[ASC-media] SHOWTIME FOR UWA AGRICULTURE POSTGRADS: UWA/IOA Media Statement

BRENDON CANT brendon at iinet.net.au
Thu Jun 24 07:53:12 CEST 2010


MEDIA STATEMENT
June  24 , 2010
SHOWTIME FOR UWA AGRICULTURE POSTGRADS


Eight University of Western Australia (UWA) postgraduate students presented
diverse PhD research projects at The UWA Institute of Agriculture 'Frontiers
in Agriculture Postgraduate Showcase 2010', proving to an audience of
farmers, academics, scientists, industry and government representatives that
agriculture's future is in very capable hands.



Welcoming guests to the showcase of students from the schools of
Agricultural and Resource Economics, Earth and Environment, Animal Biology
and Plant Biology within UWA's Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences,
UWA Chair in Agriculture and IOA Director, Winthrop Professor Kadambot
Siddique, highlighted the potential of each student's research to affect the
development of agriculture.



"We have more than 300 postgraduate students in our faculty, which is among
the top 50 agriculture faculties in the world and number one in Australia,"
he said.



In his opening address, WA Minister for Agriculture Terry Redman, himself a
UWA Agricultural Science graduate, discussed his time as a student at UWA.



"I remember Professor Bob Gilkes saying that some of our best soil
scientists are our farmers and that's a lesson that really stuck with me,"
Mr Redman said.



"There is a depth and breadth about the projects being presented today and I
know these postgraduates will contribute to WA's eight billion dollar
agri-food and agriculture industry.



"As meeting food security is increasingly important, not only for WA but
internationally, I encourage these UWA students to not underestimate their
role in trying to achieve that outcome.



"I congratulate them all for taking this important step of advancing
agriculture as it is confronted by environmental, economic and technological
challenges," Mr Redman said.



The first presenter, Parwinder Kaur, said that after completing her Masters
in Entomology she was looking for hands-on experience in plant pathology, as
plants were equally threatened by plant pathogens and insect pests.



She won an international postgraduate research scholarship for her PhD at
UWA to study white rust disease of Indian Mustard (Brassica Juncea).



After completing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of
Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, Lalith Suriyagoda accepted the opportunity to develop
his career at UWA where his PhD project is assessing and modelling how the
perennial pasture legume Cullen australasicum responds to low water and
phosphorous availability in the southern Australian grainbelt.



Basu Dev Regmi, from Nepal, is assessing the dynamics of zinc accumulation
in wheat grown in conventional and biological farming systems in WA. Despite
zinc deficiency being a risk factor for poor human health and a major global
cause of death, past studies had not ascertained the agronomic and
physiological aspects of zinc in soil and plants.



Mr Regmi found that characterising how zinc accumulated in wheat grown under
different farming systems helped understand the mechanisms of zinc loading
into grain from the wheat plant and this could contribute to human health.



After studying farmer decision-making behaviour, particularly how those
decisions affected livestock, Alexandra Wells commenced her PhD, which
reviews what motivates farmers to make changes on-farm in response to
growing community concerns about ethical issues in agriculture.



With sheep mulesing as her case study, she found that controversy
surrounding it was a compelling example of how society's concerns about farm
animal welfare had resulted in demands for practice changes on-farm.



Ms Wells found most farmers were negative about mulesing, but would continue
the practice due to a lack of economically viable alternatives and farmers
who had used alternatives, such as genetics and husbandry, including clips,
to control breech strike, were the most likely group to continue with these
methods.



After moving to Perth from Singapore and having her first 'taste' of
agriculture at a sheep shearing demonstration, Sharon Tay commenced a PhD at
UWA, investigating the effect of high-salt diets during pregnancy in ewes
and the effect on their offspring.



Her experiments revealed that maternal high-salt intake altered traits
apparently unrelated to salt balance, such as increased wool growth in the
offspring. The effect of maternal high salt intake on the offspring
persisted though to three years of age.



Equipped with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Master of
Science in Agricultural Economics from prestigious Philippines universities
and with 10 years of research experience, Jessie Beltran commenced her UWA
PhD project (supported by a John Alright ACIAR fellowship), an economic
analysis of weed management options in rice production.



While she found that herbicide resistance affected farm income by reducing
yields and increasing weed control costs, bio-economic simulation models,
such as the WA developed Ryegrass Integrated Management (RIM), could improve
weed management.



The decision support model Ms Beltran is developing in her UWA PhD will
integrate the biological, agronomic and economic components of Philippine
rice farming systems and inform farmers about the long term effects of
different weed management strategies.



With Perth's water shortage impacting growth in several sectors,
particularly intensive

peri-urban horticulture, a PhD study by Fiona Gibson of Mingenew is
assessing community willingness to pay for recycled water.



She said replenishing Perth's groundwater aquifers with recycled water may
alleviate stretched resources and improve sustainable water supply to
horticulture, which is important for maintaining the local economy and
locally grown fresh food.



Ms Gibson's survey found some people were prepared to pay higher prices or
receive compensation for using recycled water, but one third were unwilling
to accept the innovation, no matter how large the discount was on their
water charges.



Victorian Andrew Kennedy studied agricultural science at the University of
Melbourne before moving to UWA for his PhD on how genetic improvement and
alternative lambing systems affect the profitability of sheep enterprises.



Recipient of a CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation postgraduate scholarship,
he has found that mathematical models are valuable to analyse complex
farming systems that are economically and physically impossible to replicate
at experimental scale.



Mr Kennedy noted that although big ewes produced faster growing, bigger
lambs, they were not always the most efficient and cost more to maintain.



With maintenance requirements representing 60-70% of a ewe's total energy
needs for the year and given that ewes comprised more than 60% of total
flock numbers, any compromise on ewe efficiency could significantly impact
farm profit.



Summing up the presentations, Winthrop Professor Tony O'Donnell, Dean of
UWA's Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, said the Faculty's
priority was to remain in the world's top 50 agricultural faculties, with
each postgraduate student's research contributing to that status.



"This afternoon we enjoyed a spectrum of quality, thoughtful research, going
from the fundamental to the applied, all of which can have a positive impact
on agriculture," he said.



GRDC Western Panel member and Dunn Rock farmer, Peter Roberts and WA
Agricultural Region MLC and Moora farmer, Philip Gardiner co-chaired the
very successful event.



MEDIA REFERENCE:

Authorised by 'The UWA Institute of Agriculture' and issued on its behalf by
Brendon Cant & Associates (+61) 8 9384 1122

Prof Kadambot Siddique, The UWA IOA Director (+61) 8 6488 7012/(+61) 04 11
155 396



UWA Post Grad Showcase 2010.doc/Siddique110610


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