With food security and sustainable food production an increasingly pressing concern for a booming global population, agricultural experts from The University of Western Australia have teamed up with their Chinese counterparts at Lanzhou University to step up research into dryland agricultural production.
A UWA contingent including Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson, Pro Vice-Chancellor International Iain Watt, advisor Eva Chye and Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique, of UWA's Institute of Agriculture, travelled to China for yesterday's launch of the Centre for Dryland Agricultural Ecosystems.
The centre, based at Lanzhou University, is a joint endeavour between that university, UWA and the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). Its establishment builds on previous research collaborations between the two universities which have resulted in 42 joint publications, numerous exchanges of academic staff and students, and joint international workshops.
UWA has also collaborated with ICARDA for more than two decades on dryland agricultural research and training.
Professor Johnson told an audience of dignitaries - including Professor Xuhong Zhou, President of Lanzhou University, Professor Jing Tao, Lanzhou University's Vice President, and Dr Majid Jamal, ICARDA's Assistant Director General - that the launch of the new centre was timely.
"Drylands cover more than 40 per cent of the world's land area and are home to one third of the global population," he said. "Sustainable food production and security are a major concern and this is likely to be exacerbated by projected climate change and variability. Thus improved adaptation and resilience in agricultural production and food supply are high priority for drylands."
He said China and Australia shared similar challenges in coping with climate change, especially frequent droughts, high temperatures, nutrient-poor soils and dryland salinity.
"The development of integrated cropping/animal production and agro-systems management is thus a high priority for China, Australia and ICARDA's mandate regions."
The centre's main objective will be to provide expertise and research groups to act as a knowledge hub to form new research relationships. It will seek to support high impact research, postgraduate training and development activities focused on sustainable dryland agricultural ecosystems.
Strategies will include crop simulation models, smart genetics, agronomic and animal production packages, eco-system management and decision support systems.
"My colleagues and I at The University of Western Australia look forward to collaborating with Lanzhou University and ICARDA to find strategies by which farmers around the world can adapt to these immense challenges facing global food production systems, especially in the drylands," Professor Johnson said.
Photo: Professsor Paul Johnson (left) at the Centre's launch with Professor Zhou Xuhong, President of Lanzhou University.