Helping to feed a hungry planet is the aim of two agricultural science students from The University of Western Australia - and their work has earned each of them a Sir Eric Smart Scholarship. The late Sir Eric Smart was once the world's largest individual wheat grower.
James Smart's project was a study of how the application of diatomite (a soft sedimentary rock which crumbles to a fine powder) to WA's sand-plain soils increases wheat growth and improves water-use efficiency. James' trial with wheat found that under low-nutrient conditions, diatomite increased water available to plants from 10 per cent to 14.7 per cent. His supervisors were Winthrop Professor Zed Rengel from UWA and Dr Darren Hughes from the Grain Research and Development Corporation.
Mohd Norawzwan Ghazali's project was a genetic evaluation of wheat seedlings under normal and phosphorus stressed conditions. Mohd evaluated 288 wheat genotypes from different sources of origin to identify the genotypic response to phosphorus deficiency under a newly developed screening method. He found that genotypes originating from the Middle East showed the highest variation in all traits measured. His supervisors were UWA's Associate Professor Guijun Yan and Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique.
Hackett Professor of Agriculture and Director of the UWA Institute of Agriculture, Professor Siddique, said Sir Eric Smart was a pioneer cereal producer in light land areas around Mingenew. He showed his appreciation of science by endowing substantial funds upon his death in 1973 to the University. This was later supplemented by a gift from his son Peter Smart.
The fourth-year project scholarship encourages bright students in UWA's Faculty of Sciences to research ways of improving the productivity and profitability of wheat, barley, lupins or canola growing in WA's light soil types.
"Sir Eric Smart wanted science to improve agricultural production and the first allocation from his bequest to UWA was to help lupin growers deal with manganese deficiency," Professor Siddique said.
Sir Eric Smart came to WA in 1934 from South Australia with his life savings of 200 pounds to share farm at Watheroo. In 1949, he acquired Erregull Springs, a 10,000 hectare property at Mingenew.
More than half the farm was light sand-plain country and it was there that he experimented with superphosphate and lupins to build soil fertility of the light land for cropping.
Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique (UWA Institute of Agriculture) (+61 8) 6488 7012 / (+61 4) 11 155 396
James Smart (+61 4) 27 208 062
Mohd Norawzwan Ghazali (+61 4) 25 795 225
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 5563 / (+61 4) 32 637 716