Monthly Archives: March 2012

Wine debate wrap up

Our debaters: (L to R) Prof Vladimir Jiranek, Dr Dan Johnson, Prof Steve Tyerman, Mr Brian Croser AO, Dr Sue Bastian, Prof Barbara Santich

Our debate last week on the topic “The future of the Australian wine industry will be based on technology, not tradition” was a fantastic success attended by approximately 230 people on the night.

At the beginning of the evening the audience was split roughly 2:1 in favour of the proposition, that technology would be the basis of the Australian wine industry’s success in the future. All of our debaters argued their case passionately, however the negative team was unable to persuade the audience to change their minds and the affirmative team were declared winners.

To listen to the debate please click here (approx 55 minutes, 20 Mb, mp3 format)

To see how the debate looked on Twitter please click here.

For more information on the debaters, please see our previous post.

The Waite Research Institute would like to thank all who contributed to making our event a success.

Dr Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture visits the Waite

Dr Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (the Treaty) at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation visited the Waite Campus on the 20th of March and presented a public seminar on:

“The Global Genepool: An innovative approach to the global food security challenge”

To hear Dr Bhatti’s seminar click here. To see a summary of Dr Bhatti’s seminar on Twitter click here.

The Treaty is an international agreement with the overall goal of supporting global food security, allows governments, farmers, research institutes and agro-industries to work together by pooling their genetic resources and sharing the benefits from their use – thus protecting and enhancing our food crops while giving fair recognition and benefits to local farmers who have nurtured these crops through the millennia.

With this Treaty, 64 important crops that produce our food – such as rice, wheat, maize and potatoes –  are put into a common pool. The treaty facilitates access to those crops, makes them available free of charge to researchers and plant breeders who agree to share any future commercial benefits from their use in modern plant breeding or biotechnology. This recognition and this benefit sharing are designed to ensure equity and encourage farmers to continue conserving and using the diversity in their fields.

Since he took office in 2007, Dr Bhatti managed the launch of the first multilaterally governed, global access and benefit-sharing system, which now contains more than 1.5 million samples of plant genetic material and facilitates more than 600 transfers of genetic material every day from international genebanks alone.

Besides the genepool, Dr Bhatti established and facilitated the launch of the Benefit-sharing Fund of the Treaty with a target of US$116 million by 2014. Currently, he has raised more than US$15 million to support 30 in-situ projects in 35 countries throughout the developing world.

For more information about the Treaty, please visit

Dr Matthew Gilliham wins 2012 Science and Innovation Award

Last week Dr Matthew Gilliham won the Viticulture & Oenology 2012 Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry sponsored by the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation.

The Awards, coordinated by ABARES, aim to encourage science, innovation and technology in rural industries and help to advance the careers of young scientists through national recognition of their research ideas. Project recipients can undertake groundbreaking research and innovation with the objective of keeping Australia’s rural industries sustainable and profitable.

Dr Gilliham, a University of Adelaide researcher within the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology and the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, will use the $22,000 prize to investigate the genetics of rootstocks to improve Australia’s rootstock breeding program.

Grapevines, like other horticultural crops, are often grafted to rootstocks derived from related species to improve the plant’s ability to tolerate conditions in the soil.

‘In Australia we use rootstocks that tolerate phylloxera (a soil-borne disease) but they also have the potential to improve the ability of vines to cope with climate change,’ says Matthew.

The rootstock known as 140 Ruggeri is one of the most commonly planted in Australia. Over the next 12 months, will collaborate with researchers in Adelaide, Perth and in Verona, Italy, to compare genome sequences of 140 Ruggeri rootstock with the Vinus vinifera (wine grape) genome.

This information will help to identify candidate genes and molecular markers in rootstocks for drought, salinity, root pathogen and acid soil tolerance that could improve Australia’s rootstock breeding programs.

“We hope that this sequencing will provide the important first steps in linking useful traits to genes, an approach that will accelerate breeding for key rootstock attributes and help support a competitive Australian wine sector,” Matthew says.

Matthew hopes it will also benefit horticulture, pasture, grains and other industries that rely on plant production by revealing the information that is needed to help generate more stress-tolerant crops, and improving crop yield and quality.

Mr Neil Fisher, Executive Director of GWRDC, said: “GWRDC is pleased to sponsor young scientists as part of our investment in research, development and innovation in the Australian wine sector on behalf of our three key stakeholders: the Wine Grape Growers Association, Winemakers’ Federation of Australia and the Australian Government.”

“We congratulate Matthew on winning this award and we look forward to his continuing contribution to excellence in the Australia wine sector.”

Image: Dr Matthew Gilliham (centre) with Neil Fischer, Executive Director of GWRDC (left) and Hon Rory McEwan, Chair of GWRDC board (right)