Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation


Table of Contents

  • From the Director
  • Research pays off for Graham Centre graduates
  • Congratulations
  • Members recognised for contribution to agronomy
  • Twilight weed walk
  • Graham Centre expertise at work overseas
  • Conferences
  • Clean sweep at crop comp
  • AgriTech Incubator gathers momentum
  • Gauging the perceptions of beef consumers
  • Adding to the toolkit to control fruit fly
  • Research to improve pig production
  • Staying one step ahead of FMD
  • Graduation for NSW DPI supported Honours students
  • In the limelight: Jhoana Opena
  • In the limelight: Panos Loukopoulos

From the Director

Professor Michael FriendWelcome to the new online edition of the Innovator. After a brief stint away as acting Pro-Vice Chancellor (Global Engagement, Research and Partnerships), it is good to be back in the Director’s chair.  Many thanks to Marta for stepping into the Director’s role in my absence and doing such a great job.

Our leadership team (Pathway Leaders) has been working through the Centre’s investment plan for 2018. While we don’t yet know our budget allocation from DVC-RDI, we expect to receive a similar amount to 2017.  The Research Centre Fellowship Scheme is being disbanded across all Centres, so this provides some opportunities for the Graham Centre to provide more flexible funding to support the research of our members – watch this space.

Our members have been very successful in securing funding for some large initiatives of late, including work in Dung Beetles as part of a Rural Research and Development for Profit national project, Sorghum quality (GRDC), capability building in the red meat industry (AMPC), image analysis for meat quality (AMPC) and several large initiatives partnering with the industry in beef cattle research, funded through the MLA Donor Company.  Congratulations to all those involved in developing these project proposals. Additionally, a number of our members have contributed to developing proposals for the Farming Smarter CRC bid, which has progressed to a Phase 2 proposal.  If successful, our members will be involved in projects investigating the potential for precision agriculture approaches in the grains and red meat industries.

Finally, I wish to thank the Centre staff, members and stakeholders for their support during 2017. It has been a very busy and productive year and I wish you all an enjoyable and relaxing Christmas and New Year.

Professor Michael Friend


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Research pays off for Graham Centre graduates

Congratulations to PhD, Masters and Honours students from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation who graduated from CSU on Tuesday 12 December.

Centre Director Professor Michael Friend said, “Graduation is a time to celebrate the achievements of our students, their hard work and dedication over many years and the contributions their research has made to improving the profitability and sustainabuility of our primary industries.

“We saw the graduation of 11 PhD students, a Master of Philosophy student, and 11 Honours students whose research has been supported by Graham Centre scholarships.”

Graham Centre PhD graduates

  • Dr Muhammad Kamran ’s PhD research has identified the best conditions for harvesting and processing Australian olive leaves to maximise the yield of beneficial chemical compounds called biophenols.Read more here.
  • Dr Kyle Reynolds was awarded his PhD for  research investigating if genetic engineering can be used to develop a more sustainable source of vegetable oil production. Read more here.
  • Dr Jessica Rose was awarded her PhD for research which increases our understanding of the brain control of reproduction in merino rams. Read more here.
  • Dr Dominik Skoneczny’s PhD compared Paterson’s curse plants collected from Australia, Portugal and Spain to examine the genetics, ecology and chemistry of the plant in various locations. He was awarded the Higher Degree by Research  University Medal. Read more here.
  • Dr Jesmin Aktar’s PhD showed perennial wheat can survive for three years, regrow and produce grain and forage, showing its potential as an option for mixed farmers. Read more here.
  • Dr Kylie Crampton was awarded her PhD for research examining root-lesion nematodes, a costly pest for the grain industry. Read more here.
  • Dr Clare Flakelar’s PhD research has examined the bioactive compounds in canola oil and the impact of agronomic practices, processing and storage. Read more here.
  • Dr Marefa Jahan’s PhD focused on sialic acids, a type of sugar molecule in milk and its impact on pig production and human health. Read more here.
  • Dr William Kerua was awarded his PhD for research to recognise farmers’ perspectives in research, development and extension in Cocoa production.Read more here.
  • Dr Susan Orgill was awarded her PhD for research demonstrating that the ability of soil to sequester Carbon is driven by regional climate and soil properties more than farming practice.Read more here.
  • Dr Aaron Preston’s PhD research is set to help grain growers control annual ryegrass, with a faster testing method for herbicide resistance. Read more here.

