Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Autumn 2018

Table of Contents

  • From the Director
  • Exploring the science of GMOs and food
  • Opinion: Genetically Modified Organisms in perspective
  • Award for Graham Centre PhD student
  • Guide for grazing biserrula
  • Using flowering plants to protect veggies from pests
  • Silver in IoT Spartans challenge
  • Pulse product innovation
  • It’s a ‘mile a minute’ for international scientist
  • Visiting meat scientist at Cowra
  • Project officers from Pakistan on the pulse
  • CSU hosts Davis-Thompson Foundation seminar
  • Where in the world…
  • Updates and events
  • In the Limelight: Jane Heller
  • In the Limelight: Adam Frew

From the Director

Welcome to the autumn edition of the Innovator, and I hope you are enjoying the new format.   I trust everyone had an enjoyable and relaxing break over Christmas, even though I am sure that now feels a distant memory.

Professor Glenn Edwards and Professor David Falepau (CSU), Governor of the Jiwaka Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Hon. William Tongamp, Mr John Cullen Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Graham Centre Director Professor Michael Friend.We have been busy finalising our plans, including the rolling Business Plan and Partnerships and Engagement Strategy.  Developing these, in consultation with the Pathway Leaders, Industry Advisory Panel and Centre Board, has been helpful in focussing our direction and activities. This is reflected in changes to our internal grants, including the introduction of funding to support members to engage with industry, and also the new Member Support Grants, which will replace previous internal grants such as Research Centre Fellowships and New Initiative Grants.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) has been focussed recently on compiling our submission to Excellence in Research Australia (ERA), for both publications in our areas of strength and also evidence of engagement and impact.  Many of our members have contributed significantly to this process, which is important for the University’s research reputation.  It is pleasing to see a significant increase in publications in our key areas of strength since the last ERA assessment in 2015, as well as some stellar examples of engagement and the impact of our research.

Professor Michael Friend


Graham Centre research and expertise was highlighted when the Governor of the Jiwaka Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Hon. William Tongamp, visited the Riverina.

Jiwaka is the newest Province in PNG and it is located in the fertile Waghi Valley. During his visit to Australia, Governor Tongamp was keen to learn more about agriculture and renewable energy.

Pictured are Professor Glenn Edwards and Professor David Falepau (CSU), Governor of the Jiwaka Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Hon. William Tongamp, Mr John Cullen Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Graham Centre Director Professor Michael Friend.


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Exploring the science of GMOs and food

Dr Carl Ramage Rautaki Soultions answers a question during the panel discussion at the Graham Centre's GMO information evening.The use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in agriculture and how the technology is viewed by consumers prompted some lively discussion at an information evening hosted by the Graham Centre.

More than 70 people attended the event in Wagga Wagga on Tuesday 20 February, which featured a screening of ‘Food Evolution’, a documentary exploring the controversy surrounding GMOs and food.

Following the film an expert panel, led by Charles Sturt University (CSU) Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley, was on hand to discuss GMOs in an Australian farming context.

Panellists, CSIRO research scientist Dr James Petrie, biotech consultant Dr Carl Ramage from Rautaki Soultions, and farmer and Nuffield scholar Mr Mark Swift, shared their expertise to answer questions from the audience.

You can watch the panel discussion on the Graham Centre Facebook page here.

. A good crowd attended the screening of the film, ‘Food Evolution’ hosted by the Graham CentrePanel members l-r Dr Carl Ramage Rautaki Soultions, farmer Mark Swift, Dr James Petrie CSIRO and Professor Jim Pratley  

Professor Pratley, who is also the leader of the plant systems research pathway at the Graham Centre, has written about the role of GMOs in meeting the global food security challenge in an article here.


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Opinion: Genetically Modified Organisms in perspective

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) have been part of agricultural production for more than two decades.Charles Sturt University (CSU) Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation writes further development of the technology will be important for improving sustainability, productivity and meeting the global food security challenge.

Professor Jim PratleyGenetically modified (GM) crops have been grown around the world for over 20 years now, since 1996. GM is just another range of technologies for crop improvement that has been occurring for thousands of years. GM crops are grown by 18 million farmers on 185 million hectares in 26 countries. Of those countries, 19 are developing countries with some having had significant population hunger.

