All future 2012 events

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PFS Seminar by Professor David Guest   View Summary
15 March 2012

Management of Phytophthora diseases of jackfruit and durian

Jackfruit and durian are high-value crops marketed as 'flagship fruit' for the Eastern Visayas and Mindanao regions of the Philippines. Both fruits have the potential to provide sustainable incomes for local farmers through domestic, and potentially, export markets.

The major constraint to durian production is canker and fruit rot caused by the soilborne oomycete Phytophthora palmivora. A disease survey conducted at the start of this project showed that up to 95% of jackfruit trees were affected by a similar, but undiagnosed, decline syndrome that we identified to be also caused by Phytophthora palmivora. We identified infected nursery stock, poor soil and water management, poor farm hygiene and insects as the main drivers of disease.

A series of participatory action research trials were established and run by industry stakeholders to evaluate potential disease management strategies. Improved nursery practices (such as raised benches and clean potting medium) were implemented to produce disease-free planting material, and a nursery accreditation scheme is now being initiated. Low-, medium- and high-level management options have been designed for adoption by growers with a range of backgrounds, resources and technical capacities. Cost-benefit analyses for each option are used to promote adoption, along with farmer field days and training by extension and local government staff.

Chaired by Ass. Prof Robyn McConchie

ARE Seminar by Dr Andrew Reeson   View Summary
22 March 2012

Running repeated auctions for ecosystem provision - will they keep working?


Repeated discriminatory price auctions are now routinely used in Australia for the procurement of ecosystem services from landholders. Whilst such auctions have been demonstrated to be highly efficient in a one-shot setting, it is less clear whether this efficiency will be maintained with repetition, particularly as information about previous auctions is disseminated amongst participants. This paper presents the results of laboratory experiments designed to test the performance of repeated discriminatory price procurement auctions (reverse auctions) under three different levels of information (1. information regarding own offers, 2. information provided on two neighbours' offers, and 3. information about all offers in the auction) and two levels of competition (with different budgets resulting in different proportions of participants being successful in each auction). We compare the results of these laboratory experiments to a case study from the field where multiple auctions for ecosystem services have been run over a number of years.


Dr Andrew Reeson is part of the Markets, Incentives & Institutions team in CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems. His major research focus is the design and implementation of environmental policies, particularly market-based instruments (MBIs). This involves applying experimental economics to incorporate a sound understanding of human behaviour into policy design. Originally an ecologist, Dr Reeson has formal training in both ecology and economics, and research experience in the United Kingdom, Africa and Australasia. He spent four years as a virologist and microbiologist at the Institute of Virology & Environmental Microbiology in Oxford, United Kingdom, and was involved in some of the early field trials of genetically modified organisms. Dr Reeson also has experience of field ecology and molecular biology.

PFS Seminar by Dr David Swain   View Summary
23 March 2012

Precision Livestock Management in Tropical Rangelands

In Australia grass based livestock production is the single largest land use, representing approximately 60% of the land area of the continent. The extensive grassland systems that typify the rangelands provide important economic and environmental services. A recent situational analysis ofthenorthern beef industry provided an alarming assessment of the economic state of extensive grass based production systems. There are however examples of livestock producers that are making a profit at the same time as maintaining the environment. One of the common factors thatdeterminesuccessful outcomes when managing extensive rangelands is attention to detail. There has been recent interest in the use of telemetry technology to aid precision livestock management. This seminar provides an overview of an emerging paradigm in the tropical rangelandsthatisbeingdriven by a desiretoachieve local optimisation. Examples of new information and technologies (e.g. social networks and virtual fencing) are provided and discussed in the context of precision livestock management in tropical rangelands.

Dr Swain is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Environmental Management in North Rockhampton.

This Seminar will be chaired by Professor Mark Adams.

