A $26 million Australian Research Council grant will fund a new national Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology (CoE PEB) at The University of Western Australia until 2020.
The CoE PEB - the only centre awarded to Western Australia in the ARC's 2014 Centre of Excellence funding round - will develop new approaches needed in agriculture due to narrowing resources and a rising world population.
Its researchers will increase the efficiency of energy conversion and use by plants to make them more tolerant to environmental challenges and better at allocating resources.
Centre Director Winthrop Professor Harvey Millar said the centre's researchers were extremely pleased to be singled out from such a strong field of contenders.
"We are excited by the opportunity to explore the most pressing challenge yet for plant scientists," Professor Millar said. "The plant energy system is the largest set of biochemical reactions on earth. We need it to build more food, feed, fibre and fuel. To do that we need to understand how to make it more energy efficient in harsh environments."
He said the world needed plants that more efficiently procured the resources provided by nature and farmers to generate more harvestable products on agricultural soils which were decreasing in area and fertility; and to maintain this performance in harsh and variable environments.
"We can contribute to securing Australia's and the world's future food requirements in spite of increasingly hostile environmental conditions and a rapidly expanding world population by making fundamental advances in how plants use their energy resources," Professor Millar said.
This exciting next step for the ARC CoE PEB is further supported by an additional $14 million pledged from Agilent Technologies, Limagrain, Photon Systems Instruments, the Grain Research and Development Corporation, and its four university partners: UWA, The Australian National University, The University of Adelaide and La Trobe University. International partnerships with world leading plant scientists from the USA, Germany, Finland, Sweden and China expand the centre's research programs globally.
Winthrop Professor Harvey Millar (ARC CoE Plant Energy Biology) (+61 8) 6488 7245 / (+61 4) 20 308 534
David Stacey (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716