Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Spring 2019

Table of Contents

  • From the Acting Director
  • How do we reliably use spatial data to improve farm management?
  • Using pasture legumes to suppress barnyard grass could benefit rice growers
  • Taking meat research to Texas
  • Driving the conference agenda
  • Crawford Fund Conference: challenges perceptions, inspires change and connects students
  • Researchers on cusp of success as they await the birth of 6000 baby dung beetles
  • Congratulations
  • Where in the world
  • In the Limelight: Ben Stodart
  • In the Limelight: Pieter-Willem Hendriks
  • Subscribe to the Innovator

From the Acting Director

I’m very pleased to share with you news that the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation has been named as a semi-finalist for the NSW/ACT Regional Achievement and Community Awards in the Prime Super Agricultural Innovation Award. This is a photo of Canola cropsignificant achievement for the Centre and its members and reflects our work to support our regions and communities through industry-relevant research that delivers benefits throughout the value chain. Finalists in the Awards will be named shortly ahead of a gala presentation in November. It’s an honour to be recognised in these awards that showcase the impressive list of finalists who are working to maximise efficiency, develop new products, and open new market opportunities for primary industries, good luck to all the finalists. Thanks and congratulations to all Centre members for your contribution to this success.

The Centre has been involved in hosting a number of forums and conferences over the past few months and you can read more about those later in the newsletter. Many farmers are experiencing poor seasonal conditions and it was great to see so many people attend our Livestock Forum and the Agribusiness Today Forum, to tap into the latest research and expertise, but importantly to take time out from the daily grind to talk with other producers.

Graham Centre members came together in July for a workshop to discuss and identify innovative and cross-pathway themes that the Centre should focus on to contribute to agriculture innovation. The process was also undertaken with the Industry Advisory Panel, which allowed for a comparison of themes identified by researchers with industry experience and projections. The IAP identified demand driven agriculture as the narrative/context for the themes that were identified. The consumer drives our production, and they will become increasingly important into the future. The consumer’s demands are at the centre of what is assumed and determined acceptable in food production and how this is achieved from paddock to plate.

As a result of these discussions, the following five main themes were identified:

  1. Resilient farm businesses
  2. Low chemical agriculture
  3. Agricultural biosecurity
  4. Spatially directed agriculture
  5. Functional future foods

We look forward to putting the outcomes from these discussions into practice to support Centre members to apply proactive approaches to solve agricultural problems, identify opportunities and enhance collaboration.

Acting Graham Centre Director, Associate Professor Marta Hernadez-Jover


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How do we reliably use spatial data to improve farm management?

Collecting data is one thing, finding the best way to use it to improve decision making on-farm is another.

photo of Jon MedwayFor Graham Centre senior research fellow- spatial agriculture, Mr Jon Medway that challenge has been the focus of his work for more than 20 years but he’s still excited by the possibilities for agriculture.

In this interview Mr Medway explains how he came to be interested in spatial agriculture and how his new role at the Graham Centre aims to develop research and collaboration opportunities.

I grew up on a family farm on the Liverpool Plains in Northern NSW attending Farrer Ag High before doing my Agriculture degree at Charles Sturt in the mid 1980s. After a few years in corporate farming I returned to Charles Sturt as a research officer at the Farrer Centre working with a local farmer group (FM500) comparing farming systems and demonstrating the role of objective monitoring for improved crop management.

This evolved to include the investigation of spatial variability through the use of remote sensing, soil surveying and yield mapping.

In 2000 I established a spatial data consultancy with another Charles Sturt colleague. Over its 19 years of operation I worked on over 2500 projects across Australia and internationally providing services to family and corporate farms, industry, research organisations and government agencies.

Highlights include working on a large private aid project in Mozambique, a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation project for the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Bangladesh and India,  and more recently the development of a spatial data integration system for cropping and livestock producer clients.

Why are you interested in this area of agriculture?

I have always liked geography and mapping and my interest in spatial agriculture was an obvious extension of that. It was sparked by my involvement with collecting the first winter crop yield data in Southern NSW in 1996 that showed a yield range from two tonne per hectare to nine tonne per hectare /ha to 9/ha in a local wheat paddock.

I’d spent many years crop monitoring and collecting soil samples, together with years of tractor and harvester operation. Those first yield maps, and the seemingly obvious potential to identify and understand the causes of spatial variability and options to improve management, presented me with a new challenge that remains ongoing today, 23 years later.

What do you see as key opportunities for growers going forward?

The key opportunities for growers going forward are largely the same as they were in 1996, how do we reliably use spatial data to improve management.

For more than 20 years, as simple and reliable applications of spatial data beyond logistical improvements proved elusive, the focus of spatial agriculture has, in hindsight, focused on collecting rather than using data. It is only in recent years that robust applications focused around input and productivity management have begun to emerge and be adopted.

What are the challenges that need to be overcome- and how is research likely to play a role in addressing that?

The greatest challenges relate to the processes and capacity to reliably integrate the diverse range of crop, soil, climate and management information that is now widely available, into a robust decision support system that can cater to the management needs of individual farmers, farms and paddocks.

The diversity and amount of this information is likely to require a much greater reliance on maths and computing expertise than many conventional agronomic challenges, so increased collaboration with researchers outside of traditional networks.

What are your priorities in your new role at the Graham Centre?

My role is to build the capacity of the Graham Centre to increase activity in this area and develop a longer term research program plan.

I’m also working with the Charles Sturt farm, where the manager James Stephens is very keen to ensure that the farm is utilising the full range of spatial technologies and engaging students at every opportunity to use the farm as a learning resource.

Together with the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences we are looking to develop a ‘digital twin’ of the farm for implementation of a Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality program to further hence the research and educational use of the farm resource.

In the first instance this will involve the development of an online GIS portal to display/access;

  • daily satellite imagery now being collected of the farm
  • soil and weather data
  • pasture biomass measurements
  • farm management details
  • spatially based ongoing research information such as data from the soon to be utilised GPS livestock collars.

Beyond the Charles Sturt farm we’re looking to work with local producers and consultants to investigate the incredible volume of data sitting unprocessed in tractors, harvesters, sprayers and offices across the region. The aim is to assess the extent and impact of spatial variability for both individual farm and wider regional applications.

The engagement with students is another priority to highlight potential opportunities for involvement with spatial and digital agriculture technologies. This will be essential to ensure the necessary supply of skilled people for both research and industry needs.


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Using pasture legumes to suppress barnyard grass could benefit rice growers

Research by the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is adding weight to the theory that pasture legumes in the rice crop rotation can help suppress barnyard grass, a weed that can significantly reduce yields.

Jhoana Opena is pictured with Kerry Schirmer and Dr Jeff McCormick.The research by Charles Sturt University PhD student Jhoana Opena is focused on growing pasture legumes in the lead-up to a rice crop to reduce the weed seed-bank.

“Barnyard grass is an annual summer terrestrial grass that’s considered a problem weed in 61 countries,” Ms Opena said.

“It’s been reported to reduce rice yields by 30 to 100 per cent and can also contaminate the rice seed at harvest.

“Direct sowing of rice is one strategy being implemented by growers to increase water use efficiency but delaying the introduction of permanent water can lead to the proliferation of weeds like barnyard grass.

“Another issue is the evolution of herbicide resistance in barnyard grass, highlighting the importance of developing non-chemical weed control.”

Initial study shows promising results

Ms Opena’s research has involved a 2018 glasshouse pot trial and field study to examine the impact of legumes and selected winter crops on barnyard grass seed mortality, emergence and growth.

Jhoana Opena presenting her research at the Agronomy Australia conferenceShe presented the results at the 19th Australian Agronomy Conference in Wagga Wagga on Tuesday 27 August.

“The study found a 97 to 98 percent reduction in emergence and a 99 to 100 percent reduction in growth of barnyard grass in pots sown with pasture legumes compared with control pots,” Ms Opena said.

“The reduced emergence and growth of barnyard grass observed may be due to competition for light, space, nutrients, and water, inhibitory chemical compounds exuded by the plants, or some combination.”

The next step

More trials are now underway assessing the impact of winter pasture legume species and its duration (one compared to two years) on barnyard grass seed mortality, the residues of winter pasture legume species on barnyard grass and rice emergence and growth. The research will also assess the allelopathic potential of different cultivars of pasture legumes on barnyard grass germination and growth.

It’s hoped the results will provide rice growers options to manage problem weeds such as barnyard grass in drill sown rice and delayed permanent water to achieve productivity using these water saving strategies.

The research has been funded by AgriFutures Australia.


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Taking meat research to Texas

photo of Kate Webster and Harry Meek at a radio interviewThey say ‘everything’s bigger in Texas’ and for two Charles Sturt University (Charles Sturt) students working with scientists at Texas Tech University was an opportunity to maximise Honours research.

A collaboration between Charles Sturt, Texas Tech and Teys Australia paved the way for Ms Kate Webster and Mr Harry Meek to spend four months in the United States.

It was a jam-packed visit that included meat judging competitions, an international conference, and working with Texas Tech students to gain an understanding of laboratory work, consumer and sensory research and preparing retail meat cuts.

“I enjoyed getting to meet so many like-minded people who share a passion for the world meat industry,” Ms Webster said.

“By going to Texas Tech I have experienced a broad range of research methods, an opportunity not many Honours students get. I was also able to work in some excellent facilities using some great techniques and technology which will aid me in any future research.”

Kate webster and Harry Meek with awards from meat judging competitionsMr Meek said, “The trip gave me new insight into the world beef trade and where the meat industry is headed in terms of production and sustainability. This practical understanding of the system as a whole, will hopefully help me in future employment within the agricultural sector.”

The research

Ms Webster’s Honours research, supported by a scholarship from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, is examining the flavour of lamb raised in pasture-based systems compared with lamb fed grain concentrate diets.

“Lamb has a very distinct flavour due to certain flavour volatiles and fatty acids present in the meat. The research is comparing lamb raised predominantly on concentrate diets in the United States with lamb raised mainly on pasture diets in Australia and New Zealand.

“This information will help the industry develop new products and meet consumer demand as certain markets prefer different flavours. For example American consumers prefer grain-fed lamb over grass-fed lamb.”

The Texans visit Australia

photo of Kate Webster and the Teax Tech meat judging team at ICMJ in JulyThe close relationship and healthy rivalry between Texas Tech and Charles Sturt students came to the fore at the annual Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging competition held in Wagga Wagga in July.

Charles Sturt lecturer in farming systems Dr Michael Campbell said having international teams like the Texas Tech team was a highlight of the event.

“While the students and researchers from Texas Tech were in town for the ICMJ we took the opportunity to showcase our meat science research, cementing our collaboration for the future,” said Dr Campbell.

Graham Centre Honours Scholarships aim to support high quality Charles Sturt students undertaking a research project as part of an Honours year. Applications will open on Tuesday 8 October.


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Driving the conference agenda

Sharing our research with stakeholders in the grain and red meat industries is a key priority for the Centre, highlighted by our involvement in three recent conferences.

Graham Centre Livestock Forum

photo of speakers at the Livestock ForumResearch to improve productivity, profitability and animal welfare was presented to more than 180 producers and advisors at our annual Livestock Forum on Friday 26 July.

The Forum included market updates, research to better manage fodder and pastures, information about breeding and genetics, and presentations about biosecurity and animal health. The presentations are available to download on our website.

Graham Centre Acting Director Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover said the Forum presented information that producers could apply directly on farm.

Honours student Sabrina Meurs“Livestock producers have been facing some tough seasonal conditions and it was wonderful to see so many people at the Forum, networking with each other and tapping into the expertise of some leading livestock researchers,” said Professor Hernandez-Jover.

The Forum also saw the launch of a new short film series on YouTube, ‘Crops, Rumps and Woolly Jumpers’.

This project is an initiative of Sheep Connect NSW, with support from the Graham Centre and NSW Department of Primary Industries. It documents the experiences of five farmers in 2012 and then again in 2016. Watch the videos on YouTube.

Bruce Allworth, Cara Wilson and Christian DuffThe Forum was supported by Meat & Livestock Australia, Riverina Local Land Services, ProWay, Animal Health Australia, Teys Australia, Advanced Animal Nutrition and CadMac.

Agribusiness Today Forum

The Graham Centre was a partner in the Agribusiness Today Forum held in Cowra on Thursday 8 and Friday 9 August.

Under the theme of ‘Maximising Red Meat Yields and Business Opportunities’ the  Forum brought together more than 100 industry experts and producers to discuss market and business opportunities, innovation and technology, and how farmers can push the limits of red meat yields.

Acting Graham Centre Director Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover presented her research on disease preparedness and biosecurity in livestock industries at the conference.

The event was organised by Local Land Services Central West, the Graham Centre, Charles Sturt, Central West Farming Systems and 'Regional Development Australia Central West (RDA CW).

19th Australian Agronomy Conference

Dr Jeff McCormickGraham Centre researchers from Charles Sturt University and the NSW Department of Primary Industries presented their research to more than 300 delegates at the Australian Agronomy Conference in Wagga Wagga from Sunday 25 to Thursday 29 August.

The conference theme ‘Cells to satellites’ highlighted that agronomy takes in broad range of disciplines to optimise crop or pasture production for productivity and profitability. From the cellular level where DNA is mapped and biochemistry is unraveled through to the use of satellites for remote sensing or guidance.

Jim Pratley and John Kirkegaard launch the bookA new book exploring the evolution of Australian farming systems over the past 30 years was launched at the Conference.

The e-book, Australian Agriculture in 2020: From Conservation to Automation, has been edited by Charles Sturt University  Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley and CSIRO Chief Research Scientist and Charles Sturt Adjunct Professor Dr John Kirkegaard.

The book has been produced for Agronomy Australia and is free to download on our website.

Graham Centre members Jeff McCormick, Toni Nugent, Aaron Preston were also part of the organising committee for the Conference.


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Crawford Fund Conference: challenges perceptions, inspires change and connects students

Charles Sturt University students Ms Sunita Pandey and Ms Rebecca Owen left the Crawford Fund’s annual conference with a swag of new contacts, a broader view of climate change, and a fresh outlook on research.

The Graham Centre supported Ms Pandey and Ms Owen (pictured with other conference scholars and mentors) to attend the Conference held in August as part of the Fund’s scholarship program.

New connections

photo of NSW Crawford scholars and their mentorsThe students were paired with a mentor and given the opportunity to engage with keynote speakers, agricultural researchers and other young people who have worked in developing countries.

The scholarship program opened networks with a range of experts and other researchers in our field,” they said.

“We especially loved initiating friendships with like-minded students and engaging in conversations about climate smart agriculture.

“We gained several great friends from all around the world, who we are sure we’ll meet again in the future, whether it be through work or travel.”

The students’ said they are grateful to the mentors for their time and advice throughout the conference.

Changing perspectives

Rebecca and Sunita at the conferenceThe conference theme, Weathering the ‘Perfect Storm’: Addressing the Agriculture, Energy, Water, Climate Change Nexus, also challenged perceptions about science and research.

“I’ve developed my understanding of ruminant greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of animal protein,” said Ms Owen.

“There are often two extremes in the debate, but rather than taking ‘sides’, we should all work together to improve our knowledge of sustainable food production globally.

“Keynote speaker, Professor Sir Charles Godfray FRS proposed that we should regain respect for the intrinsic value of food and alter our dietary behaviour to incorporate ‘flexitarian’ habits.

“CSIRO senior research scientist Dr Di Mayberry highlighted that Australian ruminant emissions have decreased from 21 per cent in 2005, to 10 per cent in 2016, suggesting that further reduction is entirely possible with the right support.”

Read more about what Professor Godfray and Dr Mayberry told the Conference.

Inspiring change

“The conference has encouraged me to think about current challenging issues such as climate change and to look on broader perspectives before designing any research,” Ms Pandey said.

“It has also inspired me to work for people and focus more on problem driven research.”

“The scholar program presented clear pathways into a career in international agricultural research and development,” Ms Owen said. “It has also consolidated my desire to be a part of research in global climate smart agriculture. I am considering eventually pursuing a PhD in the realm of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in ruminants.”