PFS Seminar by Dr Daniel Tan   View Summary
29 March 2012

Green Biofuels for Australia


Recently, there has been increasing interest in sustainable renewable biofuels, with concerns about peak oil and the need for increased energy security. The first generation of biofuels was produced from starches, sugars and oils of agricultural crops (including corn, sugarcane and rapeseed), and the main biofuels being produced are bioethanol and biodiesel. Due to food security concerns, some countries are promoting biofuel crops that can be grown on marginal agricultural land. Currently, the biodiesel feedstocks being trialled include pongamia (Millettia pinnata), Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) and algae, and bioethanol feedstocks being trialled include agave (Agave tequilana) and Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.).


Dr Daniel Tan graduated from the University of Queensland with a BAppSc (Hort Tech) (Hons 1) in 1991 and a PhD in 1999. In 1992, he was a senior executive at Keppel Land International Ltd in Singapore where he led the project management of two international class hotels in Myanmar. In 2003, he accepted a lectureship in agronomy at the University of Sydney and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2010. Daniel's ongoing work on abiotic stress in cotton and chickpea has been supported by the CRDC and GRDC. He is currently President of the NSW Division of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology.

The seminar will be chaired by Professor Jeff Amthor.

PFS Seminar by Professor Robert Park   View Summary
3 April 2012

Stem rust of wheat strikes back: the Ug99 story


Of the three rust diseases that attack wheat, stem rust is the most damaging. It was the threat of this disease that led to the establishment of Rockefeller Foundation sponsored wheat breeding in Mexico, later to become the International Wheat and Maize Centre (CIMMYT). It has been said that it took this program about 10 years to produce wheats with durable resistance to stem rust, and a further 25 years for global adoption of this germplasm. A new pathotype of stem rust, known as Ug99, was detected in Uganda in 1999. Since then, Ug99 has spread to Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, and South Africa. This pathotype has caused considerable concern because of its broad virulence spectrum that includes gene Sr31, one of the most widely deployed stem rust resistance genes that remained effective until the detection of Ug99. Ug99 has had a large impact on a wide range of wheat germplasm, including that originating from the CIMMYT breeding programs. The seminar will present historical perspectives on stem rust, give an overview of the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat Project, and give an update on the Ug99 story.

ARE Seminar by Dr Emma Aisbett   View Summary
5 April 2012

Environmental and Health Protections, or new Protectionism? Determinants ofSPS Notifications by WTO Members.


The drastic reductions in bound tariffs agreed by WTO members over the past half century have been accompanied by a substantial rise in non-tariff barriers to trade. Many commentators have drawn a causal link between these two phenomena, but there have been few attempts to empirically test this claim. This lack is particularly apparent with regard to Sanitary andPhytosanitary (SPS) measures, despite their increasing prevalence both in the media and in WTO disputes.SPS measures, like other health and environment regulations, ostensibly serve legitimate national policy objectives and cannot belabeled as "green" protectionism merely by considering posterior trade impacts. The determinants of these regulations matter. This paper uses members'SPS notifications to the WTO at the product levelto test the importance of negotiated tariff reductions as a driver for additionalSPS regulations. Using an error correction model specification, we confirm that smaller tariff binding overhang leads to increases in the probability of newSPS measures. However, we also find that environmental and governance variables are more important determinants ofSPS notifications.


EmmaAisbett ( a Lecturer at the Crawford School of Economics and Government and a Research Fellow at the Research School of Economics. Prior to coming to theANU she obtained her PhD in Applied Economics from the University of California, Berkeley. Emma also has a MSc. Environmental Change and Management from Oxford University, U.K. and B.Eng. (Medal) in Chemical Engineering from UNSW. Her research interests lie at the intersection of economic globalization (particularly foreign direct investment), development and environmental economics; and she increasingly finds political economy and behavioural economics important additions to the neoclassical approach to her research questions (

The Fifth Global Workshop on Digital Soil Mapping, 10-13 April 2012.   View Summary
10 April 2012 to 13 April 2012

The 5th global workshop with a theme of "Digital Soil Assesments and Beyond ...", will highlight the achievement of the global soil mapping project. It will provide solutions to research organizations around the world that are involved in global scale studies. It will demonstrate the latest development in the digital soil mapping technology with a special focus on the use of the map product to drive policy decisions on climate change, crop and soil security.


