Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Summer 2019

Table of Contents

  • From the Acting Director
  • Celebrating Graham Centre graduates
  • India to Orange for Endeavour Leadership Program
  • Capacity building in the Lao PDR
  • Congratulations
  • Building capacity with internship programs and Honours scholarships
  • Graham Centre annual awards
  • Where in the world
  • Surveys provide valuable insight into herbicide resistance
  • National Ag Day celebration in Wagga Wagga
  • Out in the field
  • In the Limelight: Jeff McCormick
  • In the Limelight: Bec Barnewall

From the Acting Director

Welcome to the latest edition of the Innovator. I’m really excited to be writing welcoming words to readers for the first time since my appointment as Acting Director in November. Firstly a big thank you to Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover who has been Acting Director of the Centre for the past year. She has left a wonderful legacy of efficiency and strategic focus for the Graham Centre that supports researchers who are working to improve the profitability and productivity of our grain and red meat industries. Ultimately the outcomes of research undertaken by the Centre benefits Australian farmers, and their families, to sustainably produce world class produce that feeds our communities. Many farm enterprises are small to medium-sized family-owned business, and profits are spent in local communities. Vibrant farming families lead to vibrant rural and regional communities with strong social connectedness, values and support networks.

Professor Leigh SchmidtkeFor those of you I haven’t met, let me tell you a little about myself. I am also the Director of the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC), an alliance between Charles Sturt, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and the NSW Wine Industry Association. I have a background in microbiology and chemistry. My research interests include viticulture and oenology, in particular developing new rapid methods for assessing factors impacting on grapevine performance, berry composition and wine styles. I have been working with other Graham Centre researchers as a supervisor of one of our PhD students, Bridgette Logan, who's researching the application of hand-held Raman spectroscopy to verify the production claims of grass and grain-fed beef products.

As 2019 draws to a close it is timely to reflect on some of the Graham Centre’s achievements. We have hosted more than 200 high school students at our Science and Agriculture Enrichment Days to showcase our research and careers in agriculture, we have shared our findings with producers at events including the Livestock Forum, Agribusiness Today Forum, Australian Agronomy Conference and the World Shorthorn Conference; and we have opened new dung beetle mass rearing facilities. The Centre has also been able to support the work of our members through the Internal Grants Scheme, providing more than $450,000 in funding. This included providing financial support to undergraduate and post-graduate students through internships, Honours scholarships, PhD scholarships and conference support funding, as well as significant levels of financial support to members with the aim of generating future external income, building collaborations, engaging with industry, and presenting research outcomes.

Wishing you a safe and happy holidays.

Graham Centre Acting Director Professor Leigh Schmidtke.


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Celebrating Graham Centre graduates

Graham Centre graduates and supvervisorsThe Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation has celebrated  the achievements of Charles Sturt University (Charles Sturt) graduates whose research is set to improve agricultural production and support the development of functional foods.

Nine PhD graduates, a Master of Philosophy graduate, and eight Honours research graduates received their awards in ceremonies in December.

Dr James Mwendwa’s PhD research has found early crop vigour and biomass accumulation are important traits in canola and wheat cultivars when it comes to suppressing weed growth. Read more.

Charles Sturt Provost and DVC Academic Professor John Germov congratulates Dr James MwendwaDr Forough Ataollahi’s research found providing calcium and magnesium to pregnant ewes improved their health and boosted the immune response in twin newborn lambs and increased their live-weight gains.Read more.

Dr Esther Callcott’s research has identified the potential for using Australian-grown coloured rice as a functional food to combat some of the health risk factors associated with obesity and lifestyle diseases. Read more.

Dr Chris Florides documented the allergenicity of 112 wheat cultivars grown in Australia over the last 160 years, providing important tools for plant breeders to develop varieties more suited for people with mild gluten intolerance. Read more

Dr Lucy Watt, Professor Michael Friend, Emma Hand and Dr Forough AtaollahiDr Doaa Hanafy studied extracts from mint against a number of factors implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.Read more.

Master of Philosophy graduate Ms Emma Hand studied why there are more female offspring when ewes are fed a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids, in particular, the impact on the time between oestrus and ovulation.

