Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Winter 2018

Table of Contents

  • From the Director
  • Forum links science to on-farm outcomes
  • Students get a taste of research from paddock to plate
  • Leadership program challenges perceptions and delivers rewards
  • International training for PhD research students
  • News and events from the Graham Centre
  • Where in the world..
  • Science Communication on the South Island
  • Update on the AgriPark and AgriTech Incubator
  • Building students’ skills and knowledge
  • Organic matter, lime and subsoil acidity
  • Practical solutions for soils
  • Research investigates impact of cold temperature during seed formation
  • Helping farmers in Vietnam to adapt to a changing climate
  • In the Limelight: Benjamin Holman
  • In the limelight: Forough Ataollahi
  • Subscribe to the Innovator

From the Director

Welcome to the winter edition of The Innovator, I trust you find it an interesting and enjoyable read.

I was fortunate enough to visit Israel recently to engage with the agricultural technology sector. It is a really vibrant ecosystem where the public research and development sector is closely Professor Michael Friend (third from the right) in Israelengaged with corporates, small to medium enterprises (SME) and start-ups.  While Israel is renowned for innovation and certainly there are many examples of brilliant technology, especially in irrigation, what struck me is that it is not the technology but the attitude and approach that sets Israel apart. Collaboration and acceptance of ‘failure’ (better to try and learn from the mistakes than be risk averse) is part of the mindset and the market for the technology is always considered in a global context.  I believe we can learn much from the approach and we are in discussion around several potential collaborations.

Graham Centre members have been successful recently in receiving funding for several large initiatives.  Of particular mention is the Rural R&D for Profit project ‘Dung Beetle ecosystem engineers’ which we will lead. It is the largest project funded through the program. Congratulations to the team, especially Professors Leslie Weston and Geoff Gurr who led its development.

Finally, John Mawson has announced he will be leaving us to take up a position with Plant and Food NZ. John was our first Chairman of the Board and has made an enormous contribution to the Graham Centre and the University more generally.  We thank John for his contribution and wish him well in his future role and look forward to continuing to collaborate with him.

Professor Michael Friend


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Forum links science to on-farm outcomes

From cattle management to improving the profitability of mixed sheep and cropping enterprises, the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation’s livestock forum in July will link the latest research to on-farm outcomes.

photo of sheep and cattleThe Centre’s annual beef and sheep forums are combined this year on Wednesday 4 July as part of the producer day at national Animal Production 2018 conference.

The program kicks off with a session on tailoring the diets of livestock systems to boost productivity and provide flow-on benefits for consumers.

Other sessions throughout the day will focus on the economics of sheep and cattle production, sheep health and innovation in the meat processing sector.

The $55 cost for producers includes morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. Register to attend the livestock forum by Wednesday 20 June.

Download the full program.

The event is part of the Australian Society of Animal Production’s biennial Animal Production 2018 Conference which will be held at Charles Sturt University (CSU) from Monday 2 July to Wednesday 4 July.

Conference organising committee chairman and Graham Centre Director Professor Michael Friend said it is the only multi-species animal science conference of its kind in Australia.

“From sheep, beef and dairy production, to goats, pigs, poultry and emerging animal industries, this conference has animal production covered,” Professor Friend said.

“It’s a unique opportunity for industry to meet, exchange information and ideas, discuss the latest advances in animal science and production, and develop ways of promoting industry development and scientific endeavour.

"Charles Sturt University and the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation are pleased to partner with the Society to sponsor and host the conference."

For more information about the conference or to register visit the conference website.


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Students get a taste of research from paddock to plate

From assessing plant root growth and experiments showing the properties of grains, to identifying where lamb chops come from, the Graham Centre has given high school students a paddock to plate view of research.

More than 100 students from schools in Wagga Wagga and Junee visited the Centre on Friday 1 June for the annual Science and Agriculture Enrichment Day.

Graham Centre Partnerships and Engagement Manager Ms Toni Nugent said, “The aim of the Enrichment Day is to showcase the work of professional agricultural and animal scientists, to explain some of our research and to encourage students to consider careers in primary industries."

The underground root laboratoryAmy James Wagga High SchoolPost doctoral researcher Randy Adjonu demonstrating fryingElla Patterson and Hayley Hutchinson Wagga Wagga High SchoolToni Nugent, Graham Centre, Joss Cooper and Lucy Reardon from Mater Dei Catholic College and Emma Hand, Graham CentreCSU Postdoctoral research Dr Wei Zou and Amelia Aicken from the Riverina Anglican College.

Photo captions: Students in the underground root laboratory; Amy James Wagga High School at the microscope; Postdoctoral researcher, Dr Randy Adjonu demonstrating frying; Ella Patterson and Hayley Hutchinson Wagga Wagga High School;  Toni Nugent, Graham Centre, Joss Cooper and Lucy Reardon from Mater Dei Catholic College and Emma Hand, Graham Centre; CSU Postdoctoral research Dr Wei Zou and Amelia Aicken from the Riverina Anglican College.

Schools attending the event on Friday 1 June included: Kildare Catholic College, Kooringal High School, Mater Dei Catholic College, The Riverina Anglican College, Wagga Christian College, Wagga High School and Junee High School.

Later this month the Graham Centre will host another 100 students from high schools across the wider Riverina region.


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Leadership program challenges perceptions and delivers rewards

“More than just networking, it broke down the barriers,” says Graham Centre member Dr Stephanie Fowler of her experience in a national leadership program.

NSW Department of Primary Industries meat scientist, Dr Fowler was selected to be one of 14 participants in the 2018 Sheep Producers Australia Leadership Program.

Dr Stephanie Fowler (front row far right) with other participants in the leadership program and Roger FletcherThe program brought together stakeholders from across the sheep meat value chain including producers, consultants, researchers, agricultural communicators and policy makers.

“The program aims to develop leadership capabilities including critical thinking, persuasion, negotiation, facilitation and communication,” Dr Fowler said.

“It was valuable to spend time with people from different parts of the industry to gain a meaningful insight into their issues. More than just networking it was breaking down barriers.

“I now have a broader perspective of the shared leadership challenges and opportunities faced by the sheep-meat sector in Australia and the need for a practical and cooperative approach to foster ongoing relationships.”

Dr Fowler said taking part in the program has also encouraged her to step outside her comfort-zone.

“The first part of the program involved an outdoor experimental learning exercise and introduced us to a number of community and industry leaders, challenging our notions of what is considered to be leadership and the roles we play.

“This led onto session two which included the development of a personal leadership program and a project to be presented to the Sheep Producers Australia board.

“The final session aimed to further develop skills needed to facilitate change, including communication, having difficult conversations and being an influential leader,” Dr Fowler said.

For more information on the Sheep Producers Australia Sheep Industry Leadership Program, please see


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International training for PhD research students

Graham Centre PhD students Ms Brooke Kaveney and Ms Rachael Wood have been awarded scholarships by the NSW Crawford Fund to attend an international training program.

The pair will take part in the rice production course through the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in The Philippines in August.

Coordinator of the Crawford Fund NSW Committee and Australia’s inaugural Inspector-General of Biosecurity, Dr Helen Scott-Orr said, “The Crawford Fund is very pleased to be supporting these students to encourage them in their studies and careers in agriculture for development.

“At the IRRI Rice Production training they will meet people from around the world who will be the rice research leaders of tomorrow and I look forward to their reports on the experience.”

Brooke KaveneyA soil scientist, Ms Kaveney is no stranger to research for development in Asian rice farming systems. Her Honours research examined the seedbed preparation in the rice and shrimp farming systems of Vietnam.

“An interest in rice production, particularly in developing countries, stemmed from my time working on an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) project in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta,” Ms Kaveney said.

“I saw how the integration of scientific research worked to secure food sustainability and improve the livelihoods of people in developing countries.”

Her PhD through CSU’s School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences is investigating soil nitrogen dynamics in farming systems.

Photo of Rachael WoodNSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) researcher, Ms Rachael Wood is undertaking her  PhD through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Functional Grains (FGC).

She is investigating how practices on Australian rice farms influence rice grain quality. Read more here.

