University of Sydney associate professor Brent Kaiser will lead the new Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Hub – Legumes for Sustainable Agriculture.
PHOTO: University of Sydney
A new research hub to study pulse crops was launched in late 2016 to improve the crop's capacity to tolerate stress, produce high yields and fix nitrogen in soil.
The Australian Research Council will support the Industrial Transformation Research Hub – Legumes for Sustainable Agriculture in partnership with the GRDC and the University of Sydney (and other supporting universities) for five years.
The hub will focus on innovative approaches to enhance drought, heat, salinity and flood tolerance and improving below-ground traits that allow plants to better acquire nitrogen for growth. Another aim of the hub – representing an investment of $14.5 million in cash and in-kind support from six universities, the NSW and South Australian governments and the NSW Wheat Research Foundation – is to position pulses as a food staple of choice among consumers.
Scientists within the hub will work with the food industry to look for the best varieties, as pulses are of value in a balanced diet and have been found, for example, to lower the risk of certain cancers including bowel cancer.
Research agencies involved in the hub include the GRDC, the University of Sydney (lead organisation), the University of Western Australia, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, the Australian National University, North Carolina State University, the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the South Australian Research and Development Institute. The hub is expected to employ 13 chief investigators and 12 postdoctoral researchers.
Brent Kaiser, hub director and associate professor at the University of Sydney, says although the past 50 years has seen an increase in the area planted to pulses, thearea planted to cereals still outnumbers this four-fold.
He says lower pulse plantings may be due in part to their difficulty to grow and reliably yield. He and his colleagues hope to address these issues during the life of the hub.
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