Dr Susan Street compared the digestive efficiency in Merino and Dorper sheep fed a range of diets.Read more.

Dr Shiwangni Rao investigated the antioxidant properties of wholegrain cereals like rice, sorghum, barley and oats on colorectal cancer cells. She found potential for compounds in these cereals to kill cancer cells.Read more.

Dr Rachael Wood and Professor Chris BlanchardDr Lucy Watt’s research has shown the potential for hard-seeded annual legumes to fill the feed gap for southern NSW sheep producers.Read more.

Dr Rachael Wood’s research has found it’s possible for rice growers to reduce water use without compromising the whole grain yield, an important indicator of grain quality. Read More.

Honour graduate Gideon Kang and familyBachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) graduates Mr Javier Atayde, Ms Olivia Brunton, Mr Nathan Hatty, and Mr Tom Price, Bachelor of Science (Honours) Mr Gideon Kang and Mr Jack Murphy, and Bachelor of Animal Sciences (Honours) graduates Ms Brianna Maslin, Ms Sabrina Meurs also received their awards.

Acting Graham Centre Director, Professor Leigh Schmidtke said it showcases the diversity of research at the Centre.

“The research by these graduates takes in agricultural supply chains from paddock to plate looking at ways to be more environmentally sustainable, profitable and to develop products that may benefit human health.

“The formal graduation ceremony caps off years of study and the Centre is looking forward to celebrating the achievements of these graduates and the contribution they will make to our agricultural sector,” Professor Schmidtke said.


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India to Orange for Endeavour Leadership Program

The chance to tap into research expertise in ecological approaches to pest and disease management has seen Dr Chitra Shanker travel from India to Orange NSW to work with Graham Centre member Dr Geoff Gurr and his team.

Shen Shicai, visiting scholar from China and Chitra Shanker from the Indian Institute of Rice Research, visiting Charles Sturt as an Endeavour Scholar Dr Shanker is from the ICAR-Indian Institute of Rice Research and her four-month visit was part of the Australian Government’s Endeavour Leadership Program (ELP).

She said the visit has been an opportunity to acquire skill and lay the foundation for future collaborative research.

Australia is a pioneer of habitat management strategies and Professor Gurr’s research on ecological engineering for crop pests has been an inspiration for me,” Dr Shanker said.

“My work in India is focussed on harnessing beneficial biodiversity of rice fields through conservation techniques like ecological engineering in the larger perspective of ‘Integrated pest management’ under the changing scenario of climate change.”

During her visit Dr Shanker has been researching new approaches for enhancing biological control of crop pests.

“I have been working within the Hort Innovation Project on habitat management strategies in Brassicas” she said.

“I am studying the relative preferences of parasitoids to the flowering plants, sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), cornflower (Centaurea cyanus L) and buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), when planted in a strip adjacent to the crop.

“I am also assessing the possible variations in herbivore induced plant volatiles in brassica cultivars to infestation by aphids and its attraction to the aphid parasitoid.”

Dr Shanker has also visited farms as part of the Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers and the Hort Innovation projects.

“It was exciting to interact with the farmer Sally Kirby who plays an active part in the Dung beetle Ecosystem Engineers project as a stakeholder and educator,” she said.

“Another inspirational person I have met here is Dr Cilla Kinross. I have been a part of her tree planting drive and accompanied her on bird surveys around the Charles Sturt University campus and at Spring Creek Reservoir.

“The flora and fauna of this place amazes me. I have been on field trips with the Orange field Naturalists and conservation society to study the endangered ecological communities during the weekend and endangered Orchid surveys at Mount Canobolas.

“Birding on weekends has given me the opportunity to make a friend for life in Ms Tiffany Mason, a senior ecologist working with the Biodiversity Conservation Trust.”

Dr Shanker said there are many benefits to an international study program.

“On the professional front, it will help me to learn how research is done in a different hemisphere and continent. I can use that to fine tune my research back in India and also teach the students I guide in the field of habitat management,” she said.

“On a personal front, it is a source of pride to my family and friends that I have been selected for this prestigious fellowship and am traveling overseas.

“I will also gain respect among my peers as the woman who has travelled to learn and upgrade her skills.”

She said everyday has been a new experience.

“Australia is a land of diversity – people, flora and fauna. For a nature lover like me it is heaven.

