Focussing on innovative land management and animal production systems, as well as plant production for the future, the sessions were an opportunity to showcase high quality research and for students to interact with the industry and potential employers.
UWA Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research and Research Training, Professor Robyn Owens said UWA, as a member of the Australian Group of Eight research intensive universities, had a reputation for leading edge research and was recently ranked 37th in the world for agricultural science.
“In 2006, UWA attracted $140 million dollars from external grants for research and had increased international scholarships five-fold and local scholarships three-fold,” Professor Owens said.
“Enhancing research is part of UWA’s strategic policy and FNAS is one of UWA’s most research intense faculties.”
The first session presentations focussed on innovative animal production and pasture management systems, with four students presenting their research to help farmers meet the ‘clean, green and ethical’ challenges of modern farming.
Peter Hutton said that in the future antibiotics would be banned in livestock feed and using plant-based treatments might be an alternative and meet the ‘clean’ requirement for modern farming.
His research was on preventing lactic acidosis in sheep by using Australian plants which display antimicrobial properties, acting as natural antibiotics.
Investigating salt tolerant sheep for salt tolerant plants, Megan Chadchick’s research is meeting the ‘green’ requirement of modern agriculture.
She is investigating if lambs are affected by high salt content in their mothers’diet and therefore if revegetating saline land with saltbush would constitute good sheep-feed grazing.
Sam Bickell is researching an ‘ethical’ component of modern agriculture: are calm, maternal sheep better mothers, thereby enhancing lamb survival rate and is maternal behaviour a product of nature or nurture?
Graeme Doole addressed the economics of phase farming systems and optimal control of switching systems, using a novel critical path algorithm.
“Producers will benefit from a more accurate decision-support tool, with better integration between model and field trials,” he said.
Focussing on plant production for the future, Chris Jones presented genetic diversity and essential oil biochemistry associated with Indian Sandalwood, Santalum album. He wants growers to have access to reliable seed lines and high essential oil yields through smart breeding strategies.
Nader Danehloueipour is investigating chickpea improvement through genetic analysis and mapping of traits in wild chickpea species.
“Identifying genes for ascochyta blight resístance and leaf and seed size, colour and shape will contribute to improved chickpea yield and quality in hybridisation programs,” he said.
Ben Biddulph studied how the environment and genetics involved in pre-harvest seed dormancy (sprouting tolerance) solutions can offset pre-harvest sprouting in wheat, which reduces yield and grain quality.
Researcher Terry Rose studied whether canola yield increased as a function of potassium and phosphorus placed by knife-points at depth into the soil. Surface fertliser applications could be unavailable to plants with drying of the topsoil.
Summarising the ‘Frontiers in Agriculture and Resource Management’ showcase, Professor Graeme Martin, Program Leader of Animal Production Systems at the UWA Institute of Agriculture, said part of the Institute’s role was training the next generation of agricultural scientists.
“With 70 post-graduates enrolled in my school alone and more than 200 PhD students enrolled in the Faculty, the future of agricultural research and succession planning in WA looks good,” Profesor Martin said.
Professor Kadambot Siddique 61 8 6488 7012
0411 155 396