Commercially the main traits involved have been insect tolerance and herbicide tolerance. This has been largely through four crops; soybeans (not in Australia), corn (not in Australia), cotton and canola. Small areas globally are also planted to GM sugar beet, papaya, lucerne, squash, eggplant, banana and potato.

Since 1996 GM technology has reduced global use of pesticide (insecticides and herbicides) by about eight per cent (>6 million tonnes of active ingredient). This in turn reduces the number of spray runs needed in the crop and facilitates no-till farming. This results in permanent savings of annual carbon emissions to around 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

In Australia, international economist Graham Brooks has estimated that Australian GM cotton and canola growers over the past 20 years have gained more than $1.3 billion extra income over what would have been forthcoming with conventional varieties. Pesticide use has been reduced by more than 20,000 tonnes of active ingredient resulting in savings of over 70 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. GM technology saved the cotton industry by reducing its insecticide inputs by about 95 per cent.

Despite this long period demonstrating the benefits and safety of biotech crops, the technology continues to face criticism from sceptics, vested interests, and the misinformed public, although the last-mentioned is becoming smaller. Of course in rich countries like Australia we can afford to discriminate in food choices, regardless of evidence. In other countries however, where there are 800 million people in starvation and poverty, choice is not an option. GM provides an opportunity to improve their lives and is doing so. Some 90 per cent of GM farmers are resource poor from developing countries, but they now have 54 per cent of global plantings. Their people have both increased food supply and economic benefits as a result.

The Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation hosted an information evening in Wagga Wagga On Tuesday 20 February to shine a light on the science of GMOs. The evaluation of GMO technologies needs to be evidence-based and it was encouraging to see more than 70 people attend and take the opportunity to ask a panel of experts about the technology and to engage in a discussion that has implications for Australian farmers but also for those in the developing world, where it’s needed most.


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Award for Graham Centre PhD student

It’s not every day you are invited to be a special guest at NSW Parliament House but Graham Centre PhD student Ms Cara Wilson can tick that off the bucket list.

Ms Winsome Allen President of Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, Ms Cara Wilson and Mrs Hurley, the Governor's wife and Patron of NCWNSW (photo courtesy Volunteer Photography)Ms Wilson, who’s studying through Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences was presented with an Australia Day Award by the National Council of Women of NSW during a luncheon at Parliament House in Sydney on Wednesday 24 January.

The award, sponsored by the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts (SMSA), recognises her leadership and achievement in the study of veterinary epidemiology.

“I grew up on a 16 hectare property surrounded by horses and a few head of cattle and I have always been interested in animal health and agriculture,” Ms Wilson said.

“The empowerment of women is a dominant theme in the agricultural sector at present. Women play a key role in the industry, so I am honoured to receive this award.

“The luncheon made for a lovely day out and I got to meet amazing women from all different areas and learn about their work which was fascinating.”

The National Council of Women of NSW Inc. is one of the oldest women’s organisations in Australia. The Council’s Australia Day Awards assist students to continue their studies.

Originally from Mudgee in Central West NSW, Ms Wilson’s research is investigating the impact of the hydatid tapeworm on the beef industry.

“Hydatid disease is rarely fatal in livestock but infected organs identified at slaughter are either thrown out or downgraded to pet food leading to financial loss,” Ms Wilson said.

“My research is investigating the financial impact of the disease on the industry and the risk factors associated with the infection in beef cattle to enable the industry to target control strategies.”

In 2017, Ms Wilson won a scholarship to attend the Crawford Fund annual conference and also represented CSU at the Asia-Pacific Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition. Read more in CSU News here.


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Guide for grazing biserrula

The hard seeded annual legume, biserrula has been embraced by farmers as a handy break in the cropping system but livestock grazing the pasture can be affected by photosensitisation.

Associate Professor Jane Quinn and Professor Leslie WestonTo inform producers of best practice in using this legume pasture, researchers from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation have produced guidelines for sheep producers.

The guide, ‘Understanding photosensitisation in sheep grazing biserrula pastures’ follows grazing trials led by Professor Leslie Weston and Associate Professor Jane Quinn from Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Wagga Wagga.