10th April 2012, Registration, Opening & Aussie BBQ

11th April 2012, Second day Workshop, Gala Dinner

12th April 2012, Field trip to the Hunter Valley highlighting the application of DSM techniques for producing digital terroirs.

13th April 2012, Third day workshop.

The workshop will consist of sessions that address each of the workshop's topics. Each session will consist of an invited keynote talk (30 minutes) followed by contributed talks (maximum 5 minutes) There will be at least half an hour for discussion of each topic, which will be led by a discussant. Each session will be summarised by a rapporteur. The final session will be a discussion to develop a set of key recommendations and future priorities for digital soil mapping.


  • Digital Soil Assessments - From DSM to soil functions and risk assessments in food security and soil carbon sequestration.
  • Global Soil Mapping - Global advancements in digital soil mapping and
  • DSM Theory - Advances in spatiotemporal modelling, Multiscale spatial modelling
  • Soil Observations - From legacy soil data to new technologies for gathering new soil data.
  • Soil and Environmental Covariates - Novel and creative covariates for DSM.
  • Soil Sampling and Monitoring - Sampling in space and time and the 4th dimension of DSM.
  • Soil Information Modelling, Production & Cyber Infrastructure - Delivering the products.
  • Group Discussions.
The Chocolate Crisis   View Summary
18 April 2012

The Chocolate Crisis

Presented by Professor David Guest, Faculty of Agriculture and Environment and Galit Segev, Food Scientist & Chef

Dark, delicious and decadent, the rich flavour of chocolate has inspired passions, addictions and even literature for more than three thousand years. However, a chocolate supply crisis may be looming. Hear how Professor David Guest, from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, is helping counter a chocolate catastrophe when he gives his Sydney Science Forum talk - The Chocolate Crisis - on 18 April.

Cacao is grown in West Africa, South America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific - areas vulnerable to threats of climate change, political instability, pests and diseases. Rapidly increasing chocolate consumption in developing Asian economies is making chocolate manufacturers anxious about meeting demand. To counter a chocolate catastrophe, Professor David Guest's research supports the chocolate industry by improving the sustainability of smallholder cacao production. Professor Guest's work with farmers in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Bougainville shows that good farm management increases yields, resulting in improved living standards, reduced rainforest clearing, political and social stability, and securing future supplies of chocolate. Galit Segev, food scientist and chef, will reveal the science of working with chocolate, from technique tips to practical points. Join us afterwards for an exciting array of hands-on activities including chocolate tasting.

PFS Seminar by Professor Les Copeland   View Summary
19 April 2012

The role of starch in human evolution


Starch is plant polysaccharide of great importance to humans. It is the major source of energy in the human diet and the source of many food and non-food industrial products. How we digest starch has important implications for human health.This seminar will consider the properties of starch relevant to human nutrition and will consider the hypothesis that the availability of dietary starch was significantin human evolution and brain development.

Master of Agriculture Presentations   View Summary
24 April 2012

The Faculty's Master of Agriculture candidates will be presenting their preliminary proposals. All invited to attend and provide feedback.





1:00 - 1:20

Eunice Ndungi

Prof. Niggol Seo

An Economic Analysis of Rice Production in the Ndop Production Basin of Cameroon

1:20 - 1:40

Timothy Caboche

Prof. Greg Hertzler

Termination of the Australian live cattle export trade: A welfare analysis

1:40 - 2:00

Wassim Sayegh

Assoc. Prof. Michael Kertesz

Effects of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) Contamination on Bacterial Root Colonisation of Vetiveria zizanioides.

2:00 - 2:20

Benjamin Smider

Assoc. Prof. Balwant Singh

Utilisation of pyrolysis as a tool to sequester carbon and add value to the waste products of greenhouse horticulture.

