Category Archives: Research

Agroforestry: Sustainable Agriculture in PNG

Agroforestry is a system of land use where harvestable trees or shrubs are grown to preserve or enhance the productivity of the land. It can include activity which is quite different from the conventional understanding of ‘forestry’ such as short-rotation fuelwood production systems in Papua New Guinea (PNG) which is currently being funded by ACIAR.

Dr Ian Nuberg, a senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food & Wine currently supervises the ACIAR research conducted in PNG.

Dr Nuberg, whose main focus is in agroforestry, specifically in the context of developing countries, works on two ACIAR projects run out of PNG. They are “Promoting diverse fuelwood production systems in Papua New Guinea” and “Facilitating the establishment of charcoal producer groups in Papua New Guinea

Tony Bartlett, ACIAR’s Forestry Research Program Manager, recently travelled to PNG to see how the research to produce and sell the fuelwood was going. To read about his experience click the link below:

http://aciarblog.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/in-field-charcoal-production-in-papua.html

Almond breeding is featured in the lastest e-Science magazine

almond eScience

Almond breeding is a focus of the lastest edition of e-Science magazine. The article, written by almond breeder Dr Michelle Wirthensohn describes the genetics of sefl-fertility and self-incompatibility.

Produced by the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Adelaide, e-Science is a free magazine that offers interactive feature articles written by our researchers and complimented by resources specifically designed for teachers.

More information and links to download e-Science can be found on the e-Science magazine web page.

Easy way to keep track of favourite wines

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Tuesday, 17 September 2013.

wineapp

University of Adelaide wine staff and students have developed a free iPad app that will help consumers learn more about the wines they are drinking and keep track of their favourites.

‘My Wine World’ guides users through the assessment of wine appearance, smell, flavour, taste and the feel of the wine in the mouth. Users can record tasting notes and their own ratings in a searchable archive.

“We needed an educational tool to help our winemaking and wine business students develop their sensory skills,” says Senior Lecturer of Oenology Dr Kerry Wilkinson. “This promises to be really successful as an e-learning tool, but then we thought, why should students have all the fun?”

The app was developed by Dr Wilkinson and fellow Oenology Senior Lecturer at the Waite Campus, Dr Paul Grbin, together with Viticulture and Oenology student Matthew Roussy. It is available to the general public through the Apple app store.

My Wine World starts with a wine tasting tutorial and uses touch tools with colour displays, sliders and input screens where wine drinkers can enter the sensory attributes of the wines they are drinking. They can add a photo of the label, and easily refer back and cross-reference at a later date.

“Traditionally, technical wine assessment involves recording detailed observations and perceptions of the sensory properties of wine with tasting notes usually recorded in a diary or journal. But these can be cumbersome, messy and easily lost or damaged,” says Dr Wilkinson.

“This is an ideal tool for anyone who has a serious interest in developing their wine sensory skills, but also for those who just love wine but don’t have much technical knowledge. And then there are plenty of people who simply like to drink nice wines but can never remember the ones they liked, or what they like about them.

“My Wine World makes it very easy to build up a searchable archive of your favourite wines, with star ratings and even photos of the wine labels.”

Viticulture and Oenology student Matthew Roussy said he could have done with this app during his 10-year career as a sommelier.

“I knew that the need existed for a tasting note recorder and, now as a viticulture and oenology student, I realised I could help make My Wine World a very handy educational tool,” says Matt.

My Wine World won second place in last year’s Australian eChallenge, the annual entrepreneurial business planning competition run by the University’s Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre. The app was developed with a small grant from the University of Adelaide’s Wine2030 research network.

 

Bold new era for Australian barley breeding

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Monday, 19 August, 2013

The University of Adelaide will invest more than $10 million over the next five years in its barley breeding program, promising long-term benefit for farmers with better and faster new varieties. Over time, the University will be looking to strengthen and expand sections of the program with investments from other parties.

The investment – including barley breeding royalties – is the result of constructive negotiations between the University and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) to ensure that the end of the GRDC’s long-term investment in the University’s barley breeding program carries positive benefits to grains growers and to the grains industry more broadly.

“The University’s barley breeding program is the largest and most successful in Australia, and this agreement will help ensure continued delivery of high-performing barley varieties that offer even greater benefits for Australia’s barley growers,” says Waite Research Institute Director and Head of the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, Professor Mike Wilkinson.

“This investment will help us build on current research strengths to bring the latest cutting-edge science into our barley breeding efforts. Our fundamental aim is to achieve step changes in barley variety improvement.”

“Our new barley breeding centre will be more closely linked with our teaching programs with more emphasis on educating the plant breeders and agricultural scientists of the future.”

Since the launch in 1968 of the hugely successful barley Clipper, University of Adelaide-bred varieties have accounted for more than 50% of national barley production.

Barley breeding targets have included each major production and market segment including notable feed varieties Galleon, Barque, Maritime, Fleet and Fathom, as well as leading malting varieties Schooner, Sloop, SloopSA, Flagship, Commander and this year’s new commercial variety Navigator.