Professor Quinn said “Biserrula photosensitisation occurs when animals ingest biserrula plants that produce photodynamic chemicals causing direct damage to skin in the presence of sunlight. In some cases severe damage to the skin can occur with resulting fleece loss.

“The initial signs of photosensitisation can arise quickly, within as little as three days of sheep grazing pastures. Producers should become familiar with the range and severity of symptoms so they can act quickly to minimise the number of animals affected and the severity of symptoms.

“Promptly removing animals from biserrula-dominant pasture as soon as mild signs appear and providing an alternative feed source reduces the intensity of injury and improves recovery time.”

Sheep breed and genotype, along with underlying health issues such as worms or liver fluke, have also been shown to affect the incidence and severity of photosensitisation.

CSU Professor Leslie Weston said the grazing trials also highlighted the impact of other species in the pasture.

“We found reduced severity of photosensitisation in sheep grazing pastures with 10-30 per cent annual ryegrass or mixed stands of biserrula containing significant percentages of other forages, although incidence was never mitigated completely,” Professor Weston said.

“Another important thing to note is that photosensitisation was not recorded in any animals in the trials when grazing fully dried biserrula pasture, regardless of the percentage of biserrula in the sward.

“This is a useful management strategy as dried forage biserrula has a high protein content and a maintenance energy level for mature dry sheep.”

The research was funded by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and the guide can be downloaded here.


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Using flowering plants to protect veggies from pests

Graham Centre researchers will soon begin initial field surveys across Australia, as part of new research to develop sustainable, cost-effective biological control strategies for vegetable pests.

Dr Syed Rizvi, Ms Annie Johnson, Professor Geoff Gurr and Dr Ahsanul Haque examine native vegetation for natural enemies of vegetable pestsThe research team is led by Charles Sturt University (CSU) Professor Geoff Gurr, along with senior research scientist Dr Olivia Reynolds, and senior research entomologist Dr Jianhua Mo from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

“The project will gather information to help formulate practical vegetation management strategies to suppress pests in brassicas, sweetcorn, lettuce, carrots and beans,” Professor Gurr said.

The project builds on Professor Gurr’s research into biological control of pests in rice crops in parts of Asia. Read more on CSU News here.

“In Asia growing flowering crops in the margins of rice fields provides nectar to beneficial insects like spiders,” Professor Gurr said.

“This simple method kills pests so effectively that farmers reduced insecticide use by two-thirds, had a 5 per cent boost in grain yield and 7.5 per cent profit advantage.

“This in now used by thousands of farmers in China, Vietnam and Thailand and is gaining interest in other countries and crop systems.

Research in Asia has shown the benefit of growing flowering crops on the margins of rice fields“In China, the use of sesame in the margins of rice crops is now nationally recommended practice as a way to check pests and provide a dual income.

“There are other examples too in places as diverse as east Africa, western Europe, New Zealand and Australia, of pests being suppressed by easy-to-implement vegetation management strategies.”

The three-year project is funded by Hort Innovation and brings together researchers from CSU, NSW DPI, the University of Queensland and IPM Technologies in Victoria.

Field sites hosted by vegetable growers from NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Initial field surveys will soon begin with CSU Post-Doctoral Research Fellows, Dr Syed Rizvi and Dr Ahsanul Haque heading out to vegetable fields around Australia.


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Silver in IoT Spartans challenge

Designing a tool for farmers to view, retrieve and download data captured by paddock sensors, has earned a team from the Graham Centre a silver medal in a global competition.

Dr Lihong Zheng The team of 12 Charles Sturt University (CSU) undergraduate and postgraduate students competed in the 2017 international Internet of Things (IoT) Spartans Challenge.

The competition is an educational program that challenges students to ‘brainstorm’ and propose new ways to use IoT technologies to solve real world problems.

Led by lecturers Dr Lihong Zheng and Dr Sabih Rehman from CSU’s School of Computing and Mathematics, the CSU team claimed second place out of the 250 universities competing worldwide.

Dr Zheng said the experience of competing on an international level allowed students to showcase what they and regional Australia can achieve.

“The competition is organised by one of the world’s top 10 IoT companies, Libelium, which is based in Spain,” Dr Zheng said.