2:20 - 2:40

Jhaman Kundun

Dr. Sarah Mansfield

Potential Distribution ofHippodamiavariegata in Australia

Master of Agriculture Presentations   View Summary
27 April 2012

The Faculty's Master of Agriculture candidates will be presenting their preliminary proposals. All invited to attend and provide feedback.





12:00 - 12:20

Kyi Chan

Dr. Gordon Rogers

Impact of growing temperature on the shelf life of baby leaf spinach (Spinacia oleraceae).

12:20 - 12:40

Selepe Elisa

Dr Daniel Tan

Competitiveness of wheat lines contrasting in tillering plasticity with weeds

12:40 - 1:00

Thomas Taisa

Dr Tariq Chattha

The stability of triticale grain yield and feeding traits across southern NSW

1:00 - 1:20

Alifinura Sharifeyeve

Ms Shauna Phillips

Potential Trade Creation and Trade Diversion for Kazakhstan's agriculture under Customs Union of Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus

1:20 - 1:40

HaiHui Wang

Ms Shauna Phillips

Australia's Dairy Export to China: Opportunities and Chanllenges

1:40 - 2:00

Mathew Mahoney

Ms Shauna Phillips


2:00 - 2:20


2:20 - 2:40

Tolera Fufa

Prof. Robert Park

Genetics of leaf and stem rust resistance in barley (Hordeum vulgare)

2:40 - 3:00

Leila Kamino

Prof. Robert Park

Genetics of resistance to Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici, P. striiformis f. sp. pseudo-hordei and P. hordei in barley

3:00 - 3:20

Amrit Pathak

Assoc. Prof. Tihomir Ancev

The Study of Air and Water Quality in Kathmandu, Nepal in relation to Political Change

PFS Seminar by Professor Phillip Poole    View Summary
1 May 2012

From rhizosphere to nodule senescence, the birth and death of the Rhizobium-legume symbiosis

Abstract : TBA

Scholars' Reception 2012   View Summary
4 May 2012

Celebrate the future of Agriculture and Environment by joining staff, students, graduates, alumni and friends of the Faculty at our annual awards ceremony for prizes and scholarships. The ceremony formally recognises our high achievers and celebrates our newest graduates. Click here to see the E-invite


Business attire

RSVP by 23 April


Click here to see the E-invite
Your path to Sydney Uni - an information evening for parents and students   View Summary
9 May 2012

Ever wondered what it is like to go to uni?

What can I study? What marks do I need to get in? How do I apply? How much would it cost?

Join us to find Your path to Sydney Uni. At this information evening you can find all the answers to your questions and hear from current Sydney Uni students including Corey Payne from the Canterbury Bulldogs about why he chose to study at Sydney.

Your path to Sydney Uni - an information evening for parents and students   View Summary
9 May 2012

Ever wondered what it is like to go to uni?

What can I study? What marks do I need to get in? How do I apply? How much would it cost?

Join us to find Your path to Sydney Uni. At this information evening you can find all the answers to your questions and hear from current Sydney Uni students including Corey Payne from the Canterbury Bulldogs about why he chose to study at Sydney.

