Productivity, profitability focus

By Country News

Five young researchers in South Australia and Victoria have embarked on studies aimed at supporting grain growers through the development of new knowledge and understandings.

They are among nine recipients, from across Australia, of the latest round of Grains Research and Development Corporation research scholarships.

The GRDC’s research scholarships program supports post-graduates in fields of study aligned with the GRDC’s research priorities.

The program is part of the GRDC’s thrust to build research capacity within the grains industry.

The recipients, four from the University of Adelaide in South Australia and one from La Trobe University in Victoria, will be focused on a range of constraints and factors that influence crop productivity and grower profitability.

Alicia Merriam, a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, is researching the common sowthistle and prickly lettuce to help improve management of these weeds in lentil crops in southern Australia.

‘‘Both of these species are herbicide resistant and they also have highly mobile wind-dispersed seed, so understanding the efficacy of proactive weed management and how they may be adapting to the selection pressures of the farming system is really important,’’ Ms Merriam said.

Also at the University of Adelaide, Christopher Ward’s research will focus on diamondback moth, a major pest of brassica crops such as canola, and in particular the potential for the moth to adapt to new host plants other than brassicas.

‘‘In Kenya, the moth has expanded its range of host plants into legumes and my research will be looking at which genes needed to change to make that happen, and if there is a risk of it occurring here,’’ Mr Ward said.

Resistance to Group J herbicides in annual rye-grass is the research focus for David Brunton, who aims to characterise resistant populations, develop greater understanding of the mechanisms conferring resistance and inheritance of resistance.

‘‘Most importantly, by conducting field experiments I will evaluate herbicide management strategies to directly address this emerging issue,’’ Mr Brunton said.

The other scholarship recipient at the University of Adelaide is Brooke Schofield who is seeking quick and accurate ways to measure leaf nutrients, as traditional methods are often time-consuming and must be performed in a laboratory.

‘‘My project will try to develop a way to use hyperspectral phenotyping to accurately and reliably measure leaf nutrients, which consists of shining visible, near infrared and shortwave light on a leaf and measuring the response reflected back, which indicates the levels of certain nutrients in the leaf,’’ Ms Schofield said.

The Victorian scholarship recipient is David Cann, from La Trobe University, who is researching early-sown wheat cultivars suited to low-rainfall Mediterranean climates.

‘‘My project aims to uncover the genotypic traits best suited for winter wheats in the Mallee,’’ he said.

‘‘Understanding these traits will help to improve the breeding of winter wheat cultivars, giving growers faster access to higher-yielding cultivars.’’

■More information about the GRDC scholarship program is available at: