Grains Research Development Corporation - Leadership
Agriculture Flagship, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia
Dr. Jens Berger has been studying the specific adaptation of Mediterranean crops and wild relatives to contrasting environments for more than two decades, working in a wide range of climates from Australia, South and West Asia. Jens is particularly interested in using wild germplasm to broaden the adaptive and genetic base of elite, modern crops. To this end he studies adaptive strategies of wild material that has evolved in contrasting climates (for example low and high rainfall Lupinus angustifolius, L. luteus and L. albus) in order to understand what useful traits these may have to offer plant breeders. Measuring phenology, biomass production and partitioning, water-use, and stress onset, and the traits that mitigate these under contrasting water deficit allows us to characterize plants as stress avoiders or tolerators. Having applied this approach widely in Mediterranean lupin - species that are adapted to sandy, acid soils with poor water holding capacity, it will be fascinating to study the recently collected Cicer genetic resources, given that these come from alkaline, heavier, higher fertility/water-holding capacity soils, and appear to run a much later phenology.
Professor, Crop Nematology Team, Centre for Crop Health
University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba Queensland, Australia
Dr John Thompson is Professor of Crop Nematology in the Centre for Crop Health at University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba and previously was Senior Principal Soil Microbiologist in the Queensland Government. His research has focussed on the Australian grains industry, working on asymbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria, soil biotic and biochemical effects in conservation farming systems, and arbuscular-mycorrhizal fungi and root-lesion nematodes. His work has been supported by the Grains Industry Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and the Land and Water Research and Development Corporation (LWRDC). He leads a team of scientists and technicians who research and develop components for integrated nematode management in the grains industry. This involves diagnosis of nematode populations on farms, developing crop rotations and characterising varieties of wheat, barley, chickpea and mungbean for levels of tolerance and resistance. A major focus is developing resistant germplasm to help all Australian plant breeding companies produce resistant varieties for grain growers. Professor Thompson’s contributions to the grains industry and agricultural science have been recognised by State and National Landcare Awards, the Australian Public Service Medal, the Bell Memorial Medal, and Fellowships of two professional scientific societies. He is author of one monograph with Academic Press, 115 peer-reviewed journal publications, and 235 conference and industry articles. From his work while Visiting Scientist at Rothamstead Experimental Station in England, he is joint holder of the first patent in seven countries for the large-scale production of arbuscular-mycorrhizal inoculum by the nutrient film technique.
Curtin University, Australia
Director, Centre for Rhizobium Studies, Murdoch University, Western Australia
Dr. Graham O’Hara is a research and teaching academic at Murdoch University in Western Australia, currently a co-Director of the Centre for Rhizobium Studies and has specialist expertise in mineral nutrition, physiology and stress tolerance of rhizobia and symbiotic nitrogen fixation. He commenced research on symbiotic bacteria at the University of Western Australia in the 1970's followed by a PhD at U. Nottingham (UK) and postdoctoral research on denitrification in rhizobia at Waikato University, New Zealand. He then joined the Murdoch Nitrogen Fixation Group led by Mike Dilworth to work on nutrition and pH stress of rhizobia. With founding of the Centre for Rhizobium Studies (CRS) in 1997 he linked with Prof John Howieson to deliver elite inoculant strains of rhizobia for Australian agriculture, and train scientists in rhizobiology. In 2006 was appointed Director of the CRS and Director of the GRDC-funded National Rhizobium Program for the period 2006-2012. During that time he coordinated the national program of rhizobium strain development. Key outputs included the delivery of elite inoculant strains of rhizobia for temperate agriculture in Australia, PhD training of scientists in rhizobiology and the production of the Handbook for Australian agriculture " Inoculating Legumes: a practical guide”. He has conducted consultancies and workshops on agricultural microbiology in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Netherlands and Uruguay. Dr O’Hara is an Associate Editor for Crop & Pasture Science. He has substantial experience in postgraduate training and education having been Dean of Graduate Studies at Murdoch University (2007-2013), and an invited member on AusAID postgraduate scholarship selection panels in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. Since 2004 he has supervised 17 Honours, 2 Masters and 14 PhD students, and currently co-supervises 7 full-time PhD students. Current research programs are supported by GRDC, the Australian Research Council, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation N2Africa program with a focus on gene transfer in the mezorhizobia that nodulate legumes important in agriculture, including chickpea; understanding the soil ecology and competition of inoculant rhizobia in stressful soils; and improving our understanding host-rhizobia interactions regulating N-fixation effectiveness in legume symbioses.