Master of Philosophy

  • Mr Cassius Coombs was awarded a Master of Philosophy for research examining the impact of chilled and frozen storage on meat.

Honours research

  • Graham Centre Honours scholarships support the research of CSU undergraduate students, and this year 11 scholarship recipients graduated. Ms Emma Lynch, Mr Thomas Keogh, Ms Veronika Vicic, Ms Rebecca Barnewall, Ms Jennifer Connor, Ms Marnie Hodge, Ms Annabel Stoddart, Ms Grace Whiteley and Mr Mark Harrison were awarded Bachelor of Animal Science (Honours). Mr Tabin Brooks was awarded his Bachelor of Science (Honours) and Mr Alistair Dart was awarded a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours)


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Food scientist appointed to GRDC Board

Professor Chris BlanchardA Graham Centre scientist with a passion for innovation to develop new products and markets for grain growers has been appointed to the Board of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Leader of the Centre’s grain and meat quality pathway, Professor Chris Blanchard began his three-year term on the GRDC Board on Sunday 1 October.

“My research interest is in the area of grain quality and investigating ways to improve the value of grain,” Professor Blanchard said.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity of serving as a Board member of the Grains Research and Development Corporation to help drive investment in projects and partnerships to increase the profitability of the Australian grains industry.”

Professor Blanchard is the Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Functional Grains. Read more here.

Contact: Professor Chris Blanchard T: (02) 6933 2364

3MT- opportunity to develop skills

Graham Centre PhD student Ms Cara Wilson, represented Charles Sturt University (CSU) at the Asia-Pacific Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition held at the University of Queensland in Brisbane on Friday 29 September.

Ms Cara WilsonThe aim of the competition is to summarise PhD research into an engaging three-minute presentation that can be understood by people from all disciplines using only one static slide.

Ms Wilson’s presentation “War on waste: It’s not just plastic bags” described the wastage caused by hydatid disease (Echinococcus granulosus) in the Australian beef industry and how she plans to investigate this disease and reduce wastage.

The final saw her compete against 54 other finalists from universities throughout the Asia-Pacific.

Ms Wilson was awarded an Editor’s Choice award and will be featured in Cosmos Magazine.

“The competition was an amazing experience and I got to meet so many talented people,” Ms Wilson said. “I entered the competition just to have a go and build on my presenting skills, and look where I ended up! I will definitely be recommending this competition to others.”

You can watch Ms Wilson’s presentation here.

Contact: Ms Cara Wilson T: (02) 6933 2012   E:

New view of caterpillar metamorphosis

A 3-D x-ray MicroCT image of the tracheal system within a Morpho didius butterfly. The butterfly was imaged during its metamorphosis from its caterpillar form.The work of Graham Centre member, Charles Sturt University (CSU) medical radiation scientist Dr Mark Greco was featured in David Attenborough Micro Monsters program on ABC TV.

Dr Greco has developed innovative methods for studying insects and their behaviour using non-invasive imaging which is termed ‘diagnostic radioentemology’ (DR).

The program broadcast previously on BBC TV and recently on ABC TV on Tuesday 10 October detailed the use of a Micro-CT scan of a butterfly chrysalis to reveal in real-time the internal physiological processes occurring within caterpillars during metamorphosis.

Read more on CSU News here and watch the videos here.

Contact: Dr Mark Greco T: (02) 693 34554 E:


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Members recognised for contribution to agronomy

The work of Graham Centre members Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley and Dr John Angus has added to our understanding of agronomy, changed practices on-farm and nurtured new generations of scientists and industry professionals.

photo of Professor Jim Pratley and Dr John AngusIn recognition of that important contribution, Professor Pratley and Dr Angus have been awarded Fellowships of the Australian Society of Agronomy, at the annual conference in Ballarat on Tuesday 26 September.

Chairman of the Society's Fellowship Committee, Dr Chris Korte said, "The award recognises Professor Pratley's outstanding contribution to Australian agriculture and education as a research scientist, lecturer, author, administrator, mentor and Emeritus Professor."

