Tag Archives: Dr

WRI hosts the inaugural Debate @ the Waite, 25 August 2011

Last week over 130 people attended the Waite Research Institute’s inaugural Debate @ the Waite, on the motion “Increasing agricultural production is the only sure way to feed 9 billion people by 2050”.

The event, held at Lirra Lirra Cafe at the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide was moderated by Dr Paul Willis, Director of the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus). The debaters on the evening were:

Team for the affirmative:

  • Prof Rick Roush, Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Andrew Jacobs, Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, University of Adelaide
  • Prof Roger Leigh, Director, Waite Research Institute, University of Adelaide

Team for the negative:

  • John Webster, Chief Executive, Foodbank Australia Ltd.
  • Dr Wendy Umberger, Senior Lecturer, Agricultural Economics, University of Adelaide
  • Andrew Stoler, Executive Director, Institute for International Trade, University of Adelaide

On arrival the audience was invited to vote on whether they were for or against the motion. Speakers for each of the two teams had 5 minutes to present their team’s case, followed by questions and comments from the audience. Each team member then had two minutes to provide a final point before the audience was invited to vote again.

The affirmative team argued that increasing food production, in particular in less developed countries expecting the highest rates of population growth, is the only way to feed 9 billion people by 2050. They gave examples of how existing knowledge could be used to increase on-farm productivity. They argued that redistribution of food through trade, or targeting wastage would not increase food availability in the hunger hot spots.

The negative team argued although hunger is real, food scarcity is not. We produce enough calories to feed the population currently, but it is international trade policies and an inefficient food system (in particular post-harvest) that cause hunger. They also argued that wastage is a big problem and that overcoming this will further contribute to alleviating food shortages. They argued that without addressing these issues, increasing agricultural production alone will not feed 9 billion people by 2050.

The initial vote showed that 60% of the audience intended to vote in favour of the motion. However, at the conclusion of the debate, 73% of the audience voted for against, indicating the negative team had argued their points persuasively.

The event was recorded, and video of the event will be available shortly. The Waite Research Institute also used Twitter to engage with a broader audience during the event and a summary made using Keepstream and including the main points from speakers and audience questions can be found here http://keepstream.com/waiteresearch/debate-at-the-waite-august-2011.

The Waite Research Institute would like to thank all of those involved in the event, in particular the debaters and the moderator. Monitor our website, follow us on Twitter or ‘like’ us on Facebook to hear about future events.

New ARC Linkage Projects to increase plant nutrient use efficiency and yield

Waite researchers have once again attracted significant funding through the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects Scheme. Linkage Projects encourage collaboration between University researchers and industry to develop solutions to key challenges and provide economic and social benefits.

“These new Linkage Projects represent significant new investment in research at the Waite” said Waite Research Institute Director, Professor Roger Leigh. “Both projects involving Waite researchers have the potential to deliver significant benefits to Australia’s agricultural sector and I personally congratulate all of the researchers involved.”

The new ARC Linkage Projects for 2011 involving the Waite researchers are:

“Transport systems that underpin nitrogen efficient maize”

Dr Brent N Kaiser, Prof Stephen D Tyerman, Dr Kanwarpal S Dhugga, Dr Jan A Rafalski

Nitrogen applications to grain crops are a major determinant of grain yield and quality. Greater efficiency in the use of nitrogen will contribute to more sustainable grain production systems. This project aims to identify plant-based processes involved in nitrogen use by maize. It will define the nitrogen transport network underpinning in the uptake, storage and redistribution of inorganic nitrogen (nitrate and ammonium) over the developmental life cycle of maize. This information will provide novel insight into the genetic control of nitrogen use in maize and other cereal crops.

Partner organisation: DuPont Pioneer

Value: $750,110 over 5 years

“Improving yield through image-based structural analysis of cereals”

Prof Anton J van den Hengel, Prof Mark A Tester, Dr Anthony R Dick, Dr Joerg Vandenhirtz

Feeding an increasing world population under the threat of climate change requires the development of new plant varieties capable of delivering higher yield in more marginal conditions. This project will develop image-based technologies for accurately estimating plant yield which will improve the effectiveness of plant breeding processes.

Partner organisation: LemnaTec GmbH

Value:$475,000 over 5 years

The Waite Research Institute congratulates these ARC Linkage Project recipients and all of the successful researchers at the University of Adelaide.

For more information on successful ARC Linkage Projects, see the University of Adelaide’s media release and the ARC’s Linkage Project Funding Outcomes

The 2nd A.R. Hickinbotham Lecture – Podcast

The 2nd A.R. Hickinbotham Lecture

Brian LoveysUnderstanding how grapevines control their water use.

Listen to Dr Brian Loveys’ talk which was given at the 2nd A.R. Hickinbotham Lecture on the 9th May, 2011.

Based in Adelaide, Dr Loveys’ research has focused on describing the role played by plant hormones in the control of the growth and development of woody perennial horticultural crops. He is particularly interested in the involvement of the plant hormone abscisic acid in regulating grapevine water use. Dr Loveys aims to provide the Australian winegrape industry with management tools to improve the efficiency of water use.