“I love the woodland and surrounding mountains of Orange. The peace and quiet here is so removed from the hustle and bustle of city life where I come from,” Dr Shanker said.


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Capacity building in the Lao PDR

Graham Centre members Professor Deirdre Lemerle and Dr Jason Condon are sharing their expertise working as mentors on a program that aims to improve the profitability and sustainability of rice-based production systems in central and southern Laos.

The program is a collaboration between: farmers, Lao national, provincial and district governments; the Crawford Fund; the Australian Volunteer Program (AVP); and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

On the ground in Laos

Volunteers Matt Champness (left) and Stephen Lang (right) examining rice crops with mentor Deirdre Lemerle (centre) In 2019 Mr Matt Champness, mentored by Professor Lemerle and Dr Leigh Vial, and Mr Stephen Lang, mentored by Professor Lemerle and Dr Condon, began working in Laos with the APV.

Mr Champness’ work is focused on demonstrating a range of non-chemical weed control tactics in direct-seeded rice. You might remember Mr Champness as a Graham Centre Honours student who was awarded the Agricultural Science Medal when he graduated from Charles Sturt University in 2018.

Professor Lemerle and Mr Champness, visited several field sites in September and attended a number of farmers’ discussions about direct-seed rice and weed management and soil improvement.

“We examined several demonstrations set up by Matt to assess the techniques for early weed suppression,” Professor Lemerle said.

“Inter-row cutting of weeds with a hand-held and modified ‘whippa snippa’ shows considerable promise as a replacement for hand-weeding, and female farmers were very interested in this.

“The placement of nitrogen with the rice seed at sowing, rather than broadcast, also seems to favour crop suppression of weeds.

“Further work is needed to quantify the benefits and costs of these techniques.

“Matt is also developing extension tools to promote weed management to farmers, for example, YouTube videos and posters.”

Visiting farming family to discuss rice productionMr Lang’s work is examining improving soil condition and productivity with organic amendments.

“Stephen is setting up a soils analysis laboratory to improve the capacity of the Provincial Agricultural and Forestry Office (PAFO) to provide advice and speedy analysis of soil condition and nutrient status for farmers at the local level,” Professor Lemerle said.

“He is also helping develop a five-year plan for PAFO in soils capacity building for research, development and extension.

“Stephen will undertake field and pot experiments to examine the impacts of organic soil amendments and fertilizers on soil condition and productivity.

“Both Matt and Stephen are learning Lao and they are helping PAFO staff with written and oral English.”

Professor Lemerle said the program will expand capacity building over the next three years in Laos and for Australia in international agricultural development.


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Scholarships and awards

Graham Centre plant systems research pathway leader Professor Jim Pratley AM was presented with Tocal College’s most prestigious award, the Cameron Archer Medal for his outstanding service to agricultural education in Australia.

PhD student Pieter-Willem Hendriks has been awarded the Tim Healey Memorial scholarship by the AW Howard Memorial Trust. The scholarship is awarded for PhD research studies relevant to the improvement, modification, adaptation or increased understanding of Australia's farming industries.

Kayla Kopp was awarded a scholarship by the Australian Association of Ruminant Nutrition PhD student Kayla Kopp (pictured right) was awarded a scholarship by the Australian Association of Ruminant Nutrition to present her research at the Association’s annual conference in October.

PhD student at the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation and Training Centre for Functional Grains, Allister Clarke has been named as a finalist in the 2020 Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Rural Achiever Awards.

In other news from the FGC, PhD graduate Dr Rachael Wood was awarded the Farrer Memorial Trust Travelling Scholarship.

Crop judges shine

The Charles Sturt University crop judging team picked up third place overall in the GrainGrowers Crops Competition and Bachelor of Agricultural Science student Ryan Malone was awarded third place- earning him a spot on a study tour to the United States.

The Graham Centre was pleased to be able to support the team as part of our commitment to build capacity in the industry.

TThe Charles Sturt crop judging teamhe competition involved students from universities in Australia and the United States applying the knowledge they have learned in classrooms in a practical setting.

They had to identify seeds, participate in crop walks, identify weeds, recommend appropriate herbicides, identify diseases and perform a yield estimate.