“I have a strong desire to engage in international agricultural research and attending this training program will help establish connections that could make this possible,” Ms Wood said.

“I believe that as the global population increases rice research is going to play an essential role in food security particularly for Asian and developing countries.

“Understanding the challenges facing international rice farmers is important in determining future research areas and I’m looking forward to gaining experience in tropical rice production," Ms Wood concluded.


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News and events from the Graham Centre

Welcome to our 2018 student interns

The Graham Centre student internship program has kicked off for 2018 with the aim of providing five Charles Sturt University (CSU) undergraduate students with an insight into our research to improve the sustainability, productivity and profitability of grain and red meat industries.

Bachelor of Veterinary Science student Mr Harry Roach, Bachelor of Agricultural Science student Mr Nathan Hatty, Bachelor of Medical Science student Mr Quincy Zhang,  Bachelor of Animal Science student Ms Madison Brady and Bachelor of Veterinary Science student Ms Michelle ByeBachelor of Veterinary Science student Mr Harry Roach, Bachelor of Agricultural Science student Mr Nathan Hatty, Bachelor of Medical Science student Mr Quincy Zhang,  Bachelor of Animal Science student Ms Madison Brady and Bachelor of Veterinary Science student Ms Michelle Bye will spend the next eight months working with our scientists to gain some hands-on research experience.

The internship program provides a chance for undergraduate students to develop their research skills and gain a deeper understanding of the Centre’s work and the opportunities for them to undertake a career in agricultural research in the future. Read more about the student internships.

the delegation with Graham Centre members Dr Jason Condon and Professor John MawsonVietnamese delegation takes in Riverina agriculture

Riverina agricultural production, research and innovation was highlighted when members of the Vietnam-Australia Agricultural Forum (VAAF) visited the Graham Centre in May.

Vietnam is Australia's seventh largest market for agriculture, fisheries and forestry exports, valued at $2.18 billion in 2016-17. The Forum aims to strengthen the bilateral agricultural relationship between the two nations.

During a field visit hosted by the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Vietnamese delegates gained an insight into our research.

While in Wagga Wagga, the delegation also toured the CSU farm and spent the morning at the sheep sale at the Livestock Marketing Centre.

Building statistics skills

Researchers sometimes feel like they’re drowning in data but a workshop in April gave some Graham Centre members some help in ’crunching the numbers’.

The two-day workshop by Graham Centre Member Dr David Luckett introduced the 45 participants to the statistical software ‘R’.

The package is a free to use, powerful and highly extensible data analysis tool with a strong support network.

Supported by members of “cRow” (a Wagga-based `R` users group), the workshop detailed many elements of agricultural research and at the completion of the workshop attendees had the skill to interpret, analyse and visualise their own data.

“cRow” is a Wagga-based `R` users group that holds a monthly meeting at CSU that focus on discussion, troubleshooting and `R` tutorials.

For more information check out the Quantitative Consulting Unit (QCU) which is part of the part of the CSU Research Office and provides statistical support to research students and staff across the University.

Contact: T: 02 6933 2223 E:


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Where in the world..

Graham Centre members have presented their research at international conferences.

Sharing food safety research

Graham Centre member, Dr Ali Ghorashi from Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences has been recognised for his research in food safety.

Dr Ghorashi at the at the International Conference on Food Science and Bioprocess Technology in DubaiDr Ghorashi presented his research as invited keynote speaker at the International Conference on Food Science and Bioprocess Technology in Dubai, UAE, where he received an award.

Dr Ghorashi also received the best presentation award at the 2nd International Congress on Advances in Veterinary Sciences and Techniques, which was held in Macedonia.

He presented a paper on genotyping of Salmonella isolates using advance molecular techniques and chaired the Molecular Diagnostic in Veterinary Medicine session.

Research on the Identification of Campylobacter intra-species was presented by Dr Ghorashi at the Australian Veterinary Poultry Association’s (AVPA) annual scientific meeting in Geelong.

AVPA meetings have been held annually since 1961 providing veterinarians working with poultry in Australia the opportunity to exchange views and to represent the health and food safety issues of the poultry industry.

Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover in BarcelonaBiosecurity in Barcelona

Graham Centre Livestock Systems Research Pathway Leader, Dr Marta Hernandez-Jover gave a keynote address at the recent European Symposium on Porcine Health Management in Barcelona.

She spoke about her research to better understand farmers’ animal health and biosecurity practices.

Mexico Fruit Fly Focus

Almost 300 scientists from 56 countries met for a symposium in Mexico in April and the focus was on fruit flies.

Dr Peter Crisp (SARDI) and Dr ReynoldsThe 10th International Symposium of Fruit Flies of Economic Importance (ISFFEI) was an opportunity for Graham Centre member Dr Olivia Reynolds to present her research, represent Australia on the ISFFEI Steering Committee, network with colleagues and put forward the case for the next conference to be held in Australia. Dr Reynolds is now working to bring the 11th ISFFEI to Sydney in 2022.

NSW Department of Primary Industries principal research scientist, Dr Reynolds, is focused on sustainable forms of biological control to better manage Queensland fruit fly (Qfly).

Dr Reynolds chaired the sessions on Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) at the symposium and presented research on the use of phytochemicals to increase the performance and reduce the response of sterile males to lure and kill devices used to manage wild flies.  This generated a lot of discussion as this technology has significant implications for SIT.


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Science Communication on the South Island

Question: What do chimpanzees, caves and foot and mouth disease have in common? Answer: Science communication.

Dr Manyweathers at the conferenceThe 15th Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) conference was held in Dunedin, New Zealand in April bringing together diverse fields of interest including science journalists dealing with scientific uncertainty and the role of citizen science in building robust research within communities.

Dr Jennifer Manyweathers attended this conference and presented about a Graham Centre project, looking at foot and mouth disease preparedness in Australian livestock industries by improving partnerships with producers and industry stakeholders. Her presentation highlighted the importance of two-way communication and conversations around biosecurity and surveillance.

Dr Manyweathers spoke about a component of the project that is based on Agricultural Innovations Systems and is working with livestock producers and other stakeholders through the formation of pilot groups.

Pilot groups are about to commence with pork producers in Tasmania, dairy producers in Victoria, sheep producers in Western Australia and beef cattle producers in Queensland.

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.

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.

Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover, Associate Professor Rob Woodgate, Dr Manyweathers and Ms Lynne Hayes are the CSU team working on this project.


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Update on the AgriPark and AgriTech Incubator

Applications open for the third AgriTech Incubator program

Got an idea for a ‘tech-enabled’ agriculture or regional business start-up?  The Charles Sturt University (CSU) AgriTech Incubator is calling for applications for the third co-hort of the program.

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

The third program will run for eight weeks, commencing on Monday 23rd July 2018, with a commitment of two hours each Monday evening from 6pm to 8pm at CSU in Wagga Wagga, concluding with a ‘pitch evening’ in September 2018.

The program covers a variety of topics including design and disruptive thinking using the lean canvas business model, marketing, PR and advertising and much more.

photo of Katrina Nightingale

One of the participants in the most recent round of the program, Katrina Nightingale said it’s a great introduction to start-up business methodology.

“I was able to transform an idea in my head to a thought out business concept and cap off with an official pitch,” Ms Nightingale said.

Ms Nightingale is the founder of Virtual Muster, an online platform to connect livestock producers for the purpose of livestock marketing.

CSU welcomes Syngenta to the AgriSciences Research and Business Park (AgriPark)

Syngenta has launched its Australian Seedcare Institute, to be based in Wagga Wagga.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Development and Industry) Professor Mary Kelly said, “We are delighted to have Syngenta join the AgriPark and establish their Australian Seedcare Institute within our Wagga Campus. Our partnership will provide opportunities for both Chares Sturt University and Syngenta to collaborate on future research and development initiatives vital to the evolution of seed care treatment on a global scale."

You can read more about this announcement on the AgriPark website.

