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Australia's brightest and best agricultural research was recently on display at the ‘Frontiers in Agriculture Postgraduate Showcase 2009' at The University of Western Australia (UWA), Institute of Agriculture (IOA).
Introducing the eight postgraduate students from the Agricultural and Resource Economics, Earth and Environment, Animal and Plant Biology schools within UWA's Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Chair in Agriculture and IOA Director, Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique, described their work as extremely relevant to the future of WA and Australian agriculture and its sustainability.
"The research findings showcased today clearly demonstrate the quality and breadth of research being conducted at UWA through the IOA and its collaborating partners," Professor Siddique said.
"It's all vitally important research that will help keep WA agriculture profitable and sustainable well into the 21st Century and help farmers overcome the many challenges facing them in a changing environment.
"UWA plays a significant role in training and providing the next generation of agricultural and natural resource management scientists to Australia and internationally."
Annaliese Mason's research on canola genetics will enhance and broaden the gene pool of the state's canola varieties.
Ms Mason's research on the genetic implications of crossing canola with closely related Brassica species aims to improve qualities such as disease resistance and drought tolerance.
She's also involved in creating a new oilseed crop from canola and Brassica species, termed a ‘Super Brassica', which is predicted to have increased vigour and the potential to exploit more marginal cropping environments.
Careful observation of the Mukinbudin area, where he grew up, inspired Dion Nicol to shed some light on the impact of bicarbonate toxicity as a chemical constraint on subsoil.
Mr Nicol's agronomic and ecophysiological studies of Cullen ceinerum and C. graveolens as potential pasture legumes in low rainfall regions of the southern Australian grainbelt are particularly relevant to WA growers.
Time spent on her uncle and aunt's market garden in Spearwood spurred Jennifer Carson to explore interactions between micro-organisms and rock mineral fertilisers in organic pastures.
She investigated whether changing the soil's mineral composition altered the structure of its microbial community and if different minerals supported microbial communities with different structures.
Her current research on the use of ground rocks as a source of phosphorous and potassium for organic beef pastures in WA will be valuable to WA's beef producers.
Trina Jorre de St Jorre's work has demonstrated the benefits of introducing novel rams to ewes.
While it's been known that the sudden introduction of rams induces ovulation in Merino ewes within two to three days and this is a cost effective, efficient way to synchronise mating and lambing within the flock, Ms Jorre de St Jorre's research showed that isolating ewes and rams wasn't necessary if the rams were ‘novel'.
Her work examined the time needed to make rams ‘novel' from a ewe's perspective and has great value for sheep producers looking to optimise and better manage reproduction.
Growing up on the family farm at Tarwonga, south of Williams, Gus Rose also has an interest in sheep, an interest which grew into a study of the labour requirements for sheep and cropping during the production year and the implications for farm profitability.
His investigation of the profitability of professional sheep managers is particularly relevant to WA sheep producers.
Ahmed Ali's research work on pectinase treatment of lupins for poultry has significant implications for the poultry industry, allowing producers to replace expensive imported feed with locally produced lupins, without compromising productivity, while reducing pollution from poultry excrement.
Bronwyn Crowe grew up on the family farm at Dowerin and her interest in conservation and farming led her to a PhD thesis examining the design of conservation contracts, compliance monitoring and the provision of rewards, or the enforcement of penalties, for landholders.
Herbicide resistance is a worry for many grain growers, so Sudheesh Manalil's work on the genetic basis of herbicide resistance and the impact of different application rates to the development of herbicide resistance, is particularly timely and relevant.
Professor Tony O'Donnell, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, summed up the presentations, saying UWA's growing international reputation for cutting-edge agricultural research attracted the brightest and best minds from Australia and overseas.
"UWA graduates are in high demand, with employment prospects in agriculture and related natural resource management areas remaining strong, despite the global economic downturn.
"It's also pleasing to see the numbers of quality students returning to UWA for postgraduate studies, for which the Faculty, complemented by the Institute of Agriculture, is highly regarded.
"Today's world is more than ever looking to science and innovation for sustainability in agriculture and food production to feed the increasing population.
"While population growth is generating demand for food, rapid industrialisation in major economies is increasing demands on agriculture to produce fibre, fuel and industrial raw materials. At the same time, the world's finite supply of agricultural land and water are declining under the pressures of climate change, urbanisation and human-induced degradation.
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