Tag Archives: Waite

Protecting Aussie grapevines from new virus

Red Blotch on grapevine leaves. Photo courtesy of M.R. Sudarshana, United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service

Red Blotch on grapevine leaves. Photo courtesy of M.R. Sudarshana, United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service

Story orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Tuesday, 8 April, 2013

University of Adelaide researchers are working to prevent the introduction into Australia of a potentially devastating new grapevine virus.

Waite Diagnostics, at the University’s Waite Campus, has developed a diagnostic test kit for the detection of Grapevine red blotch-associated virus (GRBaV) using DNA analysis.

GRBaV was discovered and first reported in the United States in October last year, and is regarded as potentially far more damaging than the Grapevine leafroll-associated viruses which are established in Australia.

“Viruses in grapevines are insidious and often cause serious diseases which affect production and quality, and can even result in vine death,” says Professor John Randles, Director of Waite Diagnostics.

“We don’t have any way of immunising plants like we can with animals and so we need to employ different methods of control which require detailed knowledge of the virus’ biological properties.”

University of Adelaide grapevine virologist Dr Nuredin Habili said the Grapevine Red Blotch disease was the most recently recognised grapevine disease to date, and is apparently widespread in the US. It significantly reduces the levels of grape sugar by up to five brix (a measure of sugar content), reducing suitability for wine-making.

The symptoms of the Red Blotch disease resemble those of leafroll disease with unexplained reddening of the leaves and, on white varieties, leaf curling and chlorosis, but the depressing effect on sugar content is greater.

“The question is, do we already have this virus in Australia?” says Dr Habili. “If not, we need to import cuttings under tight biosecurity conditions. All cuttings imported from the United States or Canada should be tested before being released from quarantine.”

Waite Diagnostics has tested 10 grapevine varieties from Australian vineyards which have all tested negative.

The diagnostic test developed uses a specific ‘primer’ or piece of genetic material which recognises the matching DNA sequence of the virus, if present, allowing screening of cuttings.

“Viruses are very difficult to identify, the symptoms of virus infection in grapevine all look like each other,” says Professor Randles. “With this latest technology using DNA analysis, we now have 12 different tests for grapevine viruses and phytoplasmas. Our diagnostic kits already go all over the world.

Meet Giorgia, the durum breeding team’s newest member

"Giorgia" with Fil Ciancio (San Remo Macaroni Ltd), Dr Jason Able (Senior Lecturer in Plant Breeding & Southern Node Leader Durum Breeding Australia) and Brondwen MacLean (GRDC Senior Manager Breeding Programs).

“Giorgia” with Fil Ciancio (San Remo Macaroni Ltd), Dr Jason Able (Senior Lecturer in Plant Breeding & Southern Node Leader Durum Breeding Australia) and Brondwen MacLean (GRDC Senior Manager Breeding Programs).

The University of Adelaide’s durum breeding program officially launched their new, state-of-the-art small plot harvester yesterday.

“Giorgia” is a Wintersteiger DELTA, specifically designed for harvesting small experimental plots and can comfortably harvest more than 15,000 breeding trial plots per year. This machine is a significant new investment for the southern node of Durum Breeding Australia, which is part of the University of Adelaide.

Dr Jason Able, Senior Lecturer in Plant Breeding & Southern Node Leader Durum Breeding Australia, said “The new DELTA has significant new capabilities including on-board weighing, which will dramatically speed up the process of harvesting and downstream processes associated with the annual harvest. This will make our breeding program more efficient, and allow the breeding team back at base to get samples ready for quality testing in a quicker time frame than what was previously possible.”

The new machine has been christened “Giorgia”, a name which originates from Latin and means ‘Earth-worker, farmer’. Jason said that in naming the machine, he wanted her to be connected to the land, and this name was identified being very appropriate given also that the breeding program has a well developed collaborative relationship with San Remo Macaroni Pty Ltd which has very strong Italian heritage links.

"Giorgia" with Fil Ciancio (San Remo Macaroni Ltd), Dr Jason Able (Senior Lecturer in Plant Breeding & Southern Node Leader Durum Breeding Australia) and Brondwen MacLean (GRDC Senior Manager Breeding Programs).