Professor Pratley currently leads the Graham Centre's plant systems research pathway. He was the foundation Dean of the Faculty of Science and Agriculture at Charles Sturt University and is secretary of the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture.

Professor Pratley has served as President of the Australian Society of Agronomy and Vice President of the International Allelopathy Society. His research has focused on conservation farming, herbicide resistance, weed science, and the development and management of self-weeding crops.

Dr Korte said, "Dr Angus has made an outstanding contribution to Australian and international agronomy, especially in the management of nitrogen and understanding interaction within crop sequences through research, development and extension."

Dr Angus retired as a Chief Research Scientist from CSIRO in 2010 after working in the Plant Industry and Land Use Divisions from 1973 and is now farming in Stockinbingal. He has been awarded fellowships by the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science (1993) and by the American Society of Agronomy (2001) and in 2006 he received the Medal of Australian Agriculture.

Dr Angus has also served as President of Agronomy Australia and is a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy. His research involved simulation and experimental studies on crop phasic development, water and nitrogen productivity of dryland crops, the effects of crop and pasture sequences and the agronomy of irrigated rice.

Contact: Professor Pratley T: (02) 6933 2862 E:

Contact: Dr Angus T: 0429 669 332 E:


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Twilight weed walk

Graham Centre research on crop and weed management was on show at the annual ‘Twilight weed and crop walk’ held in September.

Dr Bill Brown addresses the crowd at the Twilight weed and crop walkMore than 40 farmers, consultants, agronomists and researchers wandered through the trials at the Graham Centre Field site to hear presentations from our scientists.

The event featured research into long-term farming rotations to reduce the weed seedbank, barley grass management, weeds suppressive and drought tolerant legumes and pastures and herbicide tolerant faba beans.

Contact: Dr Bill Brown T: (02) 6933 4174 E:

Jon Shuter, TAFE NSW Primary Industries Centre, Peter Campbell ‘Avondale’ Henty and Nigel Phillips NSW DPI.Steve Babin, Ag N Vet Temora with Evan Smart from ‘Coreena’ EurongillyCSU PhD student Jhoana Opena and Chris Minehan RMS Agricultural Consultants and GRDC Regional cropping Solutions NetworkSandy Biddulph farm consultant Cootamundra, Simon Flinn NSW DPI, Dr John Broster CSU


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Graham Centre expertise at work overseas

Building capacity for biological control in Asian agriculture

Professor Geoff Gurr in ChinaGraham Centre member Professor Geoff Gurr helped deliver an innovative training program focusing on biodiversity and biological control of pests in Asia’s intensified agricultural systems.

The week-long workshop in September was run by the International Organisation for Biological Control (IOBC) was targeted at students and young professionals.

It was delivered simultaneously in Beijing and Hanoi with Skyped video lectures and forums interspersing field visits and practical exercises in both locations.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow in arthropod pest management, Dr Jian Liu took part in the workshop along with 60 other participants from more than a dozen nations.

Professor Gurr, a Professor of applied ecology at Charles Sturt University’s School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences also visited collaborators in China at Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences.The training program on biodiversity and biological control of pests featured practical exercises.

“The aim of the visit was to promote conservation biological control, which is becoming more popular since it has been embraced in Chinese Government policies and guidelines.

Professor Gurr and Dr Liu also presented aspects of their research at the International Symposium for Biological Control of Arthropods, held in Malaysia in late September.

Contact: Professor Geoff Gurr T: (02) 6365 7551 E:

Managing Grasslands sustainably

Graham Centre member, Professor David Kemp gave the primary plenary address ‘Managing Grasslands Sustainably’ to the annual conference of the Chinese Grassland Society, in Guangzhou in early November.

Professor Kemp said, “The Grasslands Society in China, based at China Agricultural University in Beijing, is supported by the Chinese Government.

“It has several branches within the Society, working from the arid zones and high mountains to intensive tropical forages and turf.”

The three-day meeting was attended by 800 delegates and included many students, academics and international speakers.

In north Asia the next big event will be the joint Japan-China-Korea grasslands biennial meeting to be held in Sapporo, Japan from 8-10 July, 2018.

