Story and pictures by Michael Sinclair-Jones
The look on his face said it all.
The wonder of seeing tiny animals moving in soil samples proved irresistibly tempting for dozens of youngsters at UWA Future Farm 2050's recent Field Day at Pingelly.
For 11-year-old local schoolboy Kynan Collard, the discovery of a hidden world of life in the ground may be the catalyst that sets him on the path to be a future scientist.
The Year 6 student was among about 60 children from Pingelly Primary School, Brookton District High School and Narrogin Senior High School who spent a fun-filled morning studying soils, plants and bugs at UWA's 1600-hectare wheatbelt property.
They also learnt how to propagate plants from fresh cuttings by dipping the stems in honey and planting them in holes made by pens in soil trays in a nearby farm work shed.
Another highlight was a boisterous romp inside the world's biggest, bounciest inflatable plant cell, developed by UWA to show barefooted youngsters - and adventurous grown-ups - that science can be fun.
The theme of the UWA Future Farm 2050 Field Day was twofold - to show school kids that the science of farming is a fascinating goal they can aspire to, and show local farmers how UWA research can help them be more productive and profitable.
About 150 visitors filled UWA Future Farm 2050's modern shearing shed after a sausage-sizzle lunch served by SNAGS - Students from Natural and Agricultural Sciences - to hear UWA Winthrop Professor Graeme Martin explain that the world's population was expected to grow by 50 per cent to 9.5 billion people by 2050.
Feeding an exploding global population with dwindling land resources while facing the effects of climate change and world market pressures was a critical challenge, he said.
Professor Martin, who is Deputy Director of UWA's Institute of Agriculture, said UWA Future Farm 2050 aimed to develop clean, green and ethical farm technologies and practices that were designed to feed the world without destroying the planet.
Other talks included "Is ‘More Efficient' Food Production In Conflict With Animal Welfare" by visiting Oxford University Professor Marion Dawkins and discussion of carbon farming options and economics by UWA Assistant Professor Marit Kragt.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson thanked participants and invited local growers and livestock producers to engage with UWA Future Farm 2050 as a local resource to address the challenges of modern farming.
Afternoon tea was served in a nearby work shed by volunteer fundraisers from the Pingelly Chaplaincy Group before visitors took bus tours of the property to see UWA Future Farm 2050's new hi-tech farmhouse, paddock soils and a new Eureka Prize-winning saltbush that feeds sheep while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
UWA Future Farm 2050 is a working farm and multi-disciplinary research facility based on world-class expertise in agricultural science, resource economics, architecture and landscape architecture, electronic engineering, solar energy, wildlife ecology, and plant ecology.