Dr Matt Cahill, from Matt Cahill Consulting, recently completed a Market Analysis for the AgriPark. Organisations from a broad cross-section of the agricultural industry participated in the Market Analysis, including members from the Graham Centre Industry Advisory Panel.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with genuine interest to participate in the AgriPark either through physical co-location on the Wagga campus or involvement as an affiliate.  This is a major milestone for the AgriPark and we are looking forward to progressing the next phase of the project.

The AgriPark is CSU’s long-term strategic initiative to create an ecosystem in which innovation and productivity is accelerated through deliberate and pro-active synergy, collaboration and co-location.

You can subscribe to the mailing list to receive updates on the AgriPark and other news from the Riverina.  For further information about the AgriPark email


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Building students’ skills and knowledge

As part of our commitment to training graduates that increase the capacity of agriculture to innovate, the Graham Centre has supported teams from Charles Sturt University (CSU) in national competitions.

AWI National Merino Challenge

The CSU team at the National Merino Challenge, image courtesy AWIA team from CSU took part in the Australian Wool Innovation National Merino Challenge in Adelaide in May.

The team of 12 veterinary science, animal science and agriculture students, along with their two coaches, competed in seven mini-challenges over the two-day event.

They were assessed on their skills across a wide range of areas such as feed budgeting, condition scoring, breeding objectives, wool harvesting, and classing animals and fleeces.

Top crop judges compete in US

The Graham Centre also supported the CSU Crop Judging team which won the GrainGrowers’ Australian Universities Crops Competition (AUCC) in 2017.

Thomas Jeffery, Danyon Williams, GrainGrowers Chairman John Eastburn and Nick Grant in the US, photo courtesy GrainGrowersFollowing success in that event three CSU students, Mr Thomas Jeffery, Mr Danyon Williams and Mr Nick Grant were selected to put their skills to the test in the United States.

They took part in the soils and crops section of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) competition.

This involved identifying 70 species of plants and five seeds, and an analysis of four separate soil pits. The team also had to answer maths questions, such as spray calibrations, and answer quiz questions about agriculture in Nebraska.

The CSU team also took part in an industry tour visiting farms, universities, an ethanol plant and meeting with growers and representative organisations.

"I found farm visits and tours of Iowa State University and Kansas State University to be particularly valuable,” Mr Jeffrey said.

Danyon Williams completes the plant exam as part of the NACTA competition at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska.“The facilities at both universities were incredible and show the importance placed on agriculture in universities in the USA. The crops competition and soil judging experience revealed how much significance is placed on these events compared to Australia.”

Mr Grant said, “The crop competition was a valuable experience which exposed us to farming practices and challenges in the mid-west of the United States, and provided us with the opportunity to make some international contacts.”

“The productivity of the American agricultural industry is pretty impressive,” Mr Williams said.  “The quality of the soils and high rainfall allows farmers great flexibility in crop choice. The experience has provided me great networks if I ever wished to go back to America.”

The 2018 AUCC will be held in Temora in September.​


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Organic matter, lime and subsoil acidity

Soil acidity is a significant challenge for farmers - reducing crop production and restricting the choice of crops and pastures to acid tolerant species.

A new strategy to target subsoil acidity is the focus of PhD research Mr Hoang Han Nguyen from Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences.

He’s investigating how adding organic matter in combination with lime to the soil surface layer can address acidity in the subsoil.

The research

Hoang Han NguyenThe most common strategy to improve crop yield in acidic soils is to raise the soil pH. This is relatively easy to achieve at the surface layer (0-10 cm) by applying soil amendments such as lime (CaCO3) or dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2). However, acidity in the subsoil, the soil layer bellow 10 cm of the soil profile, is difficult to correct because of the relatively low solubility of liming materials and the slow movement of the amendments down the soil profile.

Addition of organic amendments can ameliorate acidic soils. The organic matter also increases the pH where it is placed but also the soil layers below it.

The aim of Mr Nguyen’s PhD research is to better understand this complex interaction between the lime and the organic matter amendment and how this impacts the soil layers below the place of incorporation.

Putting it to the test

Mr Nguyen’s first experiment, conducted in glasshouse conditions, indicated that an organic amendment such as lucerne pellets not only increased soil pH at the incorporated layer but also raised the pH of the soil layers below it. In contrast, the addition of lime only increased pH at the incorporated layer.