PFS Seminar by Dr Brian Jones   View Summary
10 May 2012

Myopia or myopathic? The role of ARF18 in light responses

Abstract: TBA

AARES and ARE Seminar by Professor Jeff Bennett (ANU)   View Summary
10 May 2012

Little Green Lies: An exposé of twelve environmental myths


Should we be worried about running out of oil? Is economic development causing the demise of the environment? Is it vital that we 'reduce, re-use and recycle' so that no waste goes to landfill? These are questions addressed in Jeff Bennett's new book "Little Green Lies: An exposé of twelve environmental myths". Bennett sets out twelve propositions that are central to the world view taken by environmentalists and subjects them to economic analysis. He concludes that the propositions are in fact 'Little Green Lies'. While they appear at first glance to hold true, their wider and frequently ignored consequences tell a different story. For instance, promoting renewable energy to make sure we will have enough power once we run out of oil means putting pressure on other scarce natural resources such as rare earths. And renewable energy is certainly not free from environmental consequences. Dams for hydro power mean flooded ecosystems. Protests from locals usually accompany wind farm proposals. Recycling seems like a worthy goal until the costs of collecting and processing all waste streams are added up. In this presentation, Jeff will draw examples from the book to illustrate his case that unlike 'Little White Lies', telling 'Little Green Lies' is not harmless. He concludes that if they become so widely accepted that they form the basis for government policies, our society can be worse off for them. They can even end up causing environmental harm.


Professor Jeff Bennett has over 30 years experience researching, consulting and teaching in the fields of Environmental Economics, Natural Resource Economics, Agricultural Economics and Applied Micro-Economics. His current research interests focus on the development and application of techniques to estimate the value of non-marketed environmental benefits and costs, and, the analysis of alternative institutional structures that give private owners/managers of natural resources the incentive to provide environmental benefits. Professor Bennett is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and a Distinguished Fellow of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society. Jeff was also President of that Society in 2002. He is a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Centre for Independent Studies and an elected member of the Mont Pelerin Society. From 2007 to 2011, Jeff was Director of the Environmental and Economics Research Hub.

All welcome to attend.

DES Seminar by PhD candidate Robert Pallassar   View Summary
11 May 2012

Soil C made easy.

Soil-C can be quite variable but measuring whole soil cores using a combustion technique overcomes this while also encapsulating the usual decrease with depth. The benefit of such a method is fast and cost effective determinations for the mapping and modelling of soil-C stocks. Another important aspect is separating major C groups (e.g. black-C, organic and inorganic-C) to assist during monitoring and soil-C studies generally. Thermal analysis methods are quite effective in separating and quantifying these broad types with some added potential to gain insights about the soil organic matter itself. Other quite different approaches are also briefly outlined.

All welcome to attend.

PFS Seminar by Dr Mary Byrne   View Summary
17 May 2012

A specialized role for ribosomes in plant development


Development and growth of a multicellular organism from a single cell requires exquisite temporal and spatial regulation of cellular gene expression. Regulation of gene expression can be achieved by many mechanisms acting at the level of transcription, post-transcription, translation or post-translation. During plant development, gene regulatory networks coordinate the maintenance of a shoot meristem and the production of organs from this meristem. We have identified ribosomal proteins as new components in these gene networks. Mutations in ribosomal protein genes in Arabidopsis have a range phenotypes, however, there are specific defects in meristem function and leaf patterning during plant development. Ribosomal protein mutants may also reduce fertility due to dose-dependent effects on ovule and female gametophyte development. We propose that specific phenotypes of ribosomal protein mutants are due to reduced ribosome function and reflect a role for the ribosome in regulating patterning processes in plant development.

This seminar will be chaired by Dr Brian Jones.

DES Seminar by PhD candidate Brendan Malone    View Summary
18 May 2012

Practicable methodologies for delivering comprehensive spatial soil information.

My research project is concerned with practicable methodologies for delivering comprehensive spatial soil information to end-users. There is a need for relevant spatial soil information to compliment objective decision-making for addressing current problems associated with soil degradation; for modelling, monitoring and measurement of particular soil services; and for the general management of soil resources. These are real-world situations, which operate at spatial scales ranging from field to global scales. As such, comprehensive spatial soil information is tailored to meet the spatial scale specifications of the end user, and is of a nature that fully characterises the whole-soil profile with associated prediction uncertainties, and where possible, both the predictions and uncertainties have been independently validated. Practicable is an idealistic pursuit but nonetheless necessary because of a need to equip land-holders, private-sector and non-governmental stakeholders and, governmental departments including soil mapping agencies with the necessary tools to ensure wide application of the methodologies to match the demand for relevant spatial soil information. Practicable methodologies are general and computationally efficient; can be applied to a wide range of soil attributes; can handle variable qualities of data; and are effective when working with very large datasets. My presentation will explore these practicable methodologies in more detail with examples.

