Monthly Archives: July 2013

Waite campus drives Vineyard of the Future

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Monday, 29 July, 2013

grapes lo res

University of Adelaide wine researchers are leading an international project to develop and test new tools and technologies to help the viticulture industry protect their vineyards from climate change.

The researchers, in a project called Vineyard of the Future, are establishing a futuristic vineyard at the University’s Waite Campus as a testing ground for new and emerging technologies that will help grapegrowers adapt to climate change and introduce efficiencies.

“The viticulture industry is vulnerable to climate change because of grapevines’ high sensitivity to temperature and rainfall,” says project leader Professor Steve Tyerman, from the University’s Waite Research Institute. “To successfully adapt, the industry needs better management systems that will allow rapid response to climatic events and other risks.”

The one hectare vineyard at Waite Campus has a system of continuous remote monitoring with a combination of sensors and image analysis enabling around-the-clock measuring of vine performance under changing conditions.

“We need a complete picture of how the vine is responding to climate variables and soil conditions at any particular time,” says Professor Tyerman.

The technology will also help the industry become more efficient.

“Grapegrowers are facing costs pressures,” he says. “We want to show how it is possible to cut costs and save on labour using modern sensors and imaging.”

The Vineyard of the Future is led by Professor Tyerman, working with Dr Roberta De Bei, postdoctoral fellow in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, and with collaborators Dr Sigfredo Fuentes, University of Melbourne, and others in Chile, Spain, France and the United States.

Some of the tested technologies and techniques will soon be available for growers to monitor their own vineyards for changes in canopy growth and form, and plant water status.

Tools include a wetting pattern analyser to help better target irrigation and fertiliser use; infrared thermography and automated analysis to assess plant water status; and canopy assessment using cover photography.

“Some of the systems we’ve developed are now being tested in commercial vineyards in Australia and Chile,” says Professor Tyerman. “When we talk of Vineyard of the Future, the future may not be far away at all.”

Getting a good look at the Waite Campus

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Visitors to the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus will have the opportunity for a unique view of the campus as part of a Waite Information Day on Sunday 21 July.

A limited number of free helicopter rides over the campus are being offered along with information talks, tours of teaching and research facilities and hands-on activities.

The University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine is based at the Waite Campus at Urrbrae and offers three undergraduate degrees: Agricultural Sciences, Viticulture and Oenology, and Food and Nutrition Science.

On Sunday 21 July, there will be two information sessions – at 10am and 1pm. Prospective students and their parents will have an opportunity to speak with academic staff and current students about specific areas of study, the nature of the degrees and career opportunities.

Campus tours include the Plant Accelerator, the Wine Science Laboratory and the Sensory Evaluation teaching laboratories and visitors can take part in hands-on learning experiences such as simple laboratory analyses and sensory evaluation.

Head of the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine Professor Mike Wilkinson says: There are tremendous opportunities for careers in these fields and our graduates are in great demand.

“We encourage all those interested to come and hear from academic staff about what the degrees cover and where they may lead and to see the fantastic facilities and learning environment of the Waite Campus. It will be an enjoyable day with plenty to see and do.”

All those wishing to attend need to register at The five minute helicopter tours will be subject to weather conditions and are only open to those who register early


Debate @ the Waite in the City … on soils

“Australian soils are more fertile now than they’ve ever been”

Our understanding of the soil has changed dramatically over the last 150 years, from ‘ground-up rock’ to a dynamic, living ecosystem.

Soils contribute significantly to Australia’s food and fibre production, worth $23.6 billion, in 2009-2010, as well as supporting the economic growth of rural and regional communities. An estimated 63% of the Australian landscape is managed under agriculture or forestry. Food production on Australian soils provides 93%of our domestic food supply and feeds another 40 million people outside Australia every day.

Soil fertility refers to the physical, chemical and biological attributes of the soil which affect the availability of nutrients for plants to use. Soil fertility is lost when more nutrients leave the soil than are added to it, as well as through processes such as erosion and salinity. The impact of European land use on Australian soils was extreme, with severe erosion, organic matter loss and nutrient depletion commonplace across large areas.

We now know that the way we’ve managed our fragile Australian soils in the past was unsustainable at best, and at worst, caused permanent infertility and lost production potential. However, with increasing knowledge we have improved our farming practices to maintain, and in some areas increase soil fertility. For instance, conventional cultivation, where ploughing the soil is the main method of managing crop residue and controlling weeds, was reduced to 1.4% of the area used to grow crops in 2011.

So have we learned to manage our soils sustainably? Or did we learn the lesson too late and have permanently limited our productivity?

In this debate, moderated by Dr Paul Willis, Director of the RiAus, we will explore these issues as six experts in two teams argue for your vote.

Team for the Affirmative
Associate Professor Ann McNeill
Soils Research Group, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide
Dr Nigel Wilhelm
Research Leader, Farming Systems, SARDI
Professor Rob Fitzpatrick
Professorial Research Fellow & Director, Acid Sulfate Soil Centre, The University of Adelaide

Team for the Negative
Dr Patrick O’Connor
Visiting Research Fellow, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide
Dr Ashlea Doolette
Research Fellow, Soils Research Group, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide
Mr Richard MacEwan
Senior Research Scientist, Department of Environment & Primary Industries, Victoria

When: Thursday 11 July, 2013 6.00 – 8.30pm
Where: RiAus, The Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide. Finger food provided and cash bar available

Admission is free, but prior registration is essential as seats are strictly limited.
Live-streaming of the event will be available from 6.30 pm CST.
To follow the debate on Twitter use #agchatoz and follow @waiteresearch and @RiAus

ARC Linkage round successes

The Waite Campus will be home to two new projects funded by the ARC Linkage Projects scheme.

In all, the University of Adelaide won $5.4 million for industry-linked research, 58% of the funding awarded to SA.

A team led by Prof Geoff Fincher from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls and A. Prof Jason Eglinton from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine was awarded $675,000 a to study the physiology and genetics of barley grain germination in the malting and brewing industries. This project was highlighted in the recent edition of The Stock Journal and the Plant Cell Walls blog.

The other successful linkage project, led by Dr Trevor Garnett and Dr Sigrid Heuer from the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics ($524,718 over 3 years) aims to improve the nitrogen use efficiency of cereal plants. The project will identify and investigate nitrogen uptake pathways to find what is limiting plants’ nitrogen uptake. Improving the nitrogen uptake process in plants will increase the plant’s ability to use nitrogen more efficiently, leading to reduced and more sustainable nitrogen fertiliser usage. This project has been highlighted on the ACPFG blog.

WRI Director Prof Mike Wilkinson is also an investigator on two projects based at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.