[ASC-media] UWA AG SCIENCE STUDENTS BURY THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND: UWA Institute of Agriculture MEDIA STATEMENT

BRENDON CANT brendon at iinet.net.au
Wed Apr 13 02:23:45 CEST 2011


UWA Institute of Agriculture MEDIA STATEMENT
Wednesday, April 13, 2011


UWA AG SCIENCE STUDENTS BURY THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND


Thanks to the Sir Eric Smart Scholarship for Agricultural Research, two
fourth year agricultural science honours students at The University of
Western Australia have ‘buried their heads in the sand’ while attempting to
unlock some of the keys to improving or ameliorating poor WA soils.



Esperance farmer’s son Gregory Campbell’s project, ‘Effectiveness of compost
and gypsum as a soil amendment and their influence on mycorrhizal
colonisation’, supervised by Winthrop Professor Lyn Abbott, found that
compost and gypsum amendment did not significantly improve crop growth in
the single growing season studied.



“However, there was a significant, but inconsistent effect on mycorrhizal
colonisation from the gypsum application,” Mr Campbell said.



“While gypsum is commonly used on WA agricultural soils, applying compost is
a relatively new concept in broadacre agriculture, although commonly used in
horticulture.”



Mr Campbell’s father, David, who is in the process of trialling the
production and application of compost on his two farms, ‘Karranga’, west of
Esperance and ‘Karingal’, north of Esperance, will now test his son’s
hypotheses that soil amended with compost will:



  a.. have better cation exchange capacity.
  b.. have higher mycorrhizal root colonisation after one season, compared
to control and inorganic fertilised soils.


Gregory Campbell said his father would also test if higher rates of compost
would have an even greater influence on the microbial and fungal population.



Professor Abbott said that practical on-farm testing and potential
subsequent commercial adoption of research by such capable young students
from UWA’s Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, with support from
UWA Institute of Agriculture, was a positive outcome.



Supervised by Winthrop Professor Zed Rengel, Darkan farmer’s son, Paul
South, assessed whether or not lime was a better soil ameliorant than gypsum
with respect to alleviating aluminium toxicity stress in susceptible wheat.

“With one third of WA agricultural soils affected by sub-surface acidity and
with this very likely to increase soluble aluminium, which is toxic to plant
root growth, the issue was worth assessing from economic and agronomic
perspectives,” Mr South said.



Soil acidification in WA affects about 1.6 million hectares of arable
cropping land and annually costs $70 million, due to crop yield losses and
methods used to reduce it.



Mr South’s Sir Eric Smart Scholarship supported honours project compared the
effectiveness of genetic and chemical (lime and gypsum) strategies in
resolving the aluminium toxicity issue.



While identifying that a combination of lime and aluminium tolerant crops
was the most effective, Mr South recommended further comparisons between
genetic and chemical options.



“The next stage of this research needs to apply science and economics to
determine what’s most likely to be adopted by farmers, because the most
effective strategy may not be the most economical and therefore may have
limited adoption by farmers,” he said.



UWA Institute of Agriculture Director, Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique,
explained that the late Sir Eric Smart was a pioneer cereal producer in
light land areas around Mingenew and was once the world’s largest individual
wheat grower.



Upon his death in 1973, Sir Eric showed his appreciation of science by
endowing substantial funds to UWA and this was later supplemented by a gift
from his son Peter.



“He wanted to see science improve agricultural production and the first
allocation from the Sir Eric Smart bequest to UWA was to help lupin growers
deal with manganese deficiency,” Professor Siddique said.

“Essentially, the Sir Eric Smart Scholarship encourages bright students in
UWA’s Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences to research ways of
improving the productivity and profitability of wheat, barley, lupins or
canola growing in the light soil types of WA.”

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, Mingenew, a 10,000 hectare property. 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.

In 1950 grain production from Smart's properties set an Australian
individual record of 102,000 three bushel bags (8200 tons). Production
regularly increased, passing 500,000 bushels (13,400 tons) in 1967.

Gregory Campbell and Paul South will work on their family’s Esperance and
Darkan farms, respectively.

MEDIA REFERENCE:

Authorised by ‘The UWA Institute of Agriculture’ and issued on its behalf by
Brendon Cant & Associates (+61) 8 9384 1122
Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique,
Director, The UWA Institute of Agriculture
(+61) 0411 155 396

SmartUWA.doc/Siddique120411
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