Tag Archives: Australia

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.

I’m a Scientist. Get me out of here!

IAS Australia Logo April 2011 (FINAL)

Between the 11th and the 22nd of March, 15 scientists in 3 ‘zones’ will be battling for a $1000 prize. And they will face the toughest judges in the world: school children.

I’m a Scientist. Get me out of here! is a reality show-inspired activity that gets school children talking to scientists using blogs and moderated instant messaging chats.

The event is supported by teaching resources that develop students’ inquiry and communication skills, deepens their understanding of science and relates strongly to the ‘Science as Human Endeavour’ topic within the Australian National Science Curriculm.

Scientists who have participated in the program report that the experience develops their communication skills and re-energises them about their own research.

More than 1600 students from across Australia are taking part in this I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here! Originally conceived in the UK, the program is now in it’s fourth year in Australia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Associate Professor Brent Kaiser

For the first time, there will be an ‘Agriculture’ zone in the program. Associate Professor Brent Kaiser, (pictured right) from the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, will be going head to head with four other agricultural scientists, including Chief Scientist with ABARES, Dr Kim Ritman.

To stay in touch with the program, look for updates on the I’m a Scientist. Get me out of here! webpage or follow @IASAus on Twitter. We wish Brent all the best and may he be the last scientist standing!

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.

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.

New future for an old crop: barley enters the genomic age

Story orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Thursday 18/10/12

Barley research at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus. Photo by Randy Larcombe

Higher yields, improved pest and disease resistance and enhanced nutritional value are among the potential benefits of an international research effort that has resulted in the mapping of the barley genome.

The work – conducted by the International Barley Sequencing Consortium (IBSC), which includes Australian researchers based at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus – is described in a paper published today in the prestigious journal Nature.

Barley is the world’s fourth most important cereal crop, and the second most important crop in Australian agriculture. Australia produces around seven million tonnes of barley a year, 65% of which is exported at a value of $1.3 billion annually. Australia also accounts for one third of the world’s malting barley trade.

The Australian research team was led by scientists at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) and the University of Adelaide, who worked with colleagues at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls.

“This new analysis of all the genes in the barley genome is a major step forward for agricultural science and industry,” says Australian research leader and a senior author of the Nature paper, Professor Peter Langridge, Chief Executive Officer of the ACPFG.

“This will greatly accelerate the work in Australia and elsewhere to improve the quality of barley, enhance its disease and pest resistance and, most importantly, support efforts to improve the tolerance of barley to environmental stresses such as heat and drought.”

First cultivated more than 15,000 years ago, barley belongs to the same family as wheat and rye. Together, they provide about 30% of all calories consumed worldwide.

“Because barley is very closely related to wheat, these results from barley will have a major impact on wheat research,” Professor Langridge says. “Wheat is Australia’s most important crop, and improvements in wheat production globally will be a key to ensuring global food security.”

The barley genome is almost twice the size of that of humans. Determining the sequence of its DNA has presented a major challenge for the research team. This is mainly because its genome contains a large proportion of closely related sequences, which are difficult to piece together.

The team’s Nature paper provides a detailed overview of the functional portions of the barley genome, revealing the order and structure of most of its 32,000 genes. It also includes a detailed analysis of where and when genes are switched on in different tissues and at different stages of development.

The team has described regions of the genome carrying genes that are important to providing resistance to diseases, offering scientists the best possible understanding of the crop’s immune system.

The Australian component of this research has been funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the South Australian Government.

For more background on this story, please refer to the original here

Debate @ the Waite, 15th of March, 2012

“The future of the Australian wine industry

will be based on technology, not tradition”

Ensuring that Australia’s wine industry remains profitable, internationally competitive and sustainable into an uncertain future is a major challenge. The industry is under pressure from oversupply of fruit, the high Australian dollar and increasing competition from other ‘new-world’ wine producers.

The Australian wine industry is estimated to be worth $5 billion annually, with approximately 60% of our wines exported. Innovation has underpinned the growth of the Australian wine industry in recent decades, enabling the production of high-volume, value-for-money wines for export, optimising wine outcomes and increasing profitability.

How should the Australian wine industry position itself as consumers become increasingly discerning and wine-savvy? Does remaining competitive in a global market mean embracing any and every existing and emerging technology in both viticulture and winemaking?

Despite advances in technology though, winemaking remains essentially a natural biochemical process which humans have exploited and enjoyed for thousands of years. The basic tools – grapes, yeast, wooden barrels and presses – have remained the same throughout the ages.

Consumers at the premium/boutique end of the market are increasingly savouring the differences between wines, and seeking to know the unique ‘story’ of the wine they are drinking. The wider trend towards ethical consumption, sustainable production practices and reduced use of additives may also suggest that it’s time for a ‘back-to-basics’ approach.

This debate, moderated by Dr Paul Willis, RiAus, will explore these issues and many more, as six experts in two teams argue for your vote.

Will you vote for or against?

Team for the affirmative
Professor Steve Tyerman, School of Agriculture, Food & Wine, The University of Adelaide
Dr Dan Johnson, Managing Director, Australian Wine Research Institute
Professor Vlad Jiranek, School of Agriculture, Food & Wine, The University of Adelaide

Team for the negative
Mr Brian Croser, AO, Tapanappa winemaker
Professor Barbara Santich, School of History & Politics, The University of Adelaide
Dr Sue Bastian, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide

Thursday 15 March 2012
6:00pm – 8:30pm

Waite Campus
Lirra Lirra Cafe,
Waite Road, Urrbrae

Admission is free, but prior registration is essential as seats are strictly limited.
Go to http://debateatthewaite.eventbrite.com.au/

Free wine tasting and finger food provided