“The team designed a tool that could be used by farmers to view, retrieve and download data captured by new IoT sensors placed in farm paddocks. This data can be viewed using a web browser on a laptop computer or via a smart phone.”

As a leading regional university, Dr Zheng explained it was important for CSU to be on the forefront of technology that bridges the digital divide between metropolitan and regional, rural and remote communities.

“With the onset of digital agriculture, IoT can improve productivity in Australian farming. We teach students how to apply cutting-edge techniques to provide a cloud-based architecture for environmental monitoring on farms,” Dr Zheng said.

“Participating in this competition allowed students to develop a practical application and demonstrate a feasible solution to a real-time case, and provided public recognition for the best IoT developers of the future.”

The team was funded by the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer within the NSW Department of Industry.

This story was first published on CSU News.


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Pulse product innovation

Imagine sitting down to breakfast and pouring ice cold milk on your bowl of chickpeas? It might become a reality thanks to Charles Sturt University (CSU) research into innovative processing techniques to add value to pulse crops.

Mr Stephen CorkCSU PhD candidate at the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Functional Grains (FGC) Mr Stephen Cork is investigating the potential for pulses like chickpeas to be processed into flakes for breakfast and snack foods.

“Pulses like chickpeas are high in protein, low in fat and are a great source of minerals and B vitamins but many Australians don’t meet the recommended dietary intake of one to three serves of pulses per week,” Mr Cork said.

“The low consumption has been attributed to the time and effort required to prepare them, which typically involves soaking and boiling for over one hour, and the need to modify sensory attributes such as texture and flavour.

“My research is focused on understanding how processing technologies can support new product development, in particular for incorporating pulses into ready to eat breakfast foods, a market worth $33 billion globally.”

Working with Woods Foods, a family owned pulse processor in southern Queensland, and Uncle Tobys, Mr Cork’s research aims to better understand the factors needed to turn chickpeas into flakes.

“The different chemical compositions of cereals and pulses means that there’s a need for research into how to apply a processing methods like flaking to pulses,” Mr Cork said.

“My research is examining how pre-treatment, flake formation and secondary processing impacts the behaviour and quality of the product.

“It’s hoped the development of new products will diversify markets for Australian pulse producers to support further growth of the industry.”

Mr Cork presented his research at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Update in Wagga Wagga on Tuesday 13 February.

Mr Cork was awarded a scholarship by FGC. Funded by the Australian Government through the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme, the FGC is administered by Charles Sturt University and is an initiative of the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation. His research is supervised by FGC Director Professor Chris Blanchard, Dr Asgar Farahnaky and Professor John Mawson.


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It’s a ‘mile a minute’ for international scientist

A Canadian scientist has travelled thousands of miles to tap into Charles Sturt University (CSU) expertise as part of research into the invasive weed known as ‘mile-a-minute’.

Professor David ClementsProfessor David Clements from Trinity Western University in Canada is spending five months at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation at CSU in Wagga Wagga as part of the prestigious Endeavour Research Fellowship program.

Professor Clements said the high quality facilities and the opportunity to collaborate with internationally recognised weeds researchers drew him to the Graham Centre.

“Mile-a-minute or Mikania micranthais a fast growing, smothering vine that is a major weed in the tropics of Africa, India, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands. It’s also found in northern Australia,” said Professor Clements.

“True to its name the plant grows very quickly and is a major threat to the environment and agriculture. I’ve seen it completely overwhelm trees in an orchard and out compete crops like bananas and sugar cane. This is a major concern in countries where food security is an issue.”

“I am a field biologist and this Fellowship will give me the time and opportunity to understand the plant better in the laboratory.

Professor Leslie Weston and Professor David Clements with Chinese collaborators in a lemon orchard that is engulfed with mile-a-minute“I’m also excited to be working closely with Charles Sturt University Professor Leslie Weston as part of an international collaboration looking at the DNA of this invasive weed.”

Professor Clements has swapped the northern hemisphere winter for a hot Australian summer but said he’s enjoying his first visit to Australia.

“The 40 degree days in Wagga Wagga are certainly a contrast to the cold weather back home,” Professor Clements said. “I’ve particularly enjoyed seeing the Australian wildlife, kangaroos hopping around the University campus and the koalas at a local nature reserve.”