“Giorgia” with Fil Ciancio (San Remo Macaroni Ltd), Dr Jason Able (Senior Lecturer in Plant Breeding & Southern Node Leader Durum Breeding Australia) and Brondwen MacLean (GRDC Senior Manager Breeding Programs).

Jason added “San Remo have contributed a significant financial contribution to the durum program over a number of years, and continue to do so. They see the value in being able to inject these much needed funds to a breeding program that ultimately supports their business through the development and release of new, improved durum varieties that are suitable for their very high quality pasta products.”

Historic expansion of animal & crop research on Waite Centenary

Story orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Wednesday 6 March, 2013

The largest expansion of university-based research into animal and crop health and production in Australian history has been outlined by the University of Adelaide today.

Investing more than $50 million from its endowment, the University will create six new research professorships at its Waite and Roseworthy Campuses, a new animal research centre at Roseworthy, new postdoctoral fellowships, and purchase new research equipment.

“These initiatives will make a major contribution to international research in agriculture and animal production, and confirm Adelaide as the leading centre for animal and agricultural research in Australia,” says University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Warren Bebbington.

“Its now a century since Peter Waite made his extraordinary gift of his Urrbrae estate to the University. Today Waite is the focus for key major research organisations, and we wish to help the Waite achieve global prominence as an agricultural science research consortium. Not since Peter Waite have we seen an investment even close to this magnitude for agricultural science research in this country.”

The funds come from investment of the gifts of two benefactors, JAT Mortlock and JS Davies, whose express wishes were to support these fields. “We are extremely proud to be able to honour their memories in a way that will not only support South Australia’s farming community, but also address global issues of food security and climate change adaptation,” says Professor Bebbington.

At Roseworthy Campus the University will establish:

– The JS Davies Animal Research Centre – building on existing strengths with a focus on production, global food security, biosecurity and animal welfare;
– Two professorships – the JS Davies Chair in Animal Health and the JS Davies Chair in Animal Production – to take leading roles in the new Centre and including research equipment and research infrastructure and post-doctoral research and technical support staff.

These two new professorships will supplement the existing JS Davies Chair in the area of epigenetics and genetics.

At Waite Campus the University will establish:

– The JAT Mortlock Chair in Agricultural, Horticultural and Pastoral Science, who will also be Director of the Waite Research Institute;
– Three professorships – the JAT Mortlock Chairs in Plant Stress, Crop Protection and Crop Improvement – supported by research staff in crop epigenetics, stress response biology, plant-pest interactions, genetics of resistance, reproductive biology and crop performance.

“Developing here in Australia a critical mass of specialist researchers in these fields will help to transform international animal and crop production and health, as the world faces more volatile climates,” says Professor Bebbington.

Professor Bebbington highlighted the impact that philanthropic giving can have on university research. “We take donor intentions very seriously, because philanthropy can make a major contribution to the University’s ability to develop research for the growth of the economy of our state and nation,” he says.

Debate: Cutting Australia’s meat consumption by half will be better for us and the planet

Cows at sunset

Image from istockphoto

These days, deciding what to eat is about more than just filling our stomachs. Increasingly we are asked to consider the effect that our food choices have on our communities and the environment, as well as ourselves. We are asked to eat foods that are produced sustainably, locally and ethically. “You are what you eat” has become “what you eat affects us all”.

Meat production is often targeted as having a large environmental impact. Different methods have been used to estimate the amount of water needed to produce a kilogram of beef varying between 500 and 50,000 litres, and methane emissions from ruminants are estimated to account for 10% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Just over half of Australia is used for grazing animals, with more used to grow feed for more intensively raised animals.

In 2009 Australians, on average, each chewed their way through nearly 108 kg of meat, just over 2 kg per week, and we are one of the top meat-consuming nations of the world with only approximately 5% vegetarians. By comparison, the British ate 84 kg per person and the Chinese about 58 kg per person. The average meat consumption in India per person for the year, the lowest in the world, was only slightly more than what we consume in a fortnight at 4.4 kg. Our meat-heavy diet has been associated with chronic health issues and there are many that question whether it is morally right to raise and kill animals for food at all.