Contact: Professor David Kemp T: (02) 6365 7526   E:

Pest and disease management in PNG

Improving pest and disease management in crops in Papua New Guinea is the focus of Graham Centre member, Dr Jian Liu’s current research.

Dr Jian Liu visited PNG recently as part of her research into improved strategies for pest and disease managementDr Liu, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in arthropod pest management, recently travelled to Goroka in the PNG Highlands as part of an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) funded project.

Dr Liu and her research collaborators Dr Gunar Kirchhof and Dr Ryo Fujinuma, from the University of Queensland, visited the PNG National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) station in Aiyura and the Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA) in Goroka.

“I worked with local staff on field samples and planning further on-station field work,” Dr Liu said.”A highlight was visiting farms in the Asaro valley where novel pest and disease management strategies are being trialled.”

Contact: Dr Jian Liu T: (02) 6365 7767 E:


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Student leadership conference

Graham Centre PhD candidates Ms Forough Ataollahi and Mr Sajid Latif took part in the Charles Sturt University (CSU) student leadership conference held in Dubbo.

They represented international students from CSU in Wagga Wagga at the three-day event from Monday 30 October to Wednesday 1 November 2017.

Mr Latif said, "This conference was a great platform to explore the leadership potential of participants and to learn how to be effective leaders empowered with a stronger sense of self-awareness and confidence.

photo of Ms Forough Ataollahi and Mr Sajid Latif at the CSU student leadership conference"It was helpful to understand how to get better prepared with essential skills and tools in order to lead in a professional and social leadership role in future situations."

More than 60 students from a range of disciplines and from all CSU campuses attended the conference.

Ms Ataollahi said, "The conference aimed to inspire students to utilise and increase practical leadership skills, to build a network of collaborative students to create a life-long sense of connection and to engage critical thinking to influence the world for the better and stretch personal leadership boundaries to explore professional and personal development."

Already displaying student leadership, Ms Ataollahi has also has been elected as the first ever Women Officer on the Council of International Students Australia (CISA). Read more on CSU News.

Contact: Ms Forough Ataollahi T: (02) 6933 2122   E:

Mr Sajid Latif  T:  0406 727 096  E:

Building networks

Associate Professor Shokoofeh Shamsi attended the first symposium of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Alumni Association in Australia (JSPSAAA) from Monday 9 to Wednesday 12 October.

Formally established in February 2017, the JSPSAAA membership consists of former and current JSPS fellowship recipients. Its aims are to engage Australian scientists with collaborative links to Japan and to enhance the strong bilateral science and research relationship between Australia and Japan.

Professor Shamsi, from CSU's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, spoke about her research in a presentation titled, 'Shared love, shared risk: Australian and Japanese perspectives on research into parasites in seafood' and also chaired a session on research in the field of medical sciences.

For the full program and how to join the society see

Contact: Associate Professor Shokoofeh Shamsi T: (02) 6933 4887 E:

Spotlight on pig science research

Graham Centre PhD candidate Ms Marefa Jahan and Honours students Ms Jennifer Connor and Ms Marnie Hodge
Graham Centre PhD candidate Ms Marefa Jahan and Honours students Ms Jennifer Connor and Ms Marnie Hodge were awarded scholarships from Australian Pork Limited and the Pork Cooperative Research Centre (Pork CRC) to attend the Biennial Conference of Australian Pig Science Association, held recently in Melbourne.


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Clean sweep at crop comp

Charles Sturt University (CSU) agricultural science students have claimed top honours at the Australian Universities Crops Competition (AUCC).

Thomas Jeffery Mr Nicholas Grant, Mr Danyon WilliamsThe annual competition organised by national grain farmers' representative body, GrainGrowers tests students' practical knowledge of crop production and the grains industry.

CSU won the team competition and students from the University picked up the first three places in the individual category.

Over the three-day event, CSU Bachelor of Agricultural Science students Mr Andrew Lord, Mr Thomas Jeffery, Mr Fraser Harrison, Mr Nicholas Grant, Mr Danyon Williams, Mr Angus Knight and Mr Elliot Lade competed in a range of agronomic and assessment tasks.

Mr Grant was awarded first place overall, Mr Williams second and Mr Jeffery was awarded third place.

