT, intended to be an open-source, user-customisable assay, capable of genotyping up to 386 plants with 1526 genetic markers simultaneously. He will use his award to present his findings at the 2011 Barley Technical Symposium in September and internationally at the 2012 Plant and Animal Genome Conference in San Diego in January 2012.

Matteo Marangon is working on developing a better understanding of the cause of protein haze formation in white wines, thereby allowing wine makers to refine and reduce their use of betonite fining in the winemaking process, leading to more economically and environmentally sustainable practices. Working with a French laboratory, Matteo will use his award to examine the interactions between proteins and other components responsible for forming protein haze, and to develop a predictive model for protein instability in white wines. He will share his findings through publication in scientific and industry journals, and through the AWRI Road Show.

Congratulations to both of these fine scientists on their recognition through these prestigious awards.

Australia Talks Interview with Mark Tester

To coincide with the launch of Greenpeace’s “True Food Guide”, ABC’s Australia Talks featured a discussion with Mark Tester (Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomic/University of Adelaide) and Laura Kelly (Greenpeace) on Wednesday 2 March 2011.

You can find a brief blurb about the interview on the Australia Talks website.