The Charles Sturt student team of Mr Peter Coles, Mr Daniel Kingham, Miss Alexandra Lucas, Mr Ryan Malone, Ms Mikaela Meers, Mr Lachlan Green and Ms Emily White was coached by Graham Centre member Dr Sergio Moroni.

Mr Coles said, “The Crops Competition was a fantastic chance to practice and apply day-to-day skills required in the field including: yield estimates, weed identification and control methods, and business management decisions and skills.

“Not only did the competition reinforce the importance of these skills, but gave the team the chance to test our abilities within a realistic broad acre environment. We came away with a strong sense of confidence in our capabilities.”

Ms White said, “We also were privileged to have the opportunity to tour local farms, Viterra, and Australian Grain Technologies,  as well as spending time getting to know the teams that travelled from the United States, learning about how they do things differently on farm and in university.”


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Building capacity with internship programs and Honours scholarships

Emily Lavis, Nick Butcher from Angus Australia and Jaimee McQuellinThe Graham Centre Angus Australia student interns for 2020, Charles Sturt University Bachelor of Agricultural Science student Emily Lavis and Bachelor of Animal Science student Jaimee McQuellin have hit the ground running, helping out with the Artificial Insemination (AI) of the Charles Sturt herd as part of the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program.

This is the third year Angus Australia and the Graham Centre have jointly funded the internship program to support Charles Sturt students to further their interest in the beef industry. Read more about the internship program on Charles Sturt News.

The Centre will also support the research of 14 Charles Sturt University Honours students in 2020.

Congratulations to Maryam Barati, Jack Maloney, Callum Snow, Patrick Hawkins Jnr, Jordan Bathgate, Daniel Kingham, Erin Stranks, Madeline Paley, Meaghan Vials, Dana White, Phoebe Bellingham, Ashleigh Halligan, Liam Mowbray and Tamille Barrett.

The Scholarships aim to encourage students to engage with research that aligns with Graham Centre Research Pathways.

We have also welcomed Charles Sturt students taking part in our summer internship program, Cecilia Moriarty, Joel Costello, Kimberly Burgess, Mikayla Liesenberg, Tamille Barrett and Sigrid Fraser.

The program encourages students to develop an interest in research by working with mentors on projects aligned with our research pathways.


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Graham Centre annual awards

Congratulations to the award recipients.Graham Centre members came together in December to catch up with colleagues and reflect on the achievements for 2019.

The Centre's annual awards recognise researchers and students who have helped to raise the Centre's profile, build engagement with industry and drive the research agenda.

Congratulations to the following award recipients.

Highest number of citations in 2018 - Awarded to the researcher who achieved the highest number of citations in Scopus (journals, conferences and book chapters) in 2018

Dr John Broster

Outstanding media coverage and research promotion- Awarded to members who have shown excellence in media liaison raising the Centre's profile.

Dr Susan Robertson (researcher)
Ms Kayla Kopp (student)

Engagement award - Awarded to a researcher or student who has raised the profile of the Centre through research collaboration and outreach activities in 2019

Dr John Broster
Dr Shawn McGrath
Dr Michael Campbell
The Functional Grains Centre

Post-Graduate Student/Post-Doctoral Fellow Service Award - Awarded to a post-graduate student or post-doctoral fellow who has shown outstanding service amongst Graham Centre Research by Higher Degree Students and Post-doctoral Fellows in 2019

Mr Thomas Williams
Dr Sal Gurusinghe
Dr Siong Tan

Driving research in the Graham Centre - Awarded to the member who has shown leadership with new grants and excelled in delivering on existing grants

Dr Michael Campbell
Dr Jeff McCormick
The Dung Beetle Ecosystems Engineers Project Team
Associate Professor Daniel Waters
Dr Ata-ur Rehman
Associate Professor Gavin Ramsay

Service Award - Awarded to the member who has gone above and beyond, showing a recognisable contribution to the Centre's operations

Ms Lynne Hayes
Ms Esther Callcott
Ms Lani Rei


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Where in the world

Water, technology and research collaboration on the agenda in China

Participants of The 2nd FIRI (CAAS) Agricultural Water Forum Graham Centre member Dr Ketema Zeleke visited China in October at the invitation of Associate Professor Shen Xiaojun who was a visiting scientist at the Centre in 2016.

