BRENDON CANT brendon at iinet.net.au
Thu Jul 31 06:37:21 CEST 2008



Declining global biodiversity, which threatens plant genetic diversity and
therefore the raw materials humans rely on for food, fibre, fuel, medicine
and industrial products, has led to a far ranging collaborative research
project between The University of Western Australia (UWA) and Sultan Qaboos
University (SQU) in the Sultanate of Oman.

A 2004 visit by UWA’s Professor Alistar Robertson, then Dean of the Faculty
of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (FNAS) and Professor Kadambot Siddique,
Chair in Agriculture and Director of the Institute of Agriculture,
established links with SQU.

Subsequent collaboration has involved staff exchanges, joint scientific
projects and two recent internships for Omani students.

The six week internships for two outstanding undergraduates majoring in crop
sciences at SQU, were organised by Dr Michael Walsh, Senior Research Fellow
at UWA’s Western Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (WAHRI), while
he was on sabbatical in Oman.

Based on their academic excellence, Ruqaiya Al-Mas’oudi and Safa Al-Hinaai
were accepted for training at UWA with FNAS researchers.

Ms Al-Mas’oudi, supervised by Dr Walsh, conducted whole plant screening to
establish the true extent of bromoxynil herbicide resistance in a wild
radish population collected from WA’s grainbelt.

She was also exposed to molecular based research on ryegrass herbicide
resistance and visited the grainbelt to learn about WA broadacre cropping.

Ms Al-Hinaai, supervised by Dr Heather Clarke, Senior Research Fellow at the
UWA based Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA), made wide
crosses between cultivated chickpea and some of its wild annual relatives
from the Middle East.

Tissue culture technology was used to rescue hybrid embryos in the
laboratory at UWA.

Ms Al-Hinaai investigated how different components of the artificial medium
could be adjusted to manipulate hybrid growth and development and used
DNA-based techniques to test ‘hybridity’.

Dr Clarke said FNAS staff had enjoyed working with the Omani students and
learning about life in Oman.

“We hope they will return to UWA as postgraduate students in the near
future,” she said.

Collaboration between UWA and SQU continues, with a joint project titled
“Conservation and Utilisation of Plant Resources in Oman”, which began in
2007. It is supported by funding from His Majesty the Sultan of Oman.

Professor Siddique said the project’s major aim was conserving indigenous
plant germplasm, vital to developing new varieties and improving existing
agricultural and medicinal plant species.

“Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture provide the biological
basis for world food security and support the livelihood of every human,” he

“These resources serve as the plant breeder’s most important raw material to
develop new varieties and the farmer’s most essential input.

“They are therefore essential for sustainable agricultural production and
will provide us with useful information on local germplasm for breeders to
use in Oman and Australia in future crop and pasture improvement projects.

“The project will also train postgraduate students, scientists and
technicians in conservation, characterisation and molecular approaches of
plant genetic resources,” Professor Siddique said.


Authorised by ‘Institute of Agriculture – UWA’ and issued on its behalf by
Brendon Cant & Associates, Tel 08 9384 1122


Professor Kadambot Siddique, Tel 08 6488 7012, Mobile 0411 155 396

Dr Michael Walsh, Tel 08 6488 7872

Dr Heather Clarke, Tel 08 6488 1648


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