Dr Loveys studied plant science at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth and joined CSIRO in 1972 after a period of postdoctoral study in the United States of America. Until his retirement from CSIRO in 2010 he was a Chief Research Scientist and is currently continuing his studies as an Honorary Research Fellow.


The A.R. Hickinbotham Lecture is named in honour of the former Roseworthy Lecturer who is regarded as the father of Australian oenology (wine-making) education. This Lecture recognises individuals that have had an impact on the wine industry and are world leaders in the field of oenology. Alan Robb Hickinbotham (1898-1959) joined the staff at Roseworthy College in 1929 as a Lecturer in Physical and Chemical Sciences. In 1936, he established the nation’s first wine-making course which evolved into the University of Adelaide’s world-renowned Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology which is now run at the Waite Campus. Alan R. Hickinbotham remained at Roseworthy College until 1948. His research and writing on wine-making under Australian conditions laid the foundation for a technically advanced Australian wine industry. The Hickinbotham family continued their father’s passion for wine through their ongoing interests in viticulture and wine production. The National Wine Centre has recognised the Hickinbotham family by naming its major function hall after the family while the Hickinbotham Roseworthy Wine Science Laboratory was established at the University’s Waite Campus in 1998 with the family’s support.

Robyn van Heeswijck Lecture – Podcast

Dr Brendan Choat

Water transport and water stress in grapevines: new insights using novel imaging techniques.

Listen to Dr Brendan Choat’s talk which was given at the 2nd Robyn van Heeswijck Lecture on the 28th March, 2011.

Plants are capable of transporting water to heights in excess of 100 m, and can extract water from drying and saline soils. To achieve this, they have evolved a transport system that relies on water sustaining a tensile force, such that the xylem sap is at negative absolute pressures. However, this transport mechanism comes with its own set of problems; most notably that water under tension is prone to the formation of emboli, gas bubbles that block xylem conduits and reduced the ability of the plant to move water to the canopy. W, xylemater stress is the principal cause of embolism, which can lead to declines in productivity and ultimately, plant death.

Grapevines are commonly exposed to water stress in the field and are therefore vulnerable to embolism during the growing season. Given predictions of more prolonged and severe droughts associated with climate change, a proper understanding of how water stress induced embolism may limit productivity in grapevines is of great importance to the Australian grape and wine industry. My research addresses two unresolved questions related to plant water transport. First, how resistance to water stress induced embolism differs between plant species and cultivars and second, how plants are able to repair embolised xylem conduits and thus restore lost transport capacity. Recent advances in imaging technology such as micro computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging provide an opportunity to observe plant water transport at unparalleled resolution and in real time. These results show that grapevines are capable of repairing embolism on diurnal timescales and give insights into the physiological mechanism by which repair is achieved.

Short Speaker Biography

Brendan Choat obtained his BSc (Hons) in 1997 (JCU) and his PhD in 2003 (JCU). From 2003-2005 he worked as a Post Doctoral Fellow at Harvard University in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. He held a second Post Doctoral Fellowship in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis from 2005-2008. In 2008 he returned to Australia to take up a Research Fellowship at ANU before moving to a Senior Research Lectureship at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (UWS). He is an editor for the PrometheusWiki Project and on the editorial review board of Tree Physiology. In 2010 he was awarded a Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers.

The Waite Research Institute welcomes Dr Heather Bray

Heather Bray

Dr Heather Bray recently joined the Waite Research Institute as Special Projects Officer.

Her initial focus will be on the Waite Research Institute’s communications activities and developing programs to enhance the research management and leadership capabilities of staff and students at the Waite.

Dr Bray has a background in agricultural and animal science in addition to science communication and education. She previously worked with the Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre’s Education and Training program and is currently Project Manager for the ALTC funded project ‘Plant Breeding by Example’ led by Professor Diane Mather. She has also recently developed research links with Associate Professor Rachel Ankeny from the School of History and Politics through a number of small projects examining attitudes to the use of genetic modification in the production of food and beverages.

Dr Bray will be working with the Waite Research Institute two days per week (mostly Tuesdays and Thursdays) and will be located with the Waite Research Institute staff when they relocate in May.


Mannum Science Forum

Dr Wendy Umberger

On Monday March 21 2011, there was a free science forum held in Mannum which was organised by the SA Murray-Darling Basin NRM Board (Ranges to River NRM Group). Presenters included Dr Wendy Umberger from the University of Adelaide (Lecturer in Agri Food and Wine Business) and the one day forum explored issues around farming sustainability and the technologies that are transforming our agricultural practices. The global problems of food security were also discussed. For more information please visit the SAMDBNRM website, podcasts will soon be made available here.

Speakers at the Mannum Science Forum

Audience at the Mannum Science Forum

Robyn van Heeswijck Lecture

The 2nd Robyn van Heeswijck Lecture will be held on Monday 28th March 2011, 4pm Plant Research Centre, Waite Campus, University of Adelaide


Dr Brendan Choat, University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Water transport and water stress in grapevines: new insights using novel imaging techniques.

For more information please refer to the website.

The audience is invited to stay and talk with the speaker and colleagues over refreshments.