Dr Zeleke participated in the 2nd Henan Scientific and Technological Achievements EXPO of Universities and Research Institutes in Xinxiang. One of the largest scientific events in China for the year, the expo was attended by senior government ministers, governors, university presidents and international delegates.

Dr Zeleke said, “It was a display of various innovations by technical training centres, research institutes and higher learning institutions in Henan province.”

While in China, Dr Zeleke presented his research ‘Agronomic managements for improving crop yield and water productivity in South-Eastern Australia using field experiments and simulation modelling’ at the  2nd International Forum on Agricultural Water Model and Precise Management hosted by the Farmland Irrigation Institute (FIRI) of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS).

Dr. Zeleke visiting a rainout shelter and a lysimeter Dr Zeleke said, “The Agricultural Water forum included papers examining food security, soil physics, long-term experiments (Rothamsted, UK), variable rate irrigation, irrigation scheduling for CO2 reduction, and irrigation modelling.”

Dr Zeleke also visited FIRI field research facilities and experimental stations in Xinxiang and Shangqui.

“The stations have a number of irrigation research facilities busy with national and international PhD students’ and FIRI staff projects,” he said.

“There was strong interest for future collaboration in joint research projects, student supervision and Irrigation and Drainage journal editorial membership.

“FIRI is one of the first institutes to research water-efficient technologies and equipment development in China.

“It has 83 academic staff in eight disciplinary areas, and 65 supporting and administrative staff. It has also a number of postdoctoral fellows, PhD and MSc students,” Dr Zeleke said.

Meat science in Germany

The 65th International Congress of Meat Science and Technology held in Potsdam has given Graham Centre PhD student Bridgette Logan the opportunity to hear the latest research, tour animal production and processing facilities and take in the picturesque countryside of northern Germany.

Bridgette Logan (Centre) in GermanyThe Congress was attended by more than 300 delegates from around the world presenting their research on sustainability, meat quality and safety, new and emerging technology, meat and meat analogues and animal welfare.

Ms Logan presented her research, 'Characterising production systems of beef using fatty acid composition' and 'Verification of the production system of beef carcases by using spectroscopic technologies on the subcutaneous fat'.

She said a highlight was participating in the pre-conference PhD program of tours and workshops.

“This year the PhD course was held in Kulmbach and Stuttgart and focused on welfare and food safety aspects of meat science with a focus on processed meat products which are a major part of German culture,” Ms Logan said.

“With speakers from Finland, Australia, Sweden, Norway and Germany covering a large variety of topics there was the opportunity for young researchers to engage in discussions with senior researchers.

“The PhD course provided an opportunity to tour various locations including a German abattoir to examine the European grading system, meat science pilot plant at the University of Hohenheim, meat processing and food safety testing facilities at the Max Rubner Institute, and the food processing plants of the RAPS plant based in Kulmbach”.

Visit to the Moroccan rangelands

NSW Department of Primary Industries senior research scientist Dr Mark Norton attended the 16th FAO/CIHEAM Mediterranean Forages Subnetwork Conference, held for the first time in Morocco during October.

Dr Norton presented a seminar to the the Forages Research group at the Institute National de Recherche Agronomique de Rabat (INRA) Along with presenting his research at the conference, `Ameliorating soil acidity improves the resilience of pasture production under extended drought',  Dr Norton also presented a seminar to the Forages Research group at the Institute National de Recherche Agronomique de Rabat (INRA) describing the drought tolerance research with forages being conducted in NSW.

Dr Norton said the trip also provided the opportunity to assess the state of Moroccan rangelands.

“This is the centre of origin of many of the most important drought-tolerant, summer-dormant forage species (phalaris, cocksfoot, tall fescue) used in Australia,” Dr Norton said.

“These rangelands are now very degraded because high population pressure has caused gross overstocking.

“We could no longer rediscover such germplasm in that country and therefore we must ensure that any Moroccan germplasm that we have in Australian genebanks is carefully preserved,” Dr Norton said.


