RESEARCH FELLOWS: THE NEXT GENERATION

(left to right): John Heap, Krishna Mann, Juan Juttner, Paul Grundy

The GRDC education program keenly supports up-and-coming researchers through GRDC Grains Industry Research Scholarships. Following are four who are making a difference — from the left in the photo.

John Heap, of the University of Adelaide, has been studying medic tolerance to ALS-inhibiting herbicide residues. (ALS stands for acetolactate synthase, an enzyme in all plants which assists their protein production. ALS-inhibiting herbicides work by attacking the ALS enzyme in plants and disrupting protein production.) ALS-inhibiting herbicides are used in southern cropping rotations. They accumulate in soil and appear to be associated with low performance of annual medics.

Mr Heap aims to identify medic plants with partial or complete tolerance to these herbicides, and to rank medic species according to their sensitivity to ALS-inhibiting herbicide residues, to improve growers' sowing choices.

Krishna Mann, of the University of Western Australia, has been researching the heliothis {H. punctigera) resistance in 18 chickpea lines identified by ICRISAT, an agricultural research station in India. If this research is successful, it will be possible to develop heliothis-resistant chickpea varieties for Australian growers.

Ms Mann has discovered that H. punctigera larvae feed better on chickpea pods than leaves, and has shown that high levels of oxalic acid are a major factor in heliothis resistance in chickpeas.

Juan Juttner, of the University of Adelaide, studied self-incompatibility in cereals and other grasses. 'Self-incompatibility' is a mechanism in plants which stops incompatible pollen from fertilising the plant. Improved understanding of the genetic basis of pollination and the role of self-incompatibility should make it easier to develop improved cereal hybrids.

Mr Juttner has identified genes involved in compatibility relationships in rye, barley and Phalaris species.

Paul Grundy, of the University of Queensland, has been identifying predatory assassin bugs (beneficial insects that attack insect pests) in sunflower, safflower and canola crops, and developing ways to use these natural enemies of crop pests as part of improved integrated pest management systems.

Mr Grundy has identified five potential pesticides for use in IPM systems compatible with an identified potential assassin bug (P. plagipinnis) which is now being mass-reared.

Region North