Comments from the team

All three students will now take part in a study tour of the United States in April 2018, where they will compete in the Collegiate Crops Judging Contest in Kansas City.

"I'm looking forward to the study tour, to learning more and seeing the scale of agricultural production in the United States," Mr Grant said. "Apparently they take the crop judging very seriously over there so taking part in the competition will be a whole new experience and I'm excited about the prospect."

Mr Williams said, "It was good to put the skills I have learnt at University into practice and I am looking forward to seeing the United States grains industry."

Mr Jeffery described the competition as a rewarding experience. "It was good to build my knowledge about summer crops and pulses."

Team mentor and CSU lecturer in crop science, Dr Sergio Moroni said, "This is an outstanding result for the members of the team and rewards their hard work and training to prepare for the competition.

"It also demonstrates that the agricultural science program at Charles Sturt University is industry relevant and prepares our students for the workforce,"Dr Moroni said.

In 2017 more than 30 students from five universities took part in the AUCC in Temora from Tuesday 12 to Thursday 14 September.

CSU crop judging teamTeam member, Mr Lade said, "We certainly did a lot of training in the lead up to the competition and we had a good bunch of blokes to get together and help each other out."

Mr Lord said, "The competition opened my eyes to how much I still have to learn about agriculture and the opportunities that exist in the industry for future farming."

Mr Knight said the competition was a valuable networking opportunity. "It was great to meet peers from other universities but also to mix with industry representatives and leaders," said Mr Knight.

Mr Harrison said, "I now have mates in Western Australia who are just as excited about agriculture as I am, people that I wouldn't have met otherwise."

The team from CSU's School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences in Wagga Wagga was supported by the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.

Contact: Dr Sergio Moroni T:02 6933 2914


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AgriTech Incubator gathers momentum

The AgriTech Incubator at Charles Sturt University (CSU) is providing new opportunity for Riverina start-up businesses to workshop ideas, hone business models and develop new skills.

The Member for Wagga Daryl Maguire launched the CSU AgriTech Incubator in SeptemberOfficially launched in September, the AgriTech Incubator provides co-working space and runs tailored Incubator programs, where businesses can tap into the expertise of CSU academics and business mentors.

Applications are still being considered for the next eight-week Incubator program beginning in February but places are limited. Apply here.

Located at building 6 at CSU in Wagga Wagga, The AgriTech Incubator is also now available to be used as a co-working and meeting space.

The AgriTech Incubator has been funded by a grant from the Boosting Business Innovation program of the NSW Department of Industry, supported by additional funding from CSU.

Contact: E:


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Gauging the perceptions of beef consumers

Dr Michael Campbell and Rod PolkinghorneWhen you’re standing in front of a chiller cabinet at your local butcher or supermarket how do you decide which package of meat to buy?

Researchers from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, in conjunction with the beef industry, conducted consumer preference research to better understand perceptions of meat colour and appearance.

A recent trial held at Charles Sturt University (CSU) asked hundreds of consumers to score different packages of meat based on a visual basis.

CSU lecturer Dr Michael Campbell said, “Our research aims to give retailers and processors more information about what consumers think about the appearance of meat that’s been packaged in different ways.

“We hope to provide solid evidence and practical guidelines to maximise product quality and shelf life to deliver products that consumers’ desire.”

The project draws together researchers and meat scientists from across the country with strong support from industry.

“The Graham Centre aims to identify and realise opportunities to improve the profitability of the red meat value chain and this research is a good example of how we’re working with industry.

“The samples collected in this project were a sub-set of samples that were sent to Texas Tech University in the United States and the University of New England as part of another industry project.

“The three universities are focused on delivering commercial outcomes for industry and continue to work in partnership to achieve this,” Dr Campbell said.

Contact: Dr Michael Campbell T: 02 6933 2427 E:


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Adding to the toolkit to control fruit fly

Dr Olivia ReynoldsThe Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is supporting NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) research into biological control agents to better manage the biosecurity pest, Queensland fruit fly (Qfly).

Centre member and NSW DPI senior research scientist, Dr Olivia Reynolds, is examining how native parasitoid wasps, which attack the Qfly eggs and larvae, could be used to manage the pest.