All welcome.

PFS Seminar by Ms Nicole Walczyk    View Summary
24 May 2012

The impact of plant growth conditions on the allergenicity of peanuts


Peanut plants grown in different regions of Australia are exposed to different environmental conditions. Climate change, including elevated CO2, influences peanut plant growth. After extensive evaluation of methods to analyse the allergenicity of peanuts on a protein level,we tested projected CO2 concentrations and growth conditions in different regions in Australia for their impact on the allergenicity of peanuts. These results will be discussed. The evaluation of methods leads us to recommend a standardisation of peanut allergenicity testing, which will be essential to understand the molecular and physiological basis of peanut allergenicity and to achieve a reduction in the allergenicity of peanuts.

DES Seminar by PhD candidate Ichsani Wheeler   View Summary
25 May 2012

Soil carbon auditing at the farm scale.

Soil carbon auditing at the farm scale - we all know our modern agriculture, although highly productive, has left many of our soils in a sad and sorry state, deplete in carbon and all the requisite ecosystem services that go with it. We won't fix this with the same farming that got us here, so we need methods to recognise innovative practices that over the space of years and decades can build these levels back up again. But is it really economically feasible to independently measure and monitor a long term 'sequestration offset project'? And if we do, how then do we work out the difference to the atmosphere… and what might this be worth to the market?

All welcome.

PFS Seminar by Professor Jeff Amthor   View Summary
31 May 2012

What is (potential) carbon-use efficiency, and canmolecular biologists really be 40 years behind?

Abstract TBA

DES Seminar by PhD candidate Kanika Singh    View Summary
1 June 2012

New methods in measuring and managing soil carbon.

Study 1: How variable are the soil properties in a 68 ha paddock? A baseline survey was conducted in central west NSW on the lower plains of the Macquarie River in 2009 to explain the spatial variability of soil carbon at this scale. This study presents the results pertaining to spatial variability of soil carbon and its relationship with soil properties with a focus on few methods of managing it at this scale, given that a field is usually not a naturally uniform area of the landscape and often, contains more than one landform element or landform unit and often more than one soil type.

Study 2: Does soil profile inversion in a "Brown Sodosols" impact crop yield? This study was conducted in Bathurst in 2010 to 2012, with an attempt to homogenize the soil carbon in a soil profile, but before that we had to check the crop response to inversion of soil profile and application of some organic amendments. A glass house experiment was also conducted to study the crop response to the application of the organic amendments.

Study 3: This research work was conducted between 2011-2012 which investigates the prediction of total soil carbon content in % (TC) using Vis-NIR instruments with a future aim of building a soil spectral calibration dataset for agricultural areas of NSW, Australia and also for validating a predicted soil organic carbon map created for this area. To build the spatial soil carbon spectral library a conditioned Latin Hypercube (cLHS) sampling regime was conducted using four covariates: the predicted soil organic carbon content (SOC) layer created using the legacy dataset, topography, gamma radiometric data and landuse, to encompass regional scale soil carbon variability. This covered three major bioregions of New South Wales, Australia, namely the South Eastern Highlands, NSW South Western Slopes and Brigalow Belt South (area of 158,000 km2).

All welcome

PFS Seminar by Dr Robert Sharwood (UWS)   View Summary
5 June 2012

Post-transcriptional chloroplast gene regulation: Analysis of key ribonucleases responsible for RNA maturation