Read more about the Crawford Fund Conference Scholars program


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Researchers on cusp of success as they await the birth of 6000 baby dung beetles

Researchers at Charles Sturt University are eagerly awaiting the emergence of several thousands of very special dung beetles over coming weeks, marking a major milestone in the Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers (DBEE) project.

photo of technical officer Geoff Burgess The beetles are a key part of a national research effort led by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) through funding from the Australian Government’s Rural Research & Development for Profit program to turn 80 million tonnes of dung produced by Australian livestock each year into a multi-million dollar benefit to farmers.

Originating in Morocco, the Onthophagus vacca (O. vacca) beetles will be the first species to graduate from Charles Sturt’s new breeding facilities and into the pipeline that will lead to release onto livestock properties across Australia to assist primary producers. The five-year project will ultimately see the introduction of three new dung beetle species, specifically chosen to fill seasonal and geographic gaps in the distribution of beetles across southern Australia.

Insect ecology expert and joint project lead, Professor Geoff Gurr, is overseeing the mass rearing of beetles and says it’s a long and complex pathway from importation to final release.

“When they arrive in Australia from overseas the insects are required to stay for the term of their life under strict quarantine conditions. The only thing that can come out of quarantine are the eggs of the beetle and these are required to go through an exhaustive sterilisation phase, ensuring exotic microorganisms are not introduced into the Australian ecosystem. The new generation of beetles that arises from the sterilised eggs require delicate handling in the CSIRO Australia facility to ensure adequate growth and survival.

“It’s a stressful process for the developing insects and a closely monitored numbers game but we were happy to report a positive result with over 300 precious and hard-won adult beetles making their way to the new breeding facility at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga in May this year,” concluded Professor Gurr.

Since then, the Charles Sturt team has been working closely with CSIRO to fine tune rearing conditions and maximise survival and reproduction. The beetles are, for example, surprisingly fussy about the type of dung they are fed," said Professor Gurr.

photo of dung beetlesDBEE theme leader, Professor Leslie Weston and Dr Russ Barrow, Field Technical Coordinator are pleased to report that in the months since their arrival, researchers at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation have seen a significant increase in the number of eggs, indicating the beetles are in good health and adapting well to their new surroundings.

“We were delighted when we found that the beetles were busily producing brood balls made with dung to house their eggs. The adults are now starting to emerge and we are all excited about their imminent arrival and our prospects for future distribution in the field," said Dr Barrow.

It is expected that the new generation of O. vacca beetles will be introduced into testing sites in South Australia in the coming months. If the introduction is successful in these on-farm nurseries, future beetles will also be introduced to sites across Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

Dung beetles bred through these facilities will gradually be made available to larger numbers of livestock producers as further generations develop in coming years.

The research is led by Charles Sturt through funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, with support from eight partner organisations: The University of Western Australia, CSIRO, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, The University of New England, Dung Beetle Solutions International, Warren Catchments Council, Mingenew-Irwin Group and the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

For more visit the DBEE project website.

Learn more

Please join us for a DBEE project update workshop to discuss importation, mass rearing, monitoring and surveillance. We also invite you to attend the opening of the Dung Beetle Mass Rearing Facility at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga campus.

Friday, 27th September

11:00   – Opening of the Charles Sturt Mass Rearing Facility,  Agricultural Ave  (on left past Equestrian Centre, follow DBEE signs)

11:20   – Facility tours

12:30-3:00   – DBEE Lunch followed by DBEE workshop, National Wine and Grape Industry Training Centre (off Mambarra Drive)

RSVP 20 September, for more information email Jennifer Locker


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Meat researcher’s star on the rise

Dr Ben HolmanNSW Department of Primary industries research scientist Dr Benjamin Holman has been recognised in the field of food texture research for his work in meat science.

The Journal of Texture studies has named Dr Holman as a rising star in texture research, one of seven young researchers honoured world-wide. Read the full article.

Dr Holman’s research has provided valuable insight into the impact of processing, production and storage on meat quality traits.

Important findings from his research include confirmation that the bolar blade of dark cutting beef does not share the undesirable dark, firm and dry texture characteristics of the striploin and topside—and could therefore regain its value to mitigate waste.

Dr Holman’s research has also examined the impact of frozen storage temperatures on lamb and beef tenderness and the comparison of several pasture species on lamb meat nutritional value.

Graham Centre member recognised with prestigious CM Donald Medal

Dr John AngusThe Agronomy Society of Australia has awarded the prestigious CM Donald Medal to Dr John Angus in recognition of a distinguished career spanning nearly 50 years.

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 continues to work as a researcher with colleagues at CSIRO, as an adjunct professor at Charles Sturt University, and the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.

Read more about the award on our website.

Eureka! Graham Centre member part of prize winning STEM program

Dr Paul Prenzler and the NISEP team during science weekGraham Centre members Dr Paul Prenzler and PhD student Collette Geier are part of nationally recognised program to support Indigenous secondary students to deliver science workshops and activities.

The National Indigenous Science Education Program (NISEP) has been awarded the 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for STEM inclusion.

NIESP is a partnership between Charles Sturt University, Macquarie University, high schools and community groups that aims to engage Indigenous students in science, developing their leadership skills and building aspiration towards education.

Dr Prenzler is pictured with students at the recent NISEP Community Science Day at Tolland held as part of National Science Week in Wagga.

Read more on Charles Sturt University News

Charles Sturt University Excellence Award

Dr Abishek Santhakumar and Professor  John GermovDr Abishek Santhakumar from the Functional Grains Centre has been recognised with a Charles Sturt University Excellence Award for his work to understand the beneficial health properties of food.

Dr Santhakumar, pictured at the award presentation with Charles Sturt Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor John Germov,  uses rigorous scientific approaches to demonstrate positive human health impacts and provide insights into the physiological mechanisms of these impacts.

Graham Centre students in the 3MT

James Lee, Md Shafaet Hossen and Michelle WilliamsPhD research takes years of dedication with countless hours in the laboratory, out in the field or poring over data, but three minutes was all the time on the clock for Graham Centre students to explain their research.

Michelle Williams, James Lee and Md. Shafaet Hossen (pictured) took part in the final of the Charles Sturt University (Charles Sturt) Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition in June. Read more about their presentations.

They missed out on the prizes but did a great job presenting their research - congratulations to the winner Blake Collins.


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Where in the world

Sharing our work with producers, the industry and academic peers is an important in ensuring research is disseminated and adopted.

The Graham Centre has provided more than $60,000 in financial assistance in 2019 for members to attend conferences and workshops to enhance their knowledge and share their research. Find out more about the Conference Support Scheme.

Here are some examples of our researchers doing just that.

Focus on lamb in Canada

photo of lambs in a feedlot in CanadaAttending an international conference and visiting farms in Canada has given Professor Bruce Allworth greater insight into intensive lamb productions systems.

Professor Allworth is the Livestock systems research pathway leader at the Graham Centre and attended the Small Ruminant International Conference and the British Veterinary Society's annual conference in Guelph, Canada.

Professor Allworth presented papers on ‘Improving lamb survival – the role of calcium’ and ‘Pain relief products in sheep – an Australian perspective’.

“One of the themes that came out in the conference was the impact of climate change on animal diseases, and it was interesting to see the range of issues speakers highlighted.”

“The focus on lamb survival at the conference has strengthened my resolve of how important this area of research is,” Professor Allworth said.

He also visited commercial sheep and goat farms along with a sheep research farm, something that was particularly interesting given our emerging research interest in improving prime lamb growth rates.

“The intensive management systems were in strong contrast to the Australian situation, and gave reflection over lamb survival in our extensive environment,” said Professor Allworth.

“The lamb growth rates in a total mixed ration (TMR) feeding regime were exceptional and the farms we visited were highly motivated, recording great data and using it.”

Biocontrol for blackleg in Canola

PhD student Sana Hanif presented a poster of research into the potential biocontrol agents for blackleg disease of Canola at the International Congress on Rapeseed held in Berlin, Germany in June.

The conference was attended by more than 850 scientists from 50 countries and included research about pests and diseases, agronomy and crop science, plant genetics and breeding and Canola for human nutrition, animal production and biofuel. There were also presentations about Canola with different coloured flowers, for example blue and orange, to protect the crop from insect pests.