"Qfly is a significant issue for Australia's $9 billion horticulture industry.  They attack most commercial fruits and many fruiting vegetables, impacting on market access for Australian horticulture," Dr Reynolds said.

"Chemicals used to manage Qfly in the past have been restricted or banned, so identifying cost-effective and environmentally-friendly management is a priority.

"There are several native and edemic parasitoids that are natural enemies of Qfly  and my team's collaborative research aims to understand more about how they can be used as part of area wide and intergrated pest management programs," Dr Reynolds said.

Sterile insect technique (SIT), where large numbers of sterile male flys are released to mate with wild females, is used to suppress, or even eradicate populations of Qfly, for example in oubreak situations in fruit fly free areas.

"With considerable investment in SIT in Australia, we are now researching complementary management practices, particularly the use of fruit fly parasitoids to manage Qfly," Dr Reynolds said.

"Modelling suggests combining SIT with parasitoids will be more effective than either technique on its own. Parasitoids are target specific, and environmentally 'soft', so their use may complement other Qfly management practices.

"The research has been to the test during November in walk-in field cage experiments at NSW DPI's Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute."

Dr Reynolds is also working with Plant & Food NZ, investigating what attracts the beneficial parasitoids to different fruits.

"The aim is to provide a balanced approach for horticultural industries, so growers can better use biological control agents to maximise their effectiveness and reduce pesticide use."

Dr Reynolds' research is supported by a Graham Centre Research Centre Fellowship. In 2017 the Centre awarded almost $500,000 in fellowships to support the research of its members.

Contact: Dr Olivia Reynolds T: (02) 4640 6200, E:


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Research to improve pig production

Sows with more milk and faster growing piglets are some of the benefits seen in Charles Sturt University (CSU) research investigating supplementing the diets of young pregnant pigs with a macro-nutrient found in milk.

Professor Bing Wang and Dr Marefa JahanThe research led by Professor Bing Wang from CSU's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, has been examining the use of Lactoferrin as a feed supplement.

"Lactoferrin is an iron-binding glycoprotein found in milk that benefits immunity, neurodevelopment, health and growth performance," Professor Wang said.

"Our study found that gilts, or sows in their first pregnancy, fed a supplement of Lactoferrin throughout pregnancy and lactation had significantly increased milk production at different times compared to a control group.

"Their piglets also gained more body weight during the first 19 days of life and the research indicated that it tended to increase pregnancy rate, litter size and birth weight and the number of piglets born alive."

Professor Wang hopes the results will be used by pig producers to increase the profitability of their herds.

"Our research has shown this macro-nutrient could be used as a functional ingredient in the feed of pregnant gilts and sows to boost the health status and productivity of their litters," Professor Wang said.

The research is outlined in a paper titled, 'Dietary Lactoferrin Supplementation to Gilts during Gestation and Lactation Improves Pig Production and Immunity', and published online in the journal PLOS on .

It is part of a project funded by the national Pork Co-operative Research Centre (Pork CRC).

'Dietary Lactoferrin Supplementation to Gilts during Gestation and Lactation Improves Pig Production and Immunity' published in the journal PLOS one is by Ms Marefa Jahan, Ms Susie Kracht, Ms Yen Ho, Dr Ziaul Haque, Dr Birendra N. Bhattachatyya, Professor Peter Wynn and Professor Bing Wang.

Contact: Professor Bing Wang T: (02) 6933 4549 E:


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Staying one step ahead of FMD

Graham Centre researchers Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover and Dr Jennifer Manyweathers have shared their expertise at a workshop to prepare Australia for a major disease outbreak like FMD.

Dr Marta Hernandez-Jover and Dr Jennifer ManyweathersHosted by Animal Health Australia (AHA), the workshop in September was part of the Improved Surveillance, Preparedness and Return to Trade for Emergency Animal Disease Incursions Using FMD as a Model Project (The Project).

Principal Research Scientist at the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Dr Wilna Vosloo, said, “Australia is free from FMD due to our strict biosecurity measures. However, an outbreak of the disease would cost Australia’s livestock industries billions of dollars, mainly because of restrictions on the exports of animals and animal products.

