Monthly Archives: August 2012

Adelaide joins with Italy to develop ‘super spaghetti’


University of Adelaide researchers are working with colleagues in Italy to produce better quality pasta that also adds greater value to human health.

Two research projects – being conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls at the University’s Waite Campus – will start next month in collaboration with researchers from the Italian universities of Bari and Molise.

The aim of the ARC Centre of Excellence is to look at the fundamental role of cell walls (biomass) in plants and discover how they can be better utilised. Both of these new projects will investigate key aspects of the cell walls in
durum wheat, which is commonly used for making pasta.

The first project, in conjunction with the University of Bari, will investigate how the growth of durum wheat affects
the levels of starch and dietary fibre within it, and how the fibre levels in pasta can be improved. The second
project, in conjunction with the University of Molise, will investigate the important roles played by two major
components of dietary fibre – arabinoxylans and beta-glucans – in the quality of pasta and bread dough.

“The term ‘super spaghetti’ is beginning to excite scientists, nutritionists and food manufacturers around the world,” says Associate Professor Rachel Burton, Program Leader with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls and chief investigator on both projects.

“In simple terms, ‘super spaghetti’ means that it contains a range of potential health benefits for the consumer, such as reducing the risk of heart disease or colorectal cancer. Our research – in collaboration with our Italian colleagues – is aimed at achieving that, but we’re also looking to improve the quality of pasta as well as its health properties,” Associate Professor Burton says.

The centre’s Director, Professor Geoff Fincher, says: “These new projects highlight one of the great strengths of our Centre of Excellence, which is the ability to bring together complementary expertise and resources from across the globe to work towards a common goal. Our centre has the opportunity to address key scientific issues and produce results that are meaningful to industries and communities worldwide.”

Professor Fincher says these new projects could help pasta manufacturers in South Australia and Italy to carve a niche by supplying domestic markets with specialist pasta products that will benefit the health of consumers.

“Being able to sell high-quality South Australian durum wheat within a competitive market like Italy could bring economic benefits. Approximately 27kg of pasta is consumed per year per person in Italy, compared with just 4kg per person in Australia,” he says.

Both of these projects have received funding and support from the South Australian Government, local
governments in Italy, the University of Adelaide and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls.

This article was originally posted on the University of Adelaide news website


“Rathjen’s Revenge” Recognising Prof Tony Rathjen’s contribution to agriculture

Professor Tony Rathjen

“Rathjen’s Revenge”

Recognising Professor Tony Rathjen’s contribution to agriculture

The Waite Research Institute and the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide are hosting a retrospective and celebration of Professor Tony Rathjen’s career to recognise Tony’s contribution to the Australian wheat breeding, farming and related industries, his research and his recent elevation to Professor status.

Tony has been instrumental in establishing a strong durum industry in South Australia and released more than 20 wheat varieties in his career.

His first major bread-wheat release was Warigal in the late 1970s. During the 1980s he worked on soft wheats, releasing Molineaux, the first cereal-cyst nematode wheat. Yitpi, released in the late 1990s, had the combination of CCN resistance and boron tolerance and was very popular in areas such as the Mallee. Tony then moved into durum following a trip to Italy. Tamaroi was the first variety released from the Waite, followed by Kalka in 2003 and Tjilkuri in 2010. Varieties from Tony’s program are still being released.

Tony has been a lecturer since starting at the University of Adelaide in 1965 and recently incorporated primary production tours for students into the course to provide an understanding of industry and the environment. Tony has also set up a foundation with royalties from Yitpi to encourage and promote research and education in the fields of crop science, particularly in relation to the wheat industry in southern Australia; and social science in linguistics of Australian languages and studies of the cultures of Australian Aborigines, particularly in relation to land usage.

All collegues, current and former students, farmers and others who wish to acknowledge Tony’s “retirement” are welcome to attend.

The event will be held on Friday 14th September 2012 at the Waite Campus.

At 1.00pm in the Charles Hawker Conference Centre, seminar presentations will address challenges confronting today’s agricultural research, crop breeding and industries and provide insight to the future, as well as acknowledge the contributions, personality and successes of Tony over his 47-year long career.  Presenters on the day are Roger Leigh, Chris Preston, Dave Maschmedt, Ian McClelland, Andy Barr, and Mike Brooks.  Tony will be giving the final presentation – “Rathjen’s Revenge: The Rebuttal”.

At 4.30 pm, following the seminars, a late afternoon social event will be held at the Waite’s Lirra Lirra Cafe. For catering purposes, please register for this free event at

South Australian Tall Poppies – Dr Kerry Wilkinson and Dr Matt Gilliham


Congratulations to Drs Kerry Wilkinson and Matt Gilliham on being named 2012 South Australian Young Tall Poppies at a reception in Government House on 22 August. They were among eight young South Australian scientists to receive awards this year.

The Tall Poppy campaign was established in 1998 by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science to promote public awareness of Australia’s intellectual achievements. These prestigious awards uniquely acknowledge the recipients’ research achievements alongside their capacity and commitment to communicate science and its significance to the broader community.

Dr Matt Gilliham’s research focuses on how wheat and grapevines might better tolerate salinity and how the nutritional quality of crop plants can be improved. Matt’s work into increasing salinity tolerance and crop yield will contribute to increased production in Australia and other countries with salty soil, and in doing so help combat food insecurity. This year Matt has also been awarded 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 and was recently awarded a fellowship by the GO8 Australia-China Young Researchers Exchange Program. Matt is a Senior Research Fellow within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Energy Biology at the Waite Campus. You can follow Matt on Twitter (@IonPlants) for updates on his work.

Dr Kerry Wilkinson’s research interests concern the compounds present in grapes and wine which affect aroma and flavour. This includes efforts to better understand the effect of bushfire smoke on grape and wine quality. In 2009 after the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, local winemakers found that some wines made from smoke-exposed grapes smelled and tasted like smoked bacon, cold campfires and Band-Aids. The estimated cost to the Victorian wine industry due to ‘smoke taint’ is more than $300 million. Kerry’s research has identified compounds responsible for ‘smoke taint’ and methods for removing them, a valuable development for Australia’s third biggest export industry. Kerry is a Senior Lecturer in Oenology at the Waite Campus.

Both Matt and Kerry are participants in the Waite Research Institute’s Research Leadership Development Program.

Matt received his award and congratulations from His Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce at the reception at Government House. Kerry is currently attending a conference in Philadelphia and Prof Eileen Scott accepted the award on her behalf.

We wish them well in the coming year as they continue their outreach to schools and the broader community as part of the Tall Poppy Campaign to promote and encourage an interest and engagement in science.