Vets on the Gold Coast

Dr Jennifer Manyweathers, Associate Professor Marta Hernandez Jover and Lynne Hayes at the all important tea break at the conferenceWhat would bring epidemiologists, dentist and horse surgeons together? The annual Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists annual conference, Science Week on the Gold Coast in July.

The veterinary epidemiology group from Charles Sturt University attended the conference and heard about research into mycoplasma bovis eradiation in New Zealand and rabies management in our northern neighbours.

It was also an opportunity for Graham Centre members, Dr Jennifer Manyweathers, Lynne Hayes and Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover to present research about the FMD Ready project, technology in animal health management and biosecurity and vets in surveillance. Associate Professor Jane Heller spoke about planning for a response to a Q Fever outbreak and antimicrobial stewardship while PhD student Kellie Thomas gave a talk on antimicrobial resistance.

Ms Hayes said, “The opportunity to talk to a range of practitioners and researchers was extremely valuable. The conference also allowed me to see the importance of having a multidisciplinary approach to research and gave me more confidence in utilising my psychology training and experience in the area of biosecurity research.”

Functional Grains Centre research at AGSA 2019 and Summer Grains Conference.

the FGC team at AGSA 2019The team from the Functional Grains Centre attended the 2019 Australasian Grain Science Association Conference in Melbourne in August.

They presented findings from a diverse range of projects from chickpeas and sorghum, to rice, lupins and lentils, showcasing research to improve human health, grain production and processing.

Many of the team also attended the Australian Summer Grains Conference on the Gold Coast in July. Congratulations to PhD student Rachael Wood and Honours research student Borkwei Ed Nignpense who picked up poster prizes.

National Science Week activities

Dr David Jenkins and children at a science week workshopGraham Centre members have helped to inspire the next generation of scientists by taking part in National Science Week activities.

Dr Paul Prenzler and PhD student Collette Geier were involved in the National Indigenous Science and Education Program, Community Science Day in Tolland. Read more about the award winning program.

Members of the Charles Sturt parasitology group including PhD students Michelle Williams and Md. Shafaet Hossen, along with Dr David Jenkins and Dr Di Barton lent a hand at the Riverina Science Festival with Dr Rina Fu, the author and illustrator of My Mad Scientist Mummy.

Dr Jenkins is pictured helping children at the workshop learn more about parasites.


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In the Limelight: Ben Stodart

Position: Lecturer in plant biology

Organisation: Charles Sturt University

Career Brief

Dr Ben StodartBeing interested in forensic sciences I undertook a Bachelor of Science Honours at Flinders University. After realising the career limitations in forensics, and good advice from a family friend, I took an opportunity for casual work at SARDI where I was introduced to the world of plant pathogens -and realised that this was forensics for crops. This progressed to a PhD through the University of Adelaide under the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) National Rhizoctonia Disease Control program.

I followed (not in any creepy way) my wonderful wife to Wagga in 2002 and began working with the NSW Department of Primary Industries under the BioFirst Initiative, where I examined the genetic structure of Landrace wheat and helped out with the wheat breeding program.

In 2006 an opportunity came up working with Gavin Ash at Charles Sturt University where we established plant pathology capability in Cambodia, under ACIAR funded projects. I have continued with ACIAR funding to the present, with additional involvement with GRDC funded projects at times.

Research and Teaching Activities and Interests

Research interests cover bacterial plant diseases and microbial interactions, particularly the interaction between biocontrols and plant pathogens. Working in Cambodia and Lao I also get to look at a range of crop pathosystems, mainly in horticultural production systems, but have covered most things from leafy vegetables to cassava. Along with the focus on particular pathogens I also get to undertake quite a lot of capacity building, and try to get my head around extension. Luckily I have post doc Nicola Wunderlich along for the ride to provide her experience in this area.

Current higher degree research students within the pathology/microbial group are working on microbial interaction projects identifying species of bacteria with antagonistic potential towards things like blackleg in canola and dieback in grapevine, and on the pathogen side investigating epidemiology of common rust in Maize (with USQ), dieback disease in walnut, and Sclerotinia rot in legumes. Slightly away from plant disease is the interaction between bacterial communities and mycorrhizal fungi, and the role of microbes in the degradation of herbicides.