“This Project includes a number of sub-projects, all of which are looking at different ways we can effectively prepare for, control and contain an FMD outbreak as efficiently and quickly as possible.

“In particular, these sub-projects involve studying vaccine options, demonstrating the value of farmer-led partnerships in animal health surveillance, improving outbreak modelling capability and developing tools that would assist in determining how farm-to-farm spread is occurring.

“The workshop allowed research and funding partners to come together and discuss the progress we’ve made.

“I’m pleased to report we’re on track, with some great work done in establishing the farmer-led surveillance study and gene sequencing to track the spread of the virus. We’ve also established a research project website and social media presence to keep everyone up-to-date,” said Dr Vosloo.

The Graham Centre’s role

The Graham Centre is involved in the Farmer-led Surveillance sub-project.

Professor Hernandez-Jover said, “We are seeking the participation of Australian producers in a pilot program demonstrating the value of farmer-led partnerships for improving livestock surveillance at the farm level, for endemic and emergency animal diseases.

“The rural community plays a vital role in biosecurity and partnership is essential for effective surveillance systems.”

As part of this research sheep, goat and beef producers are being asked to take part in an online survey.

“This online survey aims to build our knowledge about Australian producers, their animal health management, and attitudes towards surveillance for emergency animal diseases,” Dr Hernandez-Jover said.

“We want to investigate how producers can be better supported to improve on-farm profitability and animal health management, through innovative communication and extension approaches.”

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

The Project is supported by Meat & Livestock Australia, through funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural Research & Development for Profit program, 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 CSIRO, CSU through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, supported by AHA.

For more information visit the projects website

Photos courtesy of Animal Health Australia.


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Graduation for NSW DPI supported Honours students

Charles Sturt University (CSU) Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) students, Mr Hayden Petty and Ms Jessica Simpson have graduated after completing their honours research in conjunction with NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

CSU Honours student Ms Jessica Simpson and Mr Hayden PettyThe students from CSU’s School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences conducted their Honours research projects as part of the Southern Cropping Capacity Building project co-funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation and  NSW DPI, which supported their study and employment.

In a year where the Riverina experienced an extreme number of freezing morning temperatures, Mr Petty’s Honours research focused on the management practices to reduce the impact of frost damage on wheat.

“Wheat is the most sensitive cereal crop to frost damage, and frost during the critical reproductive development stages limits the yield potential of the crop,” Mr Petty said.

“My research investigated if the freezing point of sensitive plant tissues can be altered through manipulating water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) during reproductive development.

“We manipulated the WSC through either shading in glasshouse experiments or by varying Nitrogen fertiliser treatments in field trials.”

Ironically, the 92 frosts during the growing season resulted in significant frost damage in the field trials, limiting the ability to assess the impact of the fertiliser.

“From these findings the concept of freezing point depression during reproductive development needs to be further investigated,” Mr Petty said. “Increasing WSC concentrations through varietal selection and targeted nitrogen management may offer an additional management practice to mitigate losses to frost.”

Ms Simpson’s Honours research project investigated the impact of plant-growth regulators on the root development of barley.

“Plant growth regulators are used to reduce plant height in cereals, particularly in farming systems which are susceptible to lodging such as in high rainfall areas or under intensive management,” Ms Simpson said.

“But there have been indications that applying these chemicals may also modify other plant characteristics, such as root growth.

“My research investigated the impact of two commonly-used PGRs, trinexapac ethyl (TE) and chlormequat chloride (CCC) on the root growth of the barley cultivar Compass.

“I found that the application of TE and CCC at the recommended time of stem elongation didn’t effect root or shoot growth.

“But when applied during early growth stages, the response to TE ranged from inhibiting to completely retarding root growth, while it also significantly inhibited shoot DM, rate of leaf extension, and rate of tiller appearance.

“Further research into the interaction between PGRs and cultivars as well as environment is required to better understand plant response to the growth regulators. “

Ms Simpson and Mr Petty were supervised by Graham Centre member, Dr Sergio Moroni from CSU’s School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences and Dr Felicity Harris from NSW DPI.

They graduated in a ceremony on Tuesday 12 December at CSU in Wagga Wagga.


