Monthly Archives: November 2012

Crush 2012: The grape and wine science symposium

Crush 2012 is a two-day national symposium dedicated to grape and wine research.

It provides a forum for researchers, students and technologists in both viticulture and oenology to discuss the application of their work to the opportunities and challenges faced by the wine sector.

The global success Australia’s wine offer was built on the back of a strong research-based culture of innovation. To some extent, the world has caught up, but our researchers are continuing their work to ensure that in a fiercely competitive domestic and global market, our wines will continue to have a winning  edge. This is particularly important in our domestic market where a combination of factors, including exchange rates, now sees Australian wine losing market share to imported wines.

This is an excellent opportunity for all researchers, whether current PhD or Masters students, early-career post-doctoral scientists or experienced investigators, to present the results of their work to their peers and benefit from building collaborative networks. Wine industry leaders will be on hand to guide the all important discussions at the end of each half-day session.

Themes to be explored include the lowering of alcohol in wine without diminishing quality, moves to ‘greener’ farming methods and the ongoing quest to better understand the origins of flavour, both in the vineyard and in the winery. An exciting, inclusive part of the program are the ‘snapshots’, where up to 20 researchers will have 5 minutes to  share their work with the audience – this is the researchers’  version of speed dating.

Convened by the Wine Innovation Cluster and held at the Waite Campus, Urrbrae, Crush 2012 presents an opportunity to both share current findings and explore further opportunities for collaborative research through the strong networking focus.

The Waite Research Institute is proud to be a sponsor of Crush 2012: the grape and wine science symposium. For more information (and the program) click here.

Waite successes in lastest ARC Discovery Project round

The results of the lastest Australian Research Council Discovery Project round were announced yesterday by Science and Research Minister Senator Chris Evans and it was good news for Waite researchers Matt Gilliham, Vlad Jiranek, Mike Wilkinson and colleagues. The Waite Research Institute would like to congratulate all grant recipients.

Dr Matt Gilliham and his team have been awarded $420,000 over three years to study the molecular basis of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) signalling in plants. This work is significant because GABA regulates proteins that release molecules involved in root-soil interactions, growth, and fertilisation. The project’s discoveries will allow improvement of these agronomic traits that ultimately determine crop yield.


Associate Professor Vladimir Jiranek and collegues have been awarded $477,000 over three years to study known and novel signalling molecules that allow communication between yeast cells and impact on wine fermentation dynamics, specifically in a nutrient-depleted environment. The mechanisms by which these molecules exert their effect will be defined using a systems biology approach that integrates many analyses and data sets.



Head of the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, Professor Mike Wilkinson and collegues have been awarded $443,000 over three years to study wheat evolution using ancient DNA. The domestication of wild grasses by farmers was a step change in human history; it led to the emergence of modern cereals and with them, western civilisation. This project will apply modern DNA sequencing methods to 5000-year-old cereal seeds to reconstruct the history of wheat, barley and other crops, and identify lost ancient forms and diversity.


Recent research: Herbicide-resistant ryegrass in southeastern Australia

Herbicide resistance in annual ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) is a growing problem in grain-cropping fields of southeastern Australia because of increased herbicide use as the main weed control method in minimum tillage systems. With thousands of fields infested with herbicide-resistant annual ryegrass, it is the most important weed species of winter grain crops in Australia. This study focused on identifying the scale of the problem in South Australia and Victoria, using annual ryegrass collected during weed surveys between 1998 and 2009.

Outdoor pot studies were conducted during the normal winter growing season for annual ryegrass with PRE-applied trifluralin and POST-applied diclofop-methyl, chlorsulfuron, tralkoxydim, pinoxaden, and clethodim.
•    Trifluralin-resistant annual ryegrass was found in one-third of the fields surveyed from South Australia and in less than 5% of fields in Victoria.
•    Chlorsulfuron-resistance was detected in at least half of the cropped fields across southeastern Australia.
•    Resistance to the cereal-selective aryloxyphenoxypropionate-inhibiting herbicides diclofop-methyl, tralkoxydim, and pinoxaden ranged between 30 and 60% in most regions, but in marginal cropping areas it was less than 12%.
•    Resistance to clethodim varied between 0 and 61%. Higher levels of resistance to clethodim were found in the more intensively cropped, higher-rainfall districts where pulse and canola crops are common.

