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New ARC Centre of Excellence dedicated to crop science

Technologies, such as in vitro plant breeding, will be part of a new ARC in Australia.
Photo: Brad Collis

A $35 million investment over seven years has been made by the Australian Government to improve the yield resilience of Australian cropping systems, starting in 2020.

The funds have been used to create a new Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence called Plant Success in Nature and Agriculture, under the leadership of Professor Christine Beveridge, who is based at the University of Queensland.

Agriculture Minister Senator Bridget McKenzie says the goal is to harness the world-leading research available within participating R&D organisations to make agriculture a $100 billion sector by 2030.

"This sort of research can contribute to higher incomes for our producers, buoyant economies in our regions, a higher gross domestic product for our nation, and happy, healthy food and fibre customers around the world," Senator McKenzie says.

The new centre will investigate plant adaptive strategies, providing a knowledge base to help Australia's agricultural crops withstand the effects of a variable and changing climate.

The knowledge generated will also be critical to improving food security for the projected 25 per cent increase in world population over the next 30 years.

The new centre will investigate plant adaptive strategies, providing a knowledge base to help Australia's agricultural crops withstand the effects of a variable and changing climate.

Education Minister Dan Tehan says the strategy relies on understanding the genetic and physiological basis of plant resilience traits and harnessing them to provide crop breeders with unparalleled predictive capability to improve yield and yield resilience.

"The centre will bring together a unique multidisciplinary team from academia and industry to address the problem of food production in a changing climate, establishing Australia as a global leader in this field of research," Mr Tehan says.

Professor Beveridge says cutting-edge innovation and technology now make it possible to make genetic gain for even complex plant resilience traits that interact strongly with environmental and management factors.

"By predicting the plant varieties that are best for particular environments, we can help breeders build more resilient crops and farmers choose which plants to grow in what areas for each season for the best yield," Professor Beveridge says.

"Another important component of the centre is the focus on the regulatory requirements which will allow the new technologies to be scaled globally to future-proof agriculture around the world."

Researchers from the University of Queensland will collaborate with experts at four Australian universities and 13 academic and industry partner organisations from Australia, Europe, Asia, America and Canada.

Together, these partners will provide an additional $75.2 million in cash and in-kind support to the centre.

The participating organisations are:

  • University of Tasmania
  • Monash University
  • Macquarie University
  • Queensland University of Technology
  • The Crop Trust
  • The University of British Columbia
  • Kansas State University, US
  • Harvard University, US
  • Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology
  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
  • University of Saskatchewan
  • Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation
  • Bioplatforms Australia Ltd
  • Dupont Pioneer
  • International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre
  • Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

More information: ARC Centre for Excellence 2020

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