Tag Archives: Research

Dr Matthew Gilliham wins 2012 Science and Innovation Award

Last week Dr Matthew Gilliham won the Viticulture & Oenology 2012 Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry sponsored by the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation.

The Awards, coordinated by ABARES, aim to encourage science, innovation and technology in rural industries and help to advance the careers of young scientists through national recognition of their research ideas. Project recipients can undertake groundbreaking research and innovation with the objective of keeping Australia’s rural industries sustainable and profitable.

Dr Gilliham, a University of Adelaide researcher within the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology and the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, will use the $22,000 prize to investigate the genetics of rootstocks to improve Australia’s rootstock breeding program.

Grapevines, like other horticultural crops, are often grafted to rootstocks derived from related species to improve the plant’s ability to tolerate conditions in the soil.

‘In Australia we use rootstocks that tolerate phylloxera (a soil-borne disease) but they also have the potential to improve the ability of vines to cope with climate change,’ says Matthew.

The rootstock known as 140 Ruggeri is one of the most commonly planted in Australia. Over the next 12 months, will collaborate with researchers in Adelaide, Perth and in Verona, Italy, to compare genome sequences of 140 Ruggeri rootstock with the Vinus vinifera (wine grape) genome.

This information will help to identify candidate genes and molecular markers in rootstocks for drought, salinity, root pathogen and acid soil tolerance that could improve Australia’s rootstock breeding programs.

“We hope that this sequencing will provide the important first steps in linking useful traits to genes, an approach that will accelerate breeding for key rootstock attributes and help support a competitive Australian wine sector,” Matthew says.

Matthew hopes it will also benefit horticulture, pasture, grains and other industries that rely on plant production by revealing the information that is needed to help generate more stress-tolerant crops, and improving crop yield and quality.

Mr Neil Fisher, Executive Director of GWRDC, said: “GWRDC is pleased to sponsor young scientists as part of our investment in research, development and innovation in the Australian wine sector on behalf of our three key stakeholders: the Wine Grape Growers Association, Winemakers’ Federation of Australia and the Australian Government.”

“We congratulate Matthew on winning this award and we look forward to his continuing contribution to excellence in the Australia wine sector.”

Image: Dr Matthew Gilliham (centre) with Neil Fischer, Executive Director of GWRDC (left) and Hon Rory McEwan, Chair of GWRDC board (right)

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.

Debate @ the Waite

Come and hear two teams debate the topic: Increasing agricultural production is the only sure way to feed 9 billion people by 2050

Ensuring global food security for future generations is one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Increases in agricultural productivity in the second half of the 20th century did much to alleviate hunger in developing countries. However, the rate of this productivity increase is slowing. Do we need another ‘green revolution’ to feed our growing population? Should the focus of investment be on the sustainable intensification of agriculture? Can we continue to push agricultural productivity further while still meeting expectations that resources will be used more efficiently and without harming the environment?

Australian consumers waste large amounts of food every year, and we are not alone. In addition to consumer wastage, vital foodstuffs are lost on the journey from paddock to plate. Political issues can also prevent the movement of food from places of excess to places of need. Do we already produce enough food to feed our growing population? Should the focus of investment be on reducing waste along food value-chains? Is food security a problem of politics rather than production?

At this exciting and important debate moderated by Dr Paul Willis (Royal Institution of Australia), six experts in two teams will argue for your vote.

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, Lecturer in Agricultural Economics, University of Adelaide
  • Andrew Stoler, Executive Director, Institute for International Trade, University of Adelaide

Will you be for or against?

When: Thursday 25th August, 6.00 pm – 8.30 pm
Where: Lirra Lirra Cafe, Waite Campus, The University of Adelaide, Waite Rd, Urrbrae

Admission free. Bookings essential

Register online at eventbrite or call 83036729
Download flyer (pdf)

Reframing the food agenda: Setting the scene for Australia

As a global provider of food, Australia’s agricultural producers, food industry, researchers and Governments need to make policy, R&D and investment decisions to ensure our food sectors remain productive, competitive and sustainable into the future. Is food security really the most pressing issue for Australian agricultural policy? Are there other issues facing Australia’s agricultural and food industries that demand greater policy attention?

The Waite Research Institute is sponsoring the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society(AARES) event “Reframing the food agenda: Setting the scene for Australia” to be held on the 19th of August, 2011 at the Waite Campus in Adelaide. The program features an impressive list of both international and Australian experts.

For more information and registration visit http://foodagenda.eventbrite.com

The program .pdf can also be found at the AARES website.

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

WRI assists students to attend Student World Forum

With travel expense assistance from the WRI, University of Adelaide students Melissa Coventry, Nikki Hebenstreit and Amalia Sosrodiredjo attended the 4th AC21 (Academic Consortium for the 21st Century) Student World Forum in Thailand in May. The focus of this year’s conference was sustainable rural development.

They write “approximately 60 students from countries including Thailand, Laos, China, Japan, Germany, Australia, USA, Moldova, South Africa and Indonesia met at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok to learn and share knowledge on Sustainable Rural Development from the perspectives of the various countries…There was a general consensus overall however, that one of the most important lessons taken from this Forum was the value of international networking…”

Melissa is a B S (Ag Sci) student, Nikki and Amalia are studying towards the degree of Master of Sustainability.

Read the full report and view photos here.

Peter Waite Celebrations

Peter Waite Day

To commemorate Peter Waite’s birth date (May 9, 1834), the WRI, together with the UoA School of Agriculture, Food & Wine honoured the day by sponsoring drinks and canapés for all Waite campus staff and UoA postgraduates on Friday afternoon 6 May 2011. The inaugural event was held in perfect autumn weather outside Lirra Lirra cafe from 3:00pm to 4:30pm and included a competitive Bocce tournament with 12 teams vying for the prestigious trophy, the Peter Waite Bocce Cup!

Professor Leigh gave a short speech and he said the Peter Waite Day event was a great opportunity for all the Waite collocated partners to get together and socialise.

At the conclusion of the event, Acting Head of School, Professor Eileen Scott presented the winners of the Peter Waite cup, “The Salties”. It’s worth also pointing out many of the teams had some fun names such as the SARDInes and the Central Wino’s – next year we hope to see even more Bocce teams enter with clever names representing their departments or area of research. Perhaps in 2012 we’ll even add an additional prize for the team with the best name!?

The WRI and AFW School would like to thank everyone who helped organise the Bocce games and the people who gave their support and attended ‘Peter Waite Day’ 2011.