Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

CSU Graduation: PhD a family celebration

When Dr Nirodha Weeraratne is awarded her PhD on Monday 10 December, the moment will be celebrated with family, including her parents who are travelling to Wagga Wagga from Sri Lanka for the ceremony.

Dr Weeraratne, from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation and Charles Sturt University (CSU) School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences, will be awarded her PhD for her five years’ of research into a bacterium responsible for sheath brown rot of rice.

“Bacterial sheath rot disease of rice is actually a complex disease, which has shown significant yield loss, quality and quantity wise,” Dr Weeraratne said.

“My research found strains of the bacterium Pseudomonas fuscovaginae from Australian rice plants were pathogenic to wheat. Importantly the strains isolated from wheat from other countries could cause disease on Australian rice cultivars. All the strains were genetically diverse allowing adaptation to multiple host plants.

"Though sheath brown rot is considered a minor disease at the moment, it is imperative that we keep screening our rice and wheat crops regularly, given the changing climate.

"My study provides information that could be used to develop tools for quarantine and also to breed resistant rice and wheat cultivars."

Dr Weeraratne continues to pursue her interest in studying rice diseases in northern Australia as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University of Southern Queensland.