Professor Clements will be working at CSU in Wagga Wagga until May; he is one of 12 overseas scholars developing their skills at CSU under the Endeavour Scholarship and Fellowship program. Read more on CSU News here.

The program is offered by the Australian Government to support high-achieving individuals to undertake study, research and professional development overseas and gain international experience.


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Visiting meat scientist at Cowra

Graham Centre members will share their expertise with a Chinese scientist who is visiting the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Centre for Red Meat and Sheep Development near Cowra.

Dr David Hopkins and visiting meat scientist Dr Yimin ZhangDr Yimin Zhang from Shandong Agricultural University (SDAU) in Tainan, Shandong Province in China, will spend six months working with NSW DPI senior principal research scientist, Dr David Hopkins and research scientists Dr Benjamin Holman and Dr Steph Fowler.

NSW DPI has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SDAU to facilitate staff and student exchanges and conduct joint projects.

Dr Zhang obtained a PhD in food science and a masters degree in food processing and storage engineering from SDAU.

She has worked at SDAU and lectures undergraduate students in meat science and processing subjects. She is also currently leading two national meat science research projects.

Funded by the Natural Science Foundation of China, one project is investigating the potential mechanisms of colour development of beef with varying ultimate pH (pHs at 5.40-5.79; 5.80-6.09; above 6.10) based on mitochondrial proteomics.

The other, which is supported by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, aims to develop high-barrier packages for Chinese traditional smoked and roasted meat products.

Dr Zhang has also been the principal China-based investigator for an international project which explored the shelf-life of Australia produced chilled beef in overseas markets, in collaboration with researchers from CSIRO Agriculture and Food.

Under the supervision of Dr Hopkins, who is a leading meat scientist and Adjunct Professor at SDAU, Dr Zhang hopes to gain new knowledge and skills in the preparation of papers and data analysis. She will also work with Dr Holman and Dr Fowler to refine experimental skills.


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Project officers from Pakistan on the pulse

The opportunity to visit Riverina farms, meet researchers and to gain an insight into research and development in Australia was the focus of a recent visit by a group of project officers from Pakistan.

Dr Ata ur Rehman, CSU, Abdul Manan, Israr Hussain, and Tehreem Javaid project officer in Pakistan, and Professor Chris Blanchard CSU.The Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is leading a $2.3 million project working with Pakistani farmers to improve the way lentil, chickpea and groundnut crops are grown and to add value to these legumes through better processing technology.

Project officers Mr Abdul Manan, Mr Israr Hussain, and Ms Tehreem Javaid visited the Centre in February to meet the research team, visit local farms and work with project partner FarmLink Research.

Mr Hussain said the farm visits provided valuable insights into Australian production systems.

“What we have learned is how Australian farmers are managing disease, insect pests and weeds by following crop rotations,” Mr Hussain said.

The project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).  It involves researchers from Charles Sturt University, the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC); the University of Arid Agriculture (UAAR), Rawalpindi; Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture (MNSUA); and Sindh Agriculture University (SAU), Tandojam.

The project also include actively participating researchers from federal and provincial research institutes and several farm families. Australian researchers from Pulse Australia, Riverina farming systems group FarmLink Research, and Heuston Agronomy are also involved in the project.


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CSU hosts Davis-Thompson Foundation seminar

Charles Sturt University (CSU) has hosted leading international veterinary pathologist, Professor Francisco Uzal from University of California (UC) Davis.

Professor Francisco Uzal and Dr Loukopoulos.Professor Uzal delivered a seminar in December 2017 titled ‘Equine gastrointestinal pathology’, under the auspices of the Davis-Thompson Foundation, the biggest provider of education on veterinary pathology worldwide.

Graham Centre member, Dr Panayiotis (Panos) Loukopoulos, from CSU’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences hosted the visit.

“This was one of only a few Davis-Thompson Foundation seminars held in Australia and the first at Charles Sturt University,” Dr Loukopoulos said. “I worked with Professor Uzal for two years while I was based at UC Davis and he is a mentor.”