Reducing meat consumption is often suggested as a way to reduce our impact on the environment. But if Australia as a nation decided to halve our meat consumption, what would replace it in our diets? Is Australia’s climate and geography suited to producing the large amounts of plant foods needed to feed us? Could the water we currently use to produce meat actually be diverted and used for another purpose? Would we ever be the nation that says “throw another veggie on the barbie?”

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

When: Thursday 21 March 2013, 6.00 pm – 8.30 pm
Where: Lirra Lirra Cafe, Waite Road, Waite Campus

Finger food provided. A cash bar will be open throughout the event.

Admission is free, but prior registration is essential as seats are strictly limited.
To register to attend the event go to http://waitedebate-meat.eventbrite.com/

To join the debate on Twitter, follow @waiteresearch and use the hashtag #agchatoz

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.

Waite successes in lastest ARC Discovery Project round

The results of the lastest Australian Research Council Discovery Project round were announced yesterday by Science and Research Minister Senator Chris Evans and it was good news for Waite researchers Matt Gilliham, Vlad Jiranek, Mike Wilkinson and colleagues. The Waite Research Institute would like to congratulate all grant recipients.

Dr Matt Gilliham and his team have been awarded $420,000 over three years to study the molecular basis of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) signalling in plants. This work is significant because GABA regulates proteins that release molecules involved in root-soil interactions, growth, and fertilisation. The project’s discoveries will allow improvement of these agronomic traits that ultimately determine crop yield.


Associate Professor Vladimir Jiranek and collegues have been awarded $477,000 over three years to study known and novel signalling molecules that allow communication between yeast cells and impact on wine fermentation dynamics, specifically in a nutrient-depleted environment. The mechanisms by which these molecules exert their effect will be defined using a systems biology approach that integrates many analyses and data sets.



Head of the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, Professor Mike Wilkinson and collegues have been awarded $443,000 over three years to study wheat evolution using ancient DNA. The domestication of wild grasses by farmers was a step change in human history; it led to the emergence of modern cereals and with them, western civilisation. This project will apply modern DNA sequencing methods to 5000-year-old cereal seeds to reconstruct the history of wheat, barley and other crops, and identify lost ancient forms and diversity.


Recent research: Herbicide-resistant ryegrass in southeastern Australia

Herbicide resistance in annual ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) is a growing problem in grain-cropping fields of southeastern Australia because of increased herbicide use as the main weed control method in minimum tillage systems. With thousands of fields infested with herbicide-resistant annual ryegrass, it is the most important weed species of winter grain crops in Australia. This study focused on identifying the scale of the problem in South Australia and Victoria, using annual ryegrass collected during weed surveys between 1998 and 2009.

Outdoor pot studies were conducted during the normal winter growing season for annual ryegrass with PRE-applied trifluralin and POST-applied diclofop-methyl, chlorsulfuron, tralkoxydim, pinoxaden, and clethodim.
•    Trifluralin-resistant annual ryegrass was found in one-third of the fields surveyed from South Australia and in less than 5% of fields in Victoria.
•    Chlorsulfuron-resistance was detected in at least half of the cropped fields across southeastern Australia.
•    Resistance to the cereal-selective aryloxyphenoxypropionate-inhibiting herbicides diclofop-methyl, tralkoxydim, and pinoxaden ranged between 30 and 60% in most regions, but in marginal cropping areas it was less than 12%.
•    Resistance to clethodim varied between 0 and 61%. Higher levels of resistance to clethodim were found in the more intensively cropped, higher-rainfall districts where pulse and canola crops are common.

Fields in the survey fell into 2 groups: those with ryegrass resistant to 0-1 herbicides, which tended to be more common in areas where a lot of pasture was still grown, and those with resistance to 4-6 herbicides, which tended to be in areas of continuous cropping. These weed surveys demonstrate that a high incidence of resistance to most tested herbicides is present in annual ryegrass from cropped fields in southeastern Australia and presents a major challenge for crop producers.

Corresponding author: Dr Peter Boutsalis
Organisations: School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide
Publication: Boutsalis, P., Gill, G.S. and Preston, C. (2012) Incidence of herbicide resistance in rigid ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) across southeastern Australia. Weed Technology, 26(3): 391-398.
Link: doi: 10.1614/WT-D-11-00150.1

“Recent research” is a series of short, regular posts highlighting recent research papers from the Waite Campus.