Toowoomba agricultural science precinct opens

GRDC, USQ open new agricultural science precinct


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USQ's Centre for Crop Health acting director Professor Levente Kiss, Associate Professor of field crops pathology Adam Sparks and Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment executive director Professor Gavin Ash at the Agricultural Science and Engineering Precinct at USQ Toowoomba. PHOTO Liz Wells

USQ's Centre for Crop Health acting director Professor Levente Kiss, Associate Professor of field crops pathology Adam Sparks and Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment executive director Professor Gavin Ash at the Agricultural Science and Engineering Precinct at USQ Toowoomba. PHOTO Liz Wells

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Toowoomba's Agricultural Science and Engineering Precinct is a new home for grains research.

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Grains research in the northern region has found a new home on the Darling Downs with the opening of the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Toowoomba Agricultural Science and Engineering Precinct.

Co-funded by GRDC and USQ, the $16-million facility will be used primarily for GRDC-supported and USQ-led research conducted for the benefit of Australian grain growers.

The new facility was opened by the Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner, GRDC chair John Woods, USQ chancellor John Dornbusch and USQ vice-chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie.

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It includes 10 laboratories, four glasshouses, netted and irrigated field research areas and four controlled-environment rooms. It is already being used by more than 30 staff and 30 post-graduate students.

Mr Woods says the facility is set to play a key role in research, development and extension. "We rely on high-calibre researchers and research organisations like USQ to deliver world-class RD&E to growers," he says.

"Research already under way in the precinct will bring benefits to growers and grain industry profitability through a number of projects.

"This will contribute to a faster selection of advanced disease-resistant grain varieties, and better options for growers for disease and insect management."

Professor Mackenzie says the facility will play a major role for decades to come in understanding plant pathogens and how to protect crops and increase agricultural yields.

USQ Associate Professor of field crops pathology Adam Sparks, Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment executive director Professor Gavin Ash and Centre for Crop Health acting director Professor Levente Kiss at the GRDC-invested Agricultural Science and Engineering Precinct at USQ Toowoomba. PHOTO Liz Wells

USQ Associate Professor of field crops pathology Adam Sparks, Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment executive director Professor Gavin Ash and Centre for Crop Health acting director Professor Levente Kiss at the GRDC-invested Agricultural Science and Engineering Precinct at USQ Toowoomba. PHOTO Liz Wells

"This investment will help support the delivery of our world-class agricultural and environmental research, so USQ continues to be a national and indeed international leader in crop protection, plant pathology and biotechnology research," Professor Mackenzie says.

"This unique facility will work as a nexus between microbiology labs through to processing labs, state-of-the-art glasshouses and the field research unit, allowing researchers to look at the whole spectrum of research which underpins crop protection in Australia."

Research already under way in the precinct will bring benefits to growers and grain industry profitability through a number of projects. - GRDC chair John Woods

USQ plays a major role in GRDC-invested projects in areas including crop protection, plant pathology, biotechnology and nematology.

The precinct will be used for pre-breeding programs for wheat and chickpeas, specifically assisting in the development of varieties that are drought, heat and soil-pathogen resistant.

It is already playing an important role in the GRDC-funded project that is looking for genetics from wild relatives of chickpeas which can improve the performance of the winter crop.

The precinct will also facilitate interaction with agricultural-engineering research teams and provide the ability to undertake machine-vision sensing and robotics trials.

Its high-tech glasshouses, which continually monitor the surrounding weather to maximise plant growth, provide ideal conditions for plant pathogen research as is being carried out under the integrated disease management project. This is looking at the nature and extent of diseases in farming systems which incorporate summer and winter crops.

Projects funded by the Broadacre Grains Research Partnership, AgriFutures Australia, Hort Innovation and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research are also being carried out in the new precinct.

GRDC Research Codes CSP00185, DAQ00186

More information: Levente Kiss, 07 4687 5846, levente.kiss@usq.edu.au

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