“The seminar also included a special focus on clostridial diseases and the equine medicine specialists, pathologists and veterinary and equine science students appreciated the opportunity to hear from such a renowned speaker.

“Professor Uzal is the author of the book Clostridial Diseases of Animals (Wiley 2016), the first book to focus on clostridial diseases in domestic and wild animals, offering a comprehensive reference on these common diseases.”

Clostridial diseases are caused by anaerobic bacteria that are widespread in the environment, particularly in soil, and are often fatal, they include tetanus, enterotoxaemia also known as ‘pulpy kidney disease’ and blackleg.


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Where in the world…

PhD students from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation have been presenting their research overseas.

Everything’s bigger in Texas

Charles Sturt University (CSU) PhD student Ms Cara Wilson’s research on the financial impact of hydatid disease on the Australian beef industry recently took her to the United States.

Graham Centre PhD student Ms Cara Wilson and Dr Christine Budke at the vet school at Texas A&MThe aim, was to work with Dr Christine Budke, an Associate Professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.

“I planned my financial impact study, learnt new skills and Dr Budke encouraged me to think critically about the different aspects of conducting this research, how it will work and what I plan to get out of it,” Ms Wilson said.

Ms Wilson also presented part of her research to faculty members and students at the University. “It was great to see so much interest in the topic despite it being Australia-specific,” she said.

The visit included a tour of the Texas A&M vet school, large and small animal clinics, equine centre, wildlife centre and the main campus.

“I was absolutely amazed with the size of the University. The Texas A&M College Station campus has a student population of approximately 60,000 students,” Ms Wilson said. “Although Charles Sturt University is substantially smaller, it was great to see that some of the teaching facilities were similar.”

Ms Wilson also spent a few days in Lubbock visiting Texas Tech University.

“I was very lucky to have been invited to visit Texas Tech and meet with a number of Professors, some of which I had met on their previous trips to Wagga Wagga and some who I will hopefully work with in the future. I also met a great bunch of grad students who I will hopefully stay in touch with.

“Overall it was great to visit these universities in the US and learn about the structure of schooling there,” Ms Wilson said.

Spotlight on antibiotic resistance in food animalsPhD student Mr Shafiullah (Shafi) Sahibzada was an invited speaker at the conference

PhD student Mr Shafiullah (Shafi) Sahibzada, from Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences presented his research on antimicrobial resistance at an international conference held in Turkey in November 2017.

The 4th International workshop and industrial exhibition on Dairy Science Park, was held at Selçuk University- Konya, Turkey with the theme ‘Achieving Food Security through Entrepreneurship Development and Biorisk Management’.

Participants from 20 countries attended the conference and Mr Sahibzada’s keynote presentation was titled ‘Antimicrobial resistance in the food chain in developing countries and public health consequences: a call for action’.

“The participants from different developing countries agreed to establish a regional collaboration alliance for the exchange of information and to raise awareness amongst farmers and veterinarians to tackle antibiotic resistance in food animals,” Mr Sahibzada said.

Epidemiology and public health the focus of conference in Thailand

Charles Sturt University (CSU) PhD candidate Ms Shumaila Arif presented her work on using participatory approaches to investigate the drivers, attitudes and communication networks for improving the management of zoonotic diseases, with a focus on human brucellosis, among smallholder farmers in Pakistan at the second Participatory Epidemiology Network for Animal and Public Health (PENAPH) conference in Khon Kaen in Thailand.

PhD candidate Ms Shumaila Arif delivers her presentation at the conference


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Updates and events

Second AgriTech Incubator program off to a flying start

Participants at the Agritech IncubatorA new batch of innovators, entrepreneurs and small business start-ups have begun the program at the AgriTech Incubator at Charles Sturt University (CSU).

CSU Professor John Mawson officially welcomed the eight new participants in Cohort 2 to the program on Monday 5 February.

“The participant’s business ideas range from the development of apps and software platforms that support producers and agricultural suppliers, and developing new food products to diversify farming income, to a financial support service and new methods for enhancing travellers’ health,” Professor Mawson said. “The Incubator team is excited to be helping the participants turn these ideas into a reality.”

The Incubator is funded by the NSW Department of Industry with significant additional funding from CSU.