Hulless varieties for use in food manufacturing and specialist animal feed applications include Torrens, Macumba and Finniss.

“The University of Adelaide’s barley breeding program is recognised internationally,” says Professor Wilkinson. “With improved breeding technologies and more research, both barley growers and the barley-consuming industry will be winners.”

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.”

Designer eucalypts for urban landscapes

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Thursday, 23 May, 2013

One of the new grafted varieties E. Nullarbor Rose, a cross between Eucalyptus youngiana and E. macrocarpa.

One of the new grafted varieties E. Nullarbor Rose, a cross between Eucalyptus youngiana and E. macrocarpa.

University of Adelaide researchers are working with the Australian nursery industry to produce ‘designer eucalypts’ more suitable for our home gardens and urban landscapes than many trees currently available.

Led by Dr Kate Delaporte at the University’s Waite Campus, the researchers and nurseries are developing a new way of propagating eucalypts that aims to be cheaper and more efficient, and, importantly, will enable production of plants with a particular flower colour, size and form.

“Eucalypts provide habitat for native birds, insects and animals and, often, are resilient to our harsh extremes – there is great potential for them to be used more in our gardens and urban areas. But there are only a small number of these specially-improved eucalypts currently available to gardeners in Australia,” says Dr Delaporte.

“Eucalypts produce a lot of viable seed but their inherent variability means that there is no guarantee that a tree with red flowers will produce seed that grows into new trees that have red flowers. Only through producing improved cultivars, propagated using methods like grafting and tissue culture, can we guarantee that the buyer knows what they are getting in terms of flower colour and tree size and shape. Most garden plants are propagated this way.”

Before potential new cultivars can be released on the market, they need to be grown over some years to test for commercially desirable characters – height and shape suitable for urban environments, attractive flowers and buds – and to ensure there aren’t any undesirable characters, like limb dropping or excessive growth.

Tissue culture is a fast and reliable way of propagating promising cultivars, but in the past, tissue culture from mature eucalypts has been extremely difficult. The new method being developed involves germinating seeds in culture and then propagating the lines from the initial seedlings.

The researchers have some promising lines of trees that can be propagated through this method which are still going through field trials.

“If we can successfully develop an economically viable method of clonal propagation through tissue culture, it will be the key that opens the door to a whole range of beautiful new designer plants,” says Dr Delaporte. “There’s so much opportunity to bring new eucalypts into the garden, all with bright flower colours, attractive foliage, bark and nuts, that are a good small size.”

The tissue culture research is building on a long-term project going since 1996, the Ornamental Eucalypt Development Program. This work has led to the new varieties released last year, Nullarbor Rose and Nullarbor Lime, produced through grafting.

Partners in current research include Humphris Nursery, Yuruga Nursery / Clonal Solutions Australia and Narromine Transplants. Other industry partners have included Longford Flowers, Redlands Farming and Ausbuds. Research has been funded by Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and Horticulture Australia Ltd with support from The Playford Trust and The Frank and Hilda Perry Trust.

Breeding superior almonds for a growing industry

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Monday, 20 May, 2013

Almonds. Image courtesy of Dr Michelle Wirthensohn

Almonds. Image courtesy of Dr Michelle Wirthensohn

More nutritious almonds for consumers and a greater range of high-quality varieties for industry – these are the aims of the Australian Almond Breeding program at the University of Adelaide, which has just received industry funding of $2.35 million to continue developing new almond varieties.

The almond breeding program, based in the School of Agriculture, Food & Wine at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus, is the only one of its kind in Australia.

The new project, which will cost $2.35 million over five years, has been funded by Horticulture Australia Ltd using the Almond Industry levy and matched funds from the Australian Government. This funding will enable the program to run commercial trials of promising almond selections already developed at the Waite Campus.

“Australia is now the second biggest producer of almonds in the world, with most being exported to India. Our goal is to increase current production by 15% in the next five years, and to decrease the reliance on existing cultivars over the next 10 years, to allow the industry to take advantage of this growing market,” says the leader of the Australian Almond Breeding program, Dr Michelle Wirthensohn, a Horticulture Australia Research Fellow at the University.

Dr Wirthensohn says the major challenges for the almond industry are kernel yield and quality, disease tolerance and self-fertility.

“The best almond variety currently in Australia is Nonpareil, which needs other varieties and bees for pollination. This means that up to half of the trees in some orchards are less productive, and potentially decreasing bee populations could limit production even further, which places the industry at some risk,” she says.

“That’s where our breeding program will have benefits for industry, by providing a bigger range of almond varieties, by improving the productivity of those varieties, and at the same time producing a more nutritious almond for the consumer.”

Dr Wirthensohn says the program currently has a number of promising breeding lines in large-scale trials, which have been developed from crossing Australian, Spanish, French and American cultivars.

“We expect to release up to five superior almond varieties by 2018,” she says.