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In the limelight: Jhoana Opena

PhD candidate Jhoana Opena
Supervisors: Dr Sergio Moroni, Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley, Professor Deirdre Lemerle and Dr Hanwen Wu
Thesis title:
Impacts of pasture legume phase on the seedbank, establishment, and growth of barnyard grass (Echinochloa crus-galli) in drill-sown rice.
Funding body: AgriFutures Australia

Career and studies till now

Jhoana previously worked as an associate scientist at the International Rice Research Institute under the weed science group

Currently studying

Effects of the pasture legumes on the seedbank dynamics and growth of barnyard grass weed

Research Interests

Weed ecology and biology, weed population dynamics, allelopathy, integrated weed management in rice-based cropping systems

Professional Links

Weed Science Society of the Philippines

A typical day for me includes...

Enjoying a nice cup of coffee

PhD candidate Jhoana Opena on a field visit

My main project at the moment is...

My PhD research

My favourite part of my studies is...

Engaging discussions with rice farmers in Australia

When I am not studying I like to...

Go for a walk

When I am driving I like to listen to...

I don’t drive but if I’m in the car I like to listen to news or pop songs


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In the limelight: Panos Loukopoulos

photo of Panos Loukopoulos
Position: Senior lecturer in veterinary pathology

Organisation: School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at Charles Sturt University (CSU).

Career Brief

I am a veterinary pathologist with CSU’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.

I joined CSU in 2014 after working as a diagnostic veterinary pathologist at the California Animal Health and Food Safety lab of the University of California Davis, a leading diagnostic lab focusing on farm animal pathology.

I graduated as a veterinarian from Aristotle University (Greece) and served for two years as an army officer (veterinarian). I also worked briefly as a vet before completing a Postgraduate Diploma in anaesthesia studies at the University of Queensland on an Australian-European Awards Program. That was followed by a PhD on pathology on a University of Queensland scholarship.

I was then fortunate enough to receive an Invitation Fellowship to work for two years on human liver and pancreatic cancer genomics at the National Cancer Center in Tokyo. After that I joined Aristotle University as a lecturer, then Assistant Professor of veterinary pathology for several years.

I have authored or co-authored over 50 journal articles and I am a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, a leading journal in my field.

Research and Teaching Activities and Interests

Research activities

My main research interests and activities lie in the diagnostic investigation and study of the pathogenesis of livestock and wildlife diseases, and in tumour pathology. Some of the projects I am currently working on include studies on photosensitisation, grass seed contamination, and plant toxicities of livestock, and on respiratory diseases of small ruminants.

Teaching activities

I teach pathology related subjects (the study of the mechanisms and manifestations of disease as seen grossly, histologically, and at the molecular level), mainly to veterinary science, but also to animal science, equine science and veterinary technology students. I coordinate the final year veterinary diagnostic services rotation, and provide diagnostic service at CSU for both teaching and commercial purposes.

Professional Links

  • Australian Society for Veterinary Pathologists (1999-present)
  • American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD)(2013-4)
  • European Society for Veterinary Pathology (2005-2012)

A typical day for me includes...

For most of the year, a typical day includes teaching the students in a clinical or lab setting, performing necropsies with or without the students, examining histopathology slides from the same cases under the microscope, and fitting in as much of the rest as possible.

My main project at the moment is...

A project on photosensitisation in livestock, a common but under studied condition in Australian livestock in which panicum species are often implicated.Panos Loukopoulos with students

My favourite part of my job is...

Definitely teaching and interacting with our students. I am proud of our students’ attitude, enthusiasm and approach to learning. It is rewarding to see the students develop and fine tune their diagnostic skills and approach to a disease investigation, and be more competent vets as a result.

Diagnosing animal diseases is rarely boring, given the variety of conditions and species we are exposed to in practice.  Investigating the underlying mechanisms that lead to these diseases, as part of my research, is another rewarding part of my job.

When I am not in the office I like...

To spend time with my wife and my daughter playing backyard volleyball or reading stories, and with Charlotte and Blue, our two puppies that have followed our globetrotting moves (and, as I like to say, have even been to Vegas!)

When I am driving I like to listen to...

Triple J, driving to work; listening to an audiobook on politics or literature, or something in the vein of Chet Faker or the John Butler Trio for longer drives.


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