Fields in the survey fell into 2 groups: those with ryegrass resistant to 0-1 herbicides, which tended to be more common in areas where a lot of pasture was still grown, and those with resistance to 4-6 herbicides, which tended to be in areas of continuous cropping. These weed surveys demonstrate that a high incidence of resistance to most tested herbicides is present in annual ryegrass from cropped fields in southeastern Australia and presents a major challenge for crop producers.

Corresponding author: Dr Peter Boutsalis
Organisations: School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide
Publication: Boutsalis, P., Gill, G.S. and Preston, C. (2012) Incidence of herbicide resistance in rigid ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) across southeastern Australia. Weed Technology, 26(3): 391-398.
Link: doi: 10.1614/WT-D-11-00150.1

“Recent research” is a series of short, regular posts highlighting recent research papers from the Waite Campus.

Recent research: Sensing sulphur dioxide in wine

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is important in winemaking because it prevents spoilage. Over time the SO2 is used up, leaving wines without any SO2 protection. Some people are allergic to SO2 so it’s important to be able to monitor and regulate SO2 content during wine production. Current techniques mostly require a sample of the wine to be taken and chemically analysed for sulfites (including SO2) which can be time consuming.

This study demonstrates a technique that can measure sulfite content in small samples of white wine. The researchers used an optical fibre sensing platform which can be suspended in the wine and adapted a known chemical reaction that produces a colour-change when sulfites are present. The optical fibres have three separate chambers and the reaction depends on the interaction between guided light located within the fibre voids and a mixture of the wine sample and a chemical indicator. The researchers showed that this technique makes measurements without the need for the wine dilution and paves the way towards real time in situ wine monitoring.

Corresponding author: Professor Dennis Taylor
Organisations: Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing and School of Chemistry and Physics, University of Adelaide; School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide
Publication: Monro, T.M., Moore, R.L., Nguyen, M.-C., Ebendorff-Heidepriem, H., Skouroumounis, G.K., Elsey, G.M. and Taylor, D.K. (2012) Sensing Free Sulfur Dioxide in Wine. Sensors 12(8):10759-10773.
Link: doi: 10.3390/s120810759 (Open Access)

“Recent research” is a series of short, regular posts highlighting recent research papers from the Waite Campus.

Recent research: Improved genetic markers for grain yield and quality

The genetic control of grain yield is very complex and involves many genes controlling processes such as growth and reproduction. Although introducing specific important agronomic traits has led to large advances in grain yield in the water-limited bread wheat production environment of southern Australia, recent yield improvements have been made through incremental genetic advances often without wheat breeders and researchers knowing the underlying physiological mechanisms. If the genetic/physiological basis was better understood, targeted breeding efforts could more rapidly improve traits driving grain yield in target environments. This study investigated the trait and genetic basis of grain yield and quality in a locally adapted wheat population.

The researchers used a doubled haploid population made from a cross between a relatively drought-tolerant breeders’ line and Kukri, a locally adapted variety less tolerant of drought. Experiments were performed in 16 environments over four seasons in southern Australia which fell into three distinctive rainfall patterns. Kernels per square metre was a large driver of grain yield and was further explained by kernels per spikelet, a measure of fertility, indicating these are key traits for improving yield in the target environment. The researchers found nine genetic loci for grain yield across the growing areas, individually accounting for between 3 and 18% of genetic variance within their respective growing areas. The gene variant (allele) from the relatively drought-tolerant breeders’ line increased grain yield, kernels per square metre and kernels per spikelet at most loci detected, particularly in the more heat stressed environments.

This work has provided a better understanding of the occurrences of these important loci in the local wheat breeding pool, helping wheat breeders maintain or improve these traits when designing cross-breeding programs. Three new loci associated with grain yield have potential for use in marker-assisted selection in breeding programs targeting improving grain yield in southern Australia and other similar climates.

Corresponding author: Dion Bennett
Organisations: Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, Australian Grain Technologies
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT)
Publication: Bennet, D., Izanloo, A., Reynolds, M., Kuchel, H., Langridge, P. And Schnurbusch, T. (2012) Genetic dissection of grain yield and physical grain quality in bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) under water-limited environments. Theoretical and applied genetics, 125:255-271.
Link: doi: 10.1007/s00122-012-1831-9

“Recent research” is a series of short, regular posts highlighting recent research papers from the Waite Campus.