Associate Professor Jane QuinnAssociate Professor Jane Quinn attended the British Society of Animal Sciences 75th Annual Conference earlier this year, presenting her research ‘Identification of Staphylococcal species from clinical isolated from hard to treat cases of bovine mastitis using conventional diagnostic techniques and Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation - Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF)’.

“This multinational conference attracted 600 delegates from countries across Europe, South America and Australia.

“The theme of the conference was advances in production science and technologies across all areas of animal production, from growth and development, to meat quality, to species-specific production in emerging countries,” Professor Quinn said.

PhD student Collette GeierPhD candidate Collette Geier attended the 10th International Workshop on Anthocyanins and Betalains in Italy in September.

“Presentations focused on the public shift toward plant-derived food colorants and how anthocyanins and betalains can meet this demand.

“It also covered the functional properties of these compounds and how they are being used for both internal and topical applications.

“The conference highlighted the potential of my betalain research and illustrated the novelty of the compounds I have isolated as part of this project,” she said.

Charles Sturt Bachelor Animal Science (Honours) student Brianna Maslen Charles Sturt Bachelor Animal Science (Honours) student Brianna Maslen presented a poster at the ‘Northern Beef Research Update Conference’ in Brisbane in August. Brianna’s project was supported by a Graham Centre Honours Scholarship.

The Graham Centre's Conference Support Scheme (CSS) provides financial assistance for  members to attend significant and relevant national and international conferences and workshops that will enhance their knowledge, activity and performance within the Centre's research priority areas.


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Surveys provide valuable insight into herbicide resistance

Many of us might notice yield potential of crops as we travel across the countryside but when Graham Centre member Allison Chambers is out in the paddock at this time of the year she’s looking for weeds.

It’s part of a long-running research project, supported by an investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) that aims to monitor herbicide resistance of broadacre crop weeds across Australia.

Allison explains what the sampling involves.

This year samples have been collected in crops from Molong to Borambola and Grenfell to Bowning with more paddocks to be sampled in Tasmania before Christmas.

Individual farmers were initially contacted by their agronomists to obtain paddock maps and gain permission to enter their paddocks for sampling.

The criteria for sampling was that the paddock was in a crop rotation and had been at some stage sprayed with herbicides. Wheat, oats, barley, chickpeas, canola and lucerne paddocks have been sampled this year.

a wheat crop near hardenThe target weeds collected were annual ryegrass, barley grass, brome grass, wild oats, sow thistle and wild radish.

The paddocks sampled were logged with GPS co-ordinates with crop type, weed identity and density recorded.

Of the 67 paddocks sampled, annual ryegrass was the most commonly found weed and given the dry conditions in the north both sheep and kangaroos seemed to like the seed heads as a food source.

Wild oats were relatively common but many had shed their seeds, weed presence was recorded but no samples could be taken. Wireweed and skeleton weed, although not target species, were observed in numerous paddocks.

Many paddocks in the north of this region had been or were about to be harvested, cut for hay or simply not harvested and grazed.

Despite the dry, there were some reasonable crops about including this wheat crop at Harden pictured.

Check out the results of previous years and learn more about the herbicide resistance screening available to producers.


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National Ag Day celebration in Wagga Wagga

National Agriculture Day has been celebrated in style in Wagga Wagga with more than 100 farmers, students, researchers, industry and business coming together for a BBQ lunch.

Toby Perry, CHEERS at CSU Wagga, Associate Professor Hernandez-Jover, Toni Nugent, Rachel Whiting and Belinda AllittThe event was hosted by AgriFutures Australia, the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation and Regional Development Australia (RDA) Riverina to acknowledge the role of research and innovation in supporting agriculture for thriving rural communities.

Graham Centre Acting Director Associate Professor Marta Hernandez-Jover said it was wonderful to see many different aspects of the primary production represented.

“Today was an opportunity to celebrate agriculture and the people behind it, that’s not only the farmers who produce our food and fibre but also the service industries who support them,” said Associate Professor Hernandez-Jover.

“Research is also an important part of that chain, helping our farmers to become even more productive and sustainable.”

AgriFutures Australia, General Manager Communications and Capacity Building Ms Belinda Allitt said there has never been a more important time to celebrate Australian agriculture.

