Science and technology based agriculture will play a major role in meeting the world’s increasing demand for food, but who will become the next generation of Australian scientists?
The University of Western Australia (UWA) Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (FNAS) believes the best way to encourage more students into science is to give them a practical arena for their studies, and, with this in mind, set up a viticulture project with secondary schools.
As part of this collaborate project, FNAS this week showcased a small vineyard, at the UWA Shenton Park field station, where students from various secondary schools can utilise the science they learn in the classroom to grow grapes and produce wine.
Schools who have so far committed support to the collaboration in viticulture are Shenton College, whose Year 11 and 12 students designed and built the vineyard, Duncraig Senior High School, Mt Lawley Senior High and Christ Church Grammar School. Other schools, including Wesley College, are also showing interest.
As part of the project, each school will be allocated its own row of grapes.
In his speech to school and Curriculum Council staff at Shenton Park, UWA Institute of Agriculture Director and Chair in Agriculture, Professor Kadambot Siddique said Australia’s wine industry would not be where it was today without advances in science and technology.
Professor Siddique said agricultural science was based on many scientific disciplines such as plant and animal biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, soil science and even psychology and sociology, because agricultural scientists interact with people, growers and industry.
He said advances in modern biology and powerful computation tools would further enhance the ability to understand plants and animals at the genome level and their interaction with the environment.
“This will accelerate advances in agriculture, which is, after all, the mother of all science,” he said.
Professor Siddique said immediate challenges for Australian agriculture included climate variability, cost-price pressure, dryland salinity, soil acidity, pests, diseases and weed issues, limited diversified farming systems, shortages of reliable skilled farm labour and a declining and aging rural population.
“This is an interesting period for young, bright students to undertake agricultural science degrees and post-graduate research because such challenges provide exciting opportunities.”
Professor Siddique said science teachers played a major role in motivating and mentoring students to undertake science degrees and the Faculty was keen to present the importance of science to agriculture, where all UWA graduates were, typically, employed promptly.
“The project has created some excitement and enthusiasm among participating teachers, students and their parents,” he said.
Professor Kadambot Siddique, Telephone (+61 8) 6488 7012, Mobile 0411 155 396