The research also found that when lucerne pellets in combination with lime, were incorporated into the surface soil layer it increased pH of the layers below the placement greater than lucerne pellets alone.

Now to the paddock

Hoang Han Nguyen in the fieldThese glasshouse house results will be evaluated under field conditions during the next two years. In these field trials, Mr Nguyen will evaluate the effects of that amelioration strategy on soil pH at subsoil layers.

He’ll also examine the impact of the strategy on crop growth in field conditions, using different varieties including some sensitive to soil acidity.

It’s hoped the results from the field trials will contribute to the development of an innovative amelioration strategy to manage subsoil acidity in agricultural systems of the region. The research also aims to identify which organic components in lucerne pellets are responsible for increasing soil pH at the soil layer below the amended layer.

Mr Nguyen was awarded a Vietnam Government Scholarship, and is supervised by Dr Sergio Moroni, Dr Jason Condon and Mr Alek Zander from CSU and Dr Guangdi Li from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

Contact: Mr  T: 0468462014 E:


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Practical solutions for soils

Underperforming soils cost Australian farmers billions of dollars in lost revenue and Graham Centre researchers are playing an important role in finding practical solutions.

CSU DVC RDI Professor Mary Kelly, Acting Graham Centre Director Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover, CEO of the Soil CRC Dr Michael Crawford and CSU Associate Professor Catherine Allan.The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for High Performance Soils (Soil CRC) aims to enable farmers to increase their productivity and profitability by providing them with knowledge and tools to improve the performance of their soils while being good soil stewards.

The CRC is bringing together soil and social scientists, industry and farmer groups to collaborate on innovative research into long term solutions.

Graham Centre Member, Charles Sturt University (CSU) Associate Professor Catherine Allan is leading Program One of the Soil CRC which is focused on providing social, economic and market expertise to enable all the programs of the Soil CRC to support farmers to increase productivity and maintain the long-term integrity and fertility of soils for future generations.

“The Soil CRC is Australia’s chance to respond to the complexity and uncertainty of farming by using collaborative, systemic research to determine best ways to reward farmers for better soil management,” Dr Allan said.

“The inclusion of farmer groups as partners provides great opportunity to develop meaningful and long lasting approaches to on farm data use and decision support. Focus on social and financial constraints and enablers means the new products developed within the Soil CRC will be well embedded within farming communities."

Some of the farmers and scientists involved in the CRC met at the Graham Centre in May to discuss the projects. Read more about the CRC here.

Contact: Associate Professor Catherine Allan


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Research investigates impact of cold temperature during seed formation

Charles Sturt University (CSU) research is investigating how cold temperature during seed formation in wheat impacts flowering time of the progeny crop.

CSU Bachelor of Science (Honours) student Mr Ramon Javier Atayde has been awarded a Graham Centre Honours Scholarship for his study.


Mr Ramon Javier AtaydeTo avoid yield loss, grain growers aim to have wheat plants flowering under conditions that optimise grain formation, called the “flowering window’.

One of the key factors influencing the flowering time of winter wheats is vernalisation, or the accumulation of cold temperature.

Because wheat embryos are receptive to vernalisation as soon as they are active, there is evidence both anecdotally and in older literature to suggest that the developing embryo post anthesis can be partially vernalised whilst still attached to the mother plant. This could mean that progeny when sown, may be partially vernalised leading to plants flowering outside their optimum window and consequential yield loss due to cold stress.

Mr Atayde’s research aims to determine whether developing grains in wheat can be vernalised whilst still attached to the mother plant, and whether this translates to faster flowering of progeny once sown.

The research also aims to determine the extent at which developing grains respond to cold treatment. It is also investigating whether there are differences in receptiveness to cold treatment between wheat cultivars and NILS with differing genotypes, vernalisation and photoperiod requirements as determined by VRN-1 gene expression levels and timing of flowering.

