The UWA Institute of Agriculture

The idea behind these themes is to look forward.
These are flexible themes where we can add new themes as they emerge.
The Crops, Roots & Rhizosphere theme aims to manipulate the rhizosphere to the benefit
of crop production. This includes manipulating root architecture
and function in partner with the soil microorganisms that reside on and around the crop root.
By fully harnessing the soil where roots grow, we will ensure we meet crop yield potentials.
We believe there is a significant opportunity to increase grain yields by ensuring the growth
and the development of crop roots are not hindered by abiotic and biotic soil constraints.
Furthermore, given our drying and warming climate we need to continue to breed crops
for heat tolerance, drought resistance and water use efficiency so as to lessen the impact
of climate on our crops and farm businesses. Root and rhizosphere research is a new frontier
compared to our knowledge of the above-ground plant components. With our significant strength
in root science and rhizosphere biology, The University of Western Australia has the expertise
to meet the challenges of this field. The Sustainable Grazing Systems theme is about
optimising the interaction between the genetics, environment and management. So it’s about
the right plants and animals, in the right place, managed in the right way.
If we get this right then we can maximize the profitability of producing clean, green
and ethically produced products, which is what the consumers are demanding, and minimize
the environmental footprint of livestock production. This is easier said than done, particularly
when you consider the enormous area and different types of grazing systems that we cover in
this state, from the huge extensive beef production systems and the rangelands up north, through
to the mixed cropping and sheep production systems in the southern regions and all combinations
in between. We take a lab to landscape approach to tackle
three key targets: The first one is to establish a feedbase that
is cost effective and as consistent in quality and quantity as possible all year round. The
second is to improve the efficiency that ruminant convert that feed into product, and the third
is improving reproductive efficiency. The Sustainable Grazing Systems theme brings
together The University of Western Australia’s expertise in animal biology, plant biology
and agricultural economics to look at the system.
Western Australia has enormous potential for meat production and Sustainable Grazing Systems
as a system will be a major component of that. In our approach to we use everything from
established scientific principles behind pasture systems and animal grazing behaviour to state-of-the-art
genetic and genomic technologies to try and move closer to the optimum Genetics by Environment
by Management interaction. Importantly we collaborate with other universities
and research organisations locally nationally and internationally to ensure that the work
we do is of the highest quality and has the most impact for the producers whose livelihoods
depend on us being innovative. Water for food production aims to assist irrigators
in optimise water use for least volume of water used. Essentially, plants require water
as and when they need it and irrigation systems must be able to be managed to take this into
account to maximise production. The use of smart sensor systems can assist farmers to
achieve these aims and we are particularly interested in developing such systems at The
University of Western Australia. In addition, in dry-land systems, irrigation
can lead to problems with salinity, and this needs to be managed carefully. Again, sensors
can play a role in this. The UWA Institute of Agriculture has brought
together scientists from across the University from the Faculties of Science and Engineering
to form coherent teams to address these issues for the irrigation industry. We must also
bear in mind that inefficient use of water can lead to offsite consequences to the environment
that must be considered. We have to remember when we’re allocating
water for irrigation that for every 1 Litre of water we take out, there are potentially
consequences to the aquifers or the rivers where we get this water from. This can include
downstream impacts on wetlands and altered flows and water quality problems in downstream
rivers. We therefore need to take a whole of system approach when we are looking at
designing irrigation precincts to make sure that we can allocate water for food production
while also meeting our environmental sustainability targets.
Increasing the intake of fruits, wholegrains and vegetables is regarded as the foundation
of dietary approaches to prevent chronic disease. The Food Quality and Human Health theme is
exploring how fruits, vegetables and legumes may reduce the risk of chronic disease. The
major objective of that is to develop and release new apple varieties with enhanced
health attributes. This has involved collaboration with the apple industry, and with other groups
within the University including the Faculty of Medicine and plant sciences and the UWA
Business School. Legume intake in Australia is very low and
one potential way of addressing that is to incorporate legume and legume derived ingredients
into commonly consumed staple foods such as bread. Our has been looking at lupin and lupin
flour as a food ingredient and we have incorporated that into bread and a number of other foods
and we’ve found that they can improve blood pressure and improve the management of Type
2 diabetes. A major aspect of the Food Quality and Human
Health theme is to develop new foods with potential to reduce chronic disease. The widespread
consumption of these foods has the potential to benefit not only population health but
also agricultural industries. An Agribusiness ecosystem is a network of
farms and organisations that come together so that they can create value for their customers.
Agribusiness ecosystems relies on the idea of interdependence. The farms work together
so that they can be able to survive in a very risky and competitive environment. When we
look at agriculture we always think in terms of value chains and we think in terms of supply
chains but the concept of Agribusiness ecosystems is a more unifying integrated concept which
helps us to look across the different industries, the different value chains, the different
supply chains in a holistic way so that we can increase productivity, profitability and
we can also bring environmental sustainability in agriculture.
The main focus of this theme is going to be research that is relevant to the needs of
the industry that responds to the changing times and also training by emphasising both
soft and hard skills that are relevant for the development of the agribusiness industry.
UWA is currently ranked 25th in the world in agriculture and life sciences and number
one in Australia. We encourage bright and talented students to come to this wonderful
university to undertake undergraduate and postgraduate programs in agricultural science
and food production systems.

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