Chloroplasts are semi-autonomous organelles, derived from prokaryotes that perform photosynthesis and other essential cellular functions. The regulation of chloroplast gene expression has levels of complexity not found in prokaryotes, particularly post-transcriptional processes including maturation of polycistronic transcripts, RNA editing and intron splicing. These events are mediated by nucleus-encoded endo- and exo-ribonucleases, along with RNA-binding proteins. One unique enzyme recently discovered is RNase J, which possesses both endoribonuclease and a processive 5'Ž3' exoribonuclease activity. An ortholog of RNase J exists within higher plants, encoded in the nucleus and transported into the chloroplast. Recombinant Arabidopsis RNase J displayed robust endonuclease and 5'Ž3' exoribonuclease activity, which is sensitive to the phosphorylation status of the RNA 5'end. To determine the in vivo role of RNase J in chloroplast RNA metabolism, knockdown material was generated using virus-induced gene silencing. Plant material with a two-fold decrease in RNase J at the mRNA level was chlorotic indicating that chloroplast gene expression was impaired. We discovered that both discrete and heterodisperse antisense RNAs overaccumulated in silenced material, which suggested that read-through transcription products are substrates for RNase J. We found a high proportion of asRNA duplexed with the complementary sense RNA and according to polysome analysis this duplexed RNA prevents translation of sense transcripts and prevents synthesis of crucial chloroplast proteins. The importance of RNase J in chloroplast RNA processing and its possible synergy with the endoribonuclease, RNase E, will be discussed.

All welcome to attend.

Year 10 Subject Selection - Session 1   View Summary
6 June 2012

This annual event is designed to help year 10 students and their parents choose subjects and navigate through the process of applying to uni.

Topics will include: ATAR, scaling and university entrance; subject selections; career pathways; and university transition.

Year 10 Subject Selection - Session 2   View Summary
12 June 2012

This annual event is designed to help year 10 students and their parents choose subjects and navigate through the process of applying to uni.

Topics will include: ATAR, scaling and university entrance; subject selections; career pathways; and university transition.

Combined PFS - DES Seminar by Sylvain Delzon   View Summary
12 June 2012

Evolution of ecophysiological traits and tree population adaptation

Sylvain Delzon will briefly present two examples based on the research he hasconducted in the lab during the last four years.

Phenological adaptive responses of oak and beech to altitudinal gradients

I will report on experiments conducted in sessile oak (Quercus petraea) and beech (Fagus sylvatica) aiming at assessing the importance of both diversity and plasticity in the response to environmental changes generated by altitudinal gradients. The experiment consisted in a set of common garden and reciprocal transplantation experiments in two valleys on the Northern side of the Pyrénées mountains, and on the monitoring of bud burst and leaf coloration in situ and in the plantations. The existence of large population differentiation and high magnitude of plasticity suggest that these populations can respond quite rapidly to temperatures changes.

Cavitation resistance and drought tolerance in conifers

In addition to being one of the most ecologically and economically important plant group, the Order Pinales is an appropriate size to examine the evolution of key functional traits across an entire plant Order, spanning >250My of evolution. Of particular interest given their longevity and stature, is the evolution of stress tolerance in the water-transport system. In the last four years, thanks to a new technology (CAVITRON), an extensive dataset has been developed for cavitation resistance (P50, the pressure inducing 50% loss of hydraulic conductance), a fitness-related trait critical for plant survival during drought. We here analyzed the global variation in cavitation resistance and related traits (i) across 203 conifer species from the seven extant conifer families growing in the four main biomes and (ii) between populations across a species range. Our results show how a combination of an extensive ecophysiological dataset for a core fitness-related trait with that from phylogenetics can lead to a new perception of the evolutionary history of this taxa. The conifers (mainly Cupressaceae) evolved toward a more cavitation resistant xylem over time as they might be outcompeted by fast-growing angiosperms in wet and nutrient-rich environments.

The seminar will be chaired by Associate Professor Peter Franks.

All welcome to attend.

Camden Open Day for Schools   View Summary
15 June 2012

Camden Open Day is a full day program especially designed for high school students in years 9-10 interested in the environment, agriculture and veterinary science. Students have the opportunity to explore a research and teaching campus and experience agriculture, environment and veterinary science at the University of Sydney.

Invitation only.