The project

A parental population consisting of 12 wheat varieties with differing genotypes (9 NILS and 3 commercial winter wheats) has been established with 20-40 plants per variety. These have been grown to anthesis, with phenological measurements taken every second day. 14 days post anthesis, plants were then been placed in treatment chambers set to long (16hr @ 800ppf) days at a constant 4°C, where they will remain for the duration of their allocated treatment (0 (control), 3, 4, 5 or 6 weeks).

After this treatment the plants will be removed and embryos from the primary and secondary florets of the middle spikelet of the main stem will be excised and analysed for vrn-1 gene expression profiles using quantitative reverse transcriptase analysis at CSIRO.

Remaining seed from mother plants will then be allowed to mature for crown/ apex testing and re-sowing, with apical meristems also analysed for vrn-1 gene expression.

Re-sown progeny will be grown to elongation as a non-destructive way of determining the shift from vegetative to reproductive development, and compared to controls.

Mr Atayde’s research is supervised by CSU lecturer Dr Sergio Moroni, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) crop physiologist Dr Felicity Harris and CSIRO research group leader Dr Ben Trevaskis.

Ramon Atayde (CSU) and Kerrie Ramm (CSIRO) inspecting developing grains in wheat mutants at CSIRO, Canberra.

“I have found my Honours to be challenging but rewarding, and have enjoyed the process,” Mr Atayde said.

“Often you forget how much effort goes on behind the scenes for research, and I feel like I have developed a new found appreciation for students that have completed higher study and researchers, particularly within agriculture.

“I have found the learning curve for Honours to be quite steep in some areas, which goes to show how much there is still to learn.  I look forward to the challenges the rest of my Honours project will present and the discoveries I hope to make in my research.

“I would like to thank the Graham Centre, my supervisors, and the staff at CSIRO, the Sutherland labs, viticulture centre and NALSH for their ongoing assistance and support.”

Contact: Ramon Atayde E:


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Helping farmers in Vietnam to adapt to a changing climate

The Mekong River Delta in Vietnam is home to more than 17 million people and is responsible for half the country’s rice production.

But salinity caused by rising sea levels, reduced stream flow and land subsidence is threatening the productivity of rice production and the livelihoods of the farming families in the Delta.

Graham Centre researchers, Dr Jason Condon and Dr Sergio Moroni from Charles Sturt University (CSU) and Dr Susan Orgill from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) are working on a study to identify what research is needed to allow for diversification of crops in the region.

The scoping study is an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) brokered partnership between CSU, Can Tho University, Murdoch University, the University of New England, NSW DPI, An Giang University, the Provincial Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Loc Troi Group, Vietnam.

Dr Condon said, “Inland farmers in the Delta grow two or three rice crops per year but the increased salinity means that dry season rice is now very unreliable.

“In 2016 some provinces in the Delta region reported 70 per cent losses of dry-season rice with 30 per cent of rice farmers experiencing a total crop failure.

“It’s anticipated that by 2030 half the Mekong Delta will be affected by salinity. This research is focused on Vietnam but other delta systems, such as in Bangladesh and Myanmar, are likely to face similar issues in the future,” Dr Condon said.

More than just cropping agronomy

The workshop focused on measuring and understanding the impact of salinityEarlier research showed that alternative cropping options to rice may be an option for farmers as salinity increases in the Delta and this new project is identifying what further questions need to be answered to allow for successful adaption of alternatives to rice.

“Along with finding crops that may be suitable and providing farmers with the agronomic information to grow them successfully, a key part of changing the cropping mix is ensuring that the products are marketable,” Dr Condon said.

“The development of strong and stable markets often depends on the investment of private industry but to invest they need to be sure there will be secure production base.

“That means we have to have the capacity to predict future land use and crop production as salinity increases.”

Dr Condon and Dr Orgill held training workshops in Vietnam during May, with partners from Murdoch University and Can Tho University, to support scientists and extension staff learn the latest techniques  in measuring and understanding the impact of salinity.

Rapid and correct measurement of soil salinity is an important start of the monitoring process required to record the size of the problem facing farmers of the Delta.

Why research for development?

This is just one of many research for development projects that Dr Condon has been involved with.

Dr Jason Condon and Dr Susan Orgill at the workshop in Vietnam“The need for this research is obvious, and it has the potential to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of families,” Dr Condon said.