“Today, as this smokey, dusty haze surrounds beautiful Wagga, it is tough day to be a farmer and to be involved in agriculture. Some farmers across Australia are in the middle of the most horrendous drought, some are fighting bush fires, some have zero water allocations, and some are facing all of the above,” said Ms Allitt.

“That’s why is it’s so important to come together today to connect, share some lunch, share a story and celebrate our very important and wonderful industry. “

RDA Riverina Chief Executive Rachel Whiting said this is the third year RDA Riverina has been involved in running an event on National Ag Day.

“Agriculture is such a big part of the Riverina and National Ag day gives us the opportunity to celebrate farmers and agriculture related businesses and to invite the broader community to share in this celebration,” Ms Whiting said.

The event also saw money raised to support the NSW Country Women’s Association drought relief effort.

Members of the Junee Rotary Club gave up their time to cook the BBQ, CHEERS at Charles Sturt in Wagga provided meat and salad and donated money (pictured above) to the drought relief effort, and the crowd was kept hydrated by Big Springs Natural Spring Water.


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Out in the field

Graham Centre researchers in the field

Jhoana Opena and supervisorsTeam effort

Jhoana Opena with Professor Jim Pratley, Professor Deirdre Lemerle, Dr Hanwen Wu, and Kerry Schirmer inspecting an on-going trial looking at the allelopathic inhibitory effects of different cultivars of pasture legume on barnyard grass.

New Project

Graham Centre member Xiaocheng Zhu is beginning a project aimed at improving the flowering performance of walnuts in the Riverina region.

This study will use light microscopy and scanning electronic microscopy (SEM) to evaluate the flower differentiation in walnut for two varieties with flower buds sampled throughout the developing season from September to March.

PhD student Pieter-Willem Hendriks just beat the sunrise to get this photo.Early start

PhD student Pieter-Willem Hendriks just beat the sunrise to get this photo. He was harvesting experiments in Condobolin and needed to do the HI cuts before the harvester.

Harnessing the power of plants and insects to control agricultural pests

Chemical ecology experts Professor Phil Stevenson and Professor  John Pickett checking out field trials.Graham Centre research to understand and harness the power of native vegetation and beneficial insects to control pests and disease in agriculture was highlighted in a recent workshop in Orange.

Key topics for discussion at the workshop include: habitat management for regenerative agriculture and for pest control in vegetable crops; grower attitudes to pest control; using native plants to deliver multiple ecosystem benefits; and the ecosystem benefits of dung beetles.

Following the workshop, the community was invited to a public lecture, ‘Sex, drugs, and pest control’  by two leading ecologists, Professor John Pickett from Cardiff University and Professor Phil Stevenson from the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich in the United Kingdom.

Professor Stevenson  and Professor Pickett are pictured examining flowering plants to support beneficial insects in a cabbage field at Bathurst with Graham Centre researchers Dr Ahsanul Haque and Dr Syed Rizvi.

South America to Wagga Wagga

Jéssica Kayamori Lopes The Graham Centre hosted two PhD students, as part the Australia-Americas PhD Research Internship Program 2019 delivered by the Australian Academy of Science.

Alba Lucia Peñaranda López from the National Technological Institute of Mexico spent two moths working with the scientists at the Functional Grains Centre and Jéssica Kayamori Lopes (pictured) from Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná, Brazil worked with Associate Professor Jane Heller's team studying approaches to antimicrobial stewardship in animal production.


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In the Limelight: Jeff McCormick


Senior lecturer in agronomy


Charles Sturt University School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences

Career Brief

Jeff McCormickI began my career when I moved to Wagga Wagga as an agronomist in 2003. In 2006 I started a PhD at Charles Sturt University working on dual-purpose canola. During the end of my PhD (2010) I started working on the EverCrop project with NSW Department of Primary Industries which was focused on pasture establishment on mixed farms. In 2012 I accepted a teaching position at Lincoln University, Christchurch, New Zealand, teaching first year plant science and crop agronomy. I moved back to Wagga Wagga in 2016 as a lecturer in agronomy at Charles Sturt.

