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Australian Cereal Researcher Wins Award, Targets Wheat, Barley Development

Australian Cereal Researcher Wins Award, Targets Wheat, Barley Development

29 May 2014

AUSTRALIA - A University of Adelaide plant scientist Jana Phan has won the 2013 SARDI Science Bursary. The PhD student will use the A$1500 bursary to continue her research into the composition of plant cells, focusing on the polysaccharide xylan.

The research has a number of long-term targets, including the development of improved wheat and barley varieties for human and animal consumption – and even new applications for brewing and green industries such as biofuel production.

SARDI Executive Director Professor Pauline Mooney said cutting-edge research and development is advancing South Australia’s A$4.3 billion grains industry.

“R&D is supporting Australia’s premium grain industries and South Australia’s Waite research precinct puts us in prime position to progress our broadacre crop varieties and farming systems,” Prof Mooney said.

Prof Mooney said SARDI, the University of Adelaide and CSIRO – all located on the Waite Campus at Urrbrae – conduct a significant proportion of Australia’s grains research.

”We are in the fortunate position of having high-end fundamental research going on at the Waite, including in the complex area of plant genomics,” Prof Mooney said.

“This research supports new variety development, and SARDI’s on-farm agronomic programs which provide high-yielding, healthier and better suited cultivars for local conditions.

“I congratulate Jana and wish her the best for the future.”

Jana, who is based at the Australian Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls at Waite Campus, said unlocking the secrets of important food crops such as wheat and barley would support improved variety development.

“By understanding more about the formation of xylan, one of the main polysaccharides in plant cell walls, and refining research techniques, we can then develop more diverse crop varieties, both for human health and other industries.

“Like cellulose, xylan is used in many ways, from human and animal food to paper-making and fibre production, so we need to understand how it’s produced in plants to develop new information and techniques for breeders.

“We currently don’t know the machinery, such as the genes, involved in the production of xylan in plants.

“Once identified, this cellular information could help in many ways, for example breeding new crop varieties with pest and disease resistance and more tolerance to drought, heat and frost.”

The annual SARDI Science Bursary was established in 1994 to commemorate the SA Women’s Suffrage Centenary (1894-1994).

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) is a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) and the State Government’s leading agricultural research institute.

Jana’s plant research is also being funded by postgraduate scholarships under the CJ Everard and GRDC Grains Industry Research programs through the University of Adelaide.

She would like to pursue a career in plant research – ideally at the Waite Campus precinct where close collaborations between various science institutes enables some “amazing agricultural R&D”.

TheCropSite News Desk

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