I currently teach Agricultural Biotechnology and Plant Pathology within the Bachelor of Agricultural Science, and help with the coordination of the Honours year.

A typical day for me includes …

Chasing kids out the door or being chased out by them, getting to work and checking emails, adjusting lectures, tutorials, practicals, trying to get in to the lab or mining some genome data.

My main project at the moment is …

ACIAR funded research improving IPDM strategies in protected cropping systems for Lao PDR and Cambodia. This is a multi-disciplinary project with the University of Adelaide aimed at extending the vegetable production period for the wet season.

My favourite part of my job is …

The people I work with, the travel (except overnight flights), and the fact that I get to work on a wide range of cropping systems.

When I am not in the office I like …

Just hanging out with the family!

When I am driving I like to listen to …

Other than my kid’s silly chatter, the radio is normally on Triple J or I have a play list with a mix of stuff – The Stooges, Lamb, Hilltop Hoods, Doves and Nick Cave.


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In the Limelight: Pieter-Willem Hendriks

Supervisors: Professor Leslie Weston Charles Sturt University, Dr Greg Rebetzke CSIRO

Thesis title: ‘The role of root architecture and associated rhizosphere interactions in breeding for weed competitive wheat cultivars’

Funding body: Part of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) project called ‘Breeding Weed Competitive Wheats’

Career and studies till now:

Pieter-Willem Hendriks I attended primary school in the Netherlands where I was born. When I was 12 we sold our farm in the Netherlands and moved to France where I attended high school and university. First in Le Chatelet en Berry and St Amand Md in the Cher the Centre of France, then in Tours for a Bachelor in Biology, and finally at the National Agricultural Institution of Higher Education (ENESAD) of Dijon where I got my Masters in Agricultural Engineering. During the last two years of my study I came to Australia twice for internships at CSIRO. I studied reduced tillering in wheat.

After my Masters I went back to take over the family farm from my parents. We were producing cropping, pigs and some cattle. I increased the cattle herd and also started free range pig breeding. I sold my own products to the supermarkets, butchers and clients ‘from stable to table’. After 14 years of doing this I got the opportunity to pick up my studies and start a PhD with Charles Sturt University and CSIRO on competitive wheat.

Currently studying: I am studying the impact of high vigour on the competitiveness of wheat against weeds. I want to see what the impact of high vigour above-ground has on the below-ground development and this interference with the below-ground competitiveness traits.

Research Interests:

Wheat physiology, the roots and the rhizosphere, metabolomics

A typical day for me includes...

Field work, lab or glasshouse work, reading and writing but also interacting with colleagues over a nice flat white or a good beer.

My main project at the moment is...

I am busy in the field sampling my experiments at the Graham Centre field site and in Canberra. After running some dummy tests I am also setting up my first controlled environment experiments.

My favourite part of my studies is...

There are so many things I like. I guess I love my curiosity to be thrilled. The learning, the reading, the interaction with renowned scientists are all so stimulating. I really enjoy being in the field.

When I am not studying...

I like first of all to be with my family, I am married and have three beautiful daughters aged 10, 8 and 3 years old. I like to go for a jog with friends. I love reading books and prefer historical novels. I am also planning to do some home brewing. I also like going to a Brumbies’ game

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

I am listening to music all the time. At home, at work and when I am driving. I even listen to music when studying - it got me in trouble with my parents when I was younger! Music relaxes me or gives me the boost I need when I need it. I have the chance to drive regularly to Charles Sturt in Wagga form Canberra where I am based. I am a big Beatles fan. When driving I enjoy them. The perfect playlist has to include the Kinks, The Stones, the Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Cream, Van Morrisson, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Lenny Kravitz, REM, The Smashing Pumpkins, Jeff Buckley, The Foo Fighters, Rage against the Machine, The Last Shadow Puppets or Radiohead, some Dutch bands called Golden Earring and Drive Like Maria or Down Under bands such as Crowded House, AC/DC or Powderfinger and many more- it would be an article on its own!


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