Research and Teaching Activities and Interests

Research activities

My research has focussed on dual-purpose crops and pastures. I have worked on crop physiology of regrowth, utilised APSIM for dual-purpose crops and even stretched into animal nutrition. I have been working with beef cattle on dual-purpose crops and mineral supplementation of lambs on lucerne with Dr Shawn McGrath. An ACIAR project on dry season cropping in Laos and Cambodia with Associate Professor Phil Eberbach is currently being completed and a hard seeded pasture legumes project for the mixed farming zone is underway with Dr Belinda Hackney.

Teaching activities

I primarily teach pastures and rangelands to Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Agricultural Business students. I also teach weed science and experimental design.

Professional Links

I am a member of the Australian Agronomy Society

Executive committee member for Irrigation Research and Extension Committee (IREC)

Executive committee member for NSW Grasslands Society

A typical day for me includes …

Waking up with a coffee in the morning and working out who is taking the kids to school. At work I first respond to the emails that have arrived overnight (not sure that is the best idea) and then it depends on the day. If it is a teaching day then teaching tends to be all consuming. If it is not teaching it is probably trying to organise something for research, whether that is getting something done in the field, writing or reviewing a paper. If it is a little quiet there are always forms to fill in about something.

My main project at the moment is …

Writing up research from this current year to publish as quickly as possible. The Charles Sturt agricultural science degree structure is changing next year so I am also preparing a new subject.

My favourite part of my job is …

Discussing projects with Honours and postgraduate students as well as getting on farm to talk to growers.

When I am not in the office I like …

To play music on my guitar or piano.

When I am driving I like to listen to …

If it is with the kids on the way to school it is Life FM, if it is a road trip it is likely to be Keith Urban.


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In the Limelight: Bec Barnewall


Associate Professor Jane Quinn, Dr Michael Campbell (Charles Sturt University), Dr Ian Marsh (NSW Department of Primary Industries Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute [EMAI]), Ms Narelle Sales (NSW DPI EMAI) and Adjunct Prof Paul Cusack (ALPS, Charles Sturt)

Thesis title:

Development of an emerging diagnostic technology for early identification of respiratory pathogens associated with bovine respiratory disease

Funding body:

MLA Donor Company funded project, “Monitoring health and welfare using emerging diagnostic technologies in the beef feedlot sector”, where Charles Sturt is collaborating with NSW DPI (EMAI).

Relevant Current Employment:

I am employed casually at NSW DPI EMAI as a technical officer where I am currently working in the serology department helping with organisation and National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) associated paperwork.

Career and studies till now:

Bachelor of Animal Science, Bachelor of Animal Science (Honours I)

ORCiD profile:

Currently studying:

Doctor of Philosophy (Animal Science)

Research Interests:

My research interests include the role of individual pathogens in the pathogenicity of bovine respiratory disease (BRD), how to earlier detect these pathogens and thus diagnose BRD and the impact of BRD associated pathogens on production parameters, both pre and post slaughter.

A typical day for me includes:

Early morning visit to the gym followed by tackling the morning Sydney peak hour traffic to get to work, then either computer or lab work.

My main project at the moment is:

Bec BarnewallCurrently I am focused on creating, optimising and validating a method for earlier detection of both viral and bacterial pathogens associated with BRD. Bovine respiratory disease is the leading cause of clinical disease and death in feedlot populations worldwide and is the most prevalent disease in feedlot cattle, veal calves, weaned dairy heifers and weaned / unweaned beef calves. The multifactorial nature of BRD means management and diagnosis of the disorder is very difficult. There are currently five bacterial and ten viral pathogens associated with BRD as well as numerous behavioural and environmental factors. Many pathogens associated with BRD are associated with other cattle diseases including; pneumonia, reproductive loss, mastitis and arthritis. Therefore early detection of pathogens associated with BRD is likely to minimise the economic impact of disease across multiple livestock industries.

I am also in the process of collating data from our year 1 sampling. To date we have sampled 689 cattle from two feedlots.

My favourite part of my studies is:

My favourite part of my studies is getting in to the lab and trialing new technology. I appreciate the opportunities I am given with my studies to gain an in-depth knowledge about these technologies and push them to their full potential. This enables me to determine how different technology can potentially be used in my research now and in the future.

When I am not studying I like to:

Go to the gym, draw and go four wheel driving up the mountains on weekends.

When I am driving I like to listen to:

A variety of genres of music, it really depends what mood I am in.


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