“I also enjoy working with farmers from another part of the world and I’m often struck by the similarities to here in Australia despite the different cultures and production systems.

“You could be having the same conversations with a farmer from the Mekong Delta as you would have with a farmer in Ardlethan. They talk about the impact of youth moving to the city, commodity prices and rising input costs.

“I also value the partnerships that are created through collaborative research,” Dr Condon said.

2018 marks 25 years of ACIAR funded research in Vietnam with 170 projects worth $100 million to develop the agricultural sector, while making a positive impact on the lives of Vietnamese farmers.

Contact: Dr Jason Condon


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In the Limelight: Benjamin Holman

Dr Benjamin HolmanName: Benjamin Holman

Position: Meat Scientist

Organisation: Centre for Red Meat and Sheep Development, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI)

Career Brief

Since completing my PhD (University of Tasmania) I have investigated red meat, at the NSW DPI. My efforts in this role have been recognised with a 2017 AMPC Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture, 2017 Australia-China Young Scientist Exchange Delegation Position, and 2016 Diploma of Scientific Achievement from Warsaw University of Life Sciences. These have only been achieved through the support of NSW DPI Cowra, meat team members and other collaborations.

Research and Teaching Activities and Interests

Research activities

My research interests include validating measures of meat quality; exploring production and processing system effects on red meat; innovative packaging of muscle-based foods; optimising storage combinations to deliver better preservation; and all novel approaches to better match meat-to-market (including dark cutting evaluations).

Teaching activities

Post-graduate student supervision

Professional Links

Australian Society of Animal Production

Dr Benjamin HolmanA typical day for me includes …

A typical day should include project conception; funding procurement; operational and logistical management; lab, field-based (abattoir) and statistical analyses; scientific interpretation; communication of results; and helping students, technical staff and visiting scholars.

On a good day, I can achieve one or two of these.

My main project at the moment is …

A Graham Centre Member Support Grant has allowed me to focus on the effects of long-term chilled storage effects on the ‘healthy’ unsaturated fatty acid content of beef.

My favourite part of my job is …

Critical thinking – I enjoy learning or discovering something and then considering the ‘whys’.

When I am not in the office I like …

Pretending to be a golfer


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In the limelight: Forough Ataollahi

Forough AtaollahiName: Forough Ataollahi

Supervisors: Dr Marie Bhanugopan, Professor Michael Friend, Dr Shawn McGrath, Dr Andrew Peters and Dr Geoff Dutton

Thesis title:

Maternal mineral supplementation during gestation and lactation and its effect on lamb’s immunity and general health of ewes

Funding body:

Charles Sturt University Postgraduate Research Scholarship (CSUPRS) and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI)

Career and studies till now:

2004-2011: Doctorate of Veterinary Science-Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran

2011-2015: Research Assistant, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

2013-2015: Master of Biomedical science, University of Malaya, kualaLumpur, Malaysia

2017-2018: Women Officer, Council of International Students Australia

2015-current: PhD candidate, CSU, Wagga Wagga, NSW

Currently studying:

Doctorate of Philosophy- Veterinary Physiology

Research Interests:

Veterinary physiology, veterinary immunology and ruminant nutrition

A typical day for me includes:

This can vary, as most researchers would know. Last year I was busy with fieldwork and laboratory work, but this year, it is only thesis writing.

After university, I spend an hour walking and then have a Skype chat with my parents who are back in Iran.

My main project at the moment is:

I have finished all the field work and lab work of my PhD project and now my main focus is my thesis to get it done on time.

My favourite part of my studies is:

I honestly enjoyed both field work (feeding ewes and sample collection) and laboratory work of my study. It was quite exciting for me to do the laboratory work to evaluate the effect of the supplementation on the animal, and realising that I am working on something that can improve a part of the sheep industry.

When I am not studying I enjoy:

Cooking, family picnics, catching up with friends and Zumba dance

When I am driving I like to listen to:

Many different types of music, English or Persian music. Mainly I listen to the news when I am driving, as I do not normally get time to check the news during the day.


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