The program concludes on 26 March with the participants pitching their business idea to invited guests at the AgriTech Incubator in building 6 at CSU in Wagga Wagga.

The AgriTech Incubator is available to be used as a co-working, meeting and event space.  Contact Project Officer Siobhain Howard for further information and bookings.

Contact: Siobhain Howard E:

Call for livestock producers to complete survey

Dr Jennifer ManyweathersResearchers from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation are calling for cattle, sheep, goat and dairy producers to complete an online survey as part of research to improve animal health and biosecurity.

“Livestock producers play a vital role in surveillance for animal diseases and the survey aims to find out about their management practices and attitudes towards biosecurity,” said Postdoctoral researcher Dr Jennifer Manyweathers.

The research is part of the FMD Ready project, which aims to improve surveillance, preparedness and return to trade from emergency animal disease incursions using foot-and-mouth disease as a model.

Producers can take part in the survey by clicking on the link below:

The project is supported by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), through funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit programme, and by producer levies from Australian FMD-susceptible livestock (cattle, sheep, goats and pigs) industries and Charles Sturt University (CSU), leveraging significant in-kind support from the research partners.

The research partners for this project are the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), CSU through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, supported by Animal Health Australia.

Make a note in your diary

Friday 1 June and Friday 22 June. The Graham Centre Science and Agriculture Enrichment Day is an opportunity for high school students to gain insight and practical experience of our research.

Wednesday 4 July. The Graham Centre Livestock forum (combined with the 2018 Australian Society of Animal Production Conference) will feature innovation and research for beef and sheep producers.

Thursday 2 August and Friday 3 August. The Agribusiness Today forum and field day has the theme ‘mixed farming technology’. On Thursday 2 August the forum will be held at the Parkes Ex-Services Club and the field day will be held in the Parkes area on Friday 3 August. Find out more here.

Monday 10 to Thursday 13 September. The Australasian Grain Science Association Conference will be held at CSU in Wagga Wagga and highlight grain science from paddock to plate.


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In the Limelight: Jane Heller

Associate Professor Jane HellerName: Jane Heller

Position: Associate Professor in Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health

Organisation: School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at Charles Sturt University

Career Brief: After a BSc and BVSc I worked as a companion animal veterinarian before heading back to the University of Sydney to do an intern year, which was followed by a Masters. I then went to the University of Glasgow where I was employed as a research fellow. I completed at PhD in antimicrobial resistance and my specialist training for veterinary public health while at the University of Glasgow. I came back to Australia in 2009 to take up a lectureship in veterinary epidemiology and public health at CSU and have been here since. I am now employed as an Associate Professor.

Research and Teaching Activities and Interests

Research activities

The main theme of my research is bacterial zoonotic disease and my research fits firmly within the One Health sphere. I have a particular interest in antimicrobial resistance and the shared responsibility of human and animal spheres to address this pressing public and animal health issue. I currently have projects on E.coli O157, Q fever, MRSA, Brucellosis, Antimicrobial stewardship and Chlamydia psittaci.

Teaching activities

I am currently a discipline lead for the BVSc/BVetBiol degree, with responsibility for the middle third of the degree (Phase 2 – runs over 2 years), which covers the problem-based learning component. I also coordinate a first year subject “Introductory Veterinary Epidemiology” and a fifth year subject “Public Health and Biosecurity 2” in the vet degree. I teach into a number of other subjects as well, with the aim of making epidemiology, public health and evidence-based medicine something that is accessible and interesting to our students (it’s a tough gig!).

I am also very interested in student mental health and, with Lynne Hayes, have implemented a wellness program, “The Odyssey Program”, for the vet students to try to promote wellness and self-care.

I also currently supervise a number of fantastic PhD students, who inspire me with their dedication, interest and knowledge in their areas of research.

Professional Links

I am a member of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists, in the Epidemiology and Public Health chapters. I obtained diplomate status of the European College of Veterinary Public Health in 2010. I am a member of the Society of Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, the National Epidemiology Teaching Network, the Public Health University Network and have examined for the ANZCVSc since 2015. I sit on the MLHD Infection Control Committee, am a member of the “One Health Partnership” national expert group, am an expert member of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Pilot Program, run by the Australian Veterinary Association and am an executive board member for the ‘SnakeMap’ project, run by ANZCVSc. I am also contributing to the Athena Swan application process for CSU, which is a program that aims to enhance gender equity in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine).

A typical day for me includes …

Responding to emails, teleconferences / meetings with collaborators, PhD students and other members of SAVS, some epidemiological analyses (I wish I had time for more), reading student work (PhD and Honours mostly) and reviewing papers, organising and delivering teaching (during session time) and a few more meetings for good measure!

My main project at the moment is …

Completing an internal review on Phase 2 teaching within the BVSc/BVetBiol degree. In terms of research, it is developing an exciting project on antimicrobial resistance and stewardship across animal industries.

My favourite part of my job is …

Being a disease detective!  I LOVE establishing new links and figuring out why disease occurs and spreads as it does. I also love contributing to student wellness and interacting with our amazing undergraduates – and seeing them start to understand and use epidemiological concepts is a bonus. My final favourite part is being part of the transformation that occurs in HDR students – watching them gain confidence and skill and leapfrog me in terms of ability is just priceless.

When I am not in the office I like …

Spending time with my gorgeous family. I have two very busy girls and it’s a challenge to keep up with them on most days. I also like spending time in the garden and on our property in general – watching the sun set from our verandah with a gin and tonic is probably my favourite thing to do.

When I am driving I like to listen to …

Bad 1980’s tunes. But I mostly end up listening to whatever my kids think is cool at the moment.


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In the Limelight: Adam Frew

Dr Adam FrewName: Adam Frew

Position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Organisation: School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences at Charles Sturt University (CSU)

Career Brief: I am an ecologist with broad interests in soil ecology and plant-insect interactions. I also have a specific focus on the role of silicon in plants and how this impacts plant growth and resistance to stress.

I joined CSU in May 2017 as a research fellow when I was successful in obtaining a CSU Faculty of Science Research Fellowship, working primarily with Professor Leslie Weston and Professor Geoff Gurr, but also with internal and external collaborators.

Prior to this I completed my PhD at Western Sydney University at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment under the supervision of Associate Professor Scott Johnson and Associate Professor Jeff Powell. My PhD focused on how components of the soil environment (specifically arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and silicon) impact sugarcane resistance to root-feeding insects.

Before moving to Australia I completed my undergraduate and Honours at the University of St Andrews in Scotland where I researched silicon enhanced plant resistance to aphid and powdery mildew in barley.

Research and Teaching Activities and Interests

My research aims to gain an understanding of how plants interact with their environment, in defences against antagonists (insects, pathogens), and also in their interactions with co-evolved plant microbial symbionts. Gaining this knowledge can reveal opportunities to exploit these relationships and defence strategies in sustainable and effective agriculture. The Australian landscape offers unique and disparate environments and therefore presents opportunities to investigate these ecological interactions to add to our knowledge of ecosystem function and inform practitioners.

In the coming year I look forward to contributing lectures to invertebrate and ecology-based subjects.

Professional Links

Member of Ecological Society of Australia and the British Ecological Society.

Associate Editor for Austral Ecology.

A typical day for me includes …

This can vary quite a bit, as most researchers know. I am either tending to an experiment in the glasshouse/growth chamber, or I am in the lab staining roots for mycorrhizal colonisation or some plant chemical assay, or I am at my desk writing papers or grants.

My main project at the moment is …

Currently I am investigating the role of silicon in plant biology and how silicon acts to increase resistance to insect and fungal antagonists. I am also concurrently exploring how arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi alter plant-invertebrate interactions through changes in plant nutritional and defence chemistry.

My favourite part of my job is …

I am driven by my interest in the natural world. Although some aspects of the job can be monotonous, if it results in an interesting finding or stimulates good discussion then it is worth it. I particularly enjoy writing, as this is often when I get the opportunity to pull all the work together and tell a fascinating story (sometimes).

When I am not in the office I like …

To spend time with my partner and my Scottish Terrier Hamish. I enjoy the gym, swimming, watching NRL or just sitting back and watching Netflix.

When I am driving I like to listen to …

Triple J or podcasts that make me laugh.


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