DES Seminar by PhD candidate Chun Liang   View Summary
15 June 2012

Can planting trees make it rain? Understanding the land­‑atmosphere feedback relationships.


Land surface process and land cover change have important influences on climate change at different spatial scales. Local weather in water-limited regions, such as Australia, is more likely subject to the land-atmosphere interaction. In this study, evidence of land-atmosphere feedback is sought from observations and models. Step trend test on gridded land cover and rainfall data can potentially pick up rainfall change in areas with known tree cover loss. Model simulations indicate different trends in rainfall over different land covers such as grassland and forest. Land surface process and land cover change are surely affecting the local climate in Australia. However the direction of change is still inconclusive. Further localised research and more information on land use and land cover change are necessary to predict the consequent change in rainfall.

All welcome to attend.

Scholarships Information Evening   View Summary
20 June 2012
This event is designed to maximise your year 11 and 12 students' chances of receiving a scholarship to study at the University of Sydney. More information will be online closer to the event.
Faculty Alumni Awards Reception   View Summary
22 June 2012

The Faculty of Agriculture and Environment Alumni Awards honour some of Australia's foremost thinkers, innovators and brightest achievers in agricultural sciences.

The Awards Reception celebrates the alumni achievements in the areas of Community, International, Professional, and Young Alumni.

All welcome.

DES Seminar by Dr andrew Merchant (ARC Discovery Postdoctoral Fellow)    View Summary
22 June 2012

Carbon flux and its regulation in metabolic networks


The allocation of carbon among metabolites immediately post photosynthesis is the major conduit for flux of carbon from the atmosphere into terrestrial ecosystems. Regulation of this metabolite network is the framework within which plants adapt and acclimatise to changes in environmental conditions. Despite significant advances in the quantitative measurement of gene expression and metabolic flux, few investigations seek to combine these powerful analytical techniques. Working with Australian tree species, I will briefly outline previous work illustrating the partitioning of carbon among metabolite pools and outline current and future approaches to characterising these important processes.

All welcome.

16th Australian Nitrogen Fixation Conference    View Summary
24 June 2012 to 27 June 2012



The 16th Australian Nitrogen Fixation Conference will be held at Q Station near Manly, Sydney on 24th-27th June, 2012, hosted by the Australian Society for Nitrogen Fixation and the SUNFix Centre for Nitrogen Fixation, University of Sydney. A major focus of this meeting will be the aim to maximise biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) by legumes and subsequent nitrogen use by crops, providing linkages between legume breeders, microbiologists and others with expertise in BNF such as with Rhizobium or PGPR inoculants. However the needs of all with an interest in BNF as basic or applied science will be catered for.




Q Station (the old Manly Quarantine Station) is situated on Sydney Harbour at North Head near Manly. It is approximately 45 minutes by car from Sydney airport or longer by ferry from Circular Quay and bus route 135 from central Manly to North Head. Parking is available for guests and conference delegates.



Several rooms have been reserved at the venue and can be booked during registration.

These are available at the following reduced conference rates: 

  • Deluxe $230.00
  • Heritage $200.00
  • Twin share $260.00



Please click the link below to go to the registration page.




Please  submit  abstracts, by 31 May 2012,  to the following email address: 

28 June 2012

This Agriculture HSC revision seminar is open to high school students and their teachers.In preparation for the HSC exam, the event will give an overview of key Agriculture HSC syllabus points and allow students to ask questions from teaching staff. It is FREE event to attend and includes a sensational sausage sandwich (vegeburgers for vegetarians), drink and seminar notes to take home.

Registrations vital.

Click here to download the full program.

DES Seminar by Associate Professor Inakwu Odeh   View Summary
28 June 2012

The legacy of soil assessment in Nigeria: from analogue to digital soil mapping.

Nigeria, as one of the data-poor countries in terms of modern digital soil databases, is a rich with largely untapped legacy soil data resulting from her rich history of soil surveys. In this talk, Associate Professor Odeh provides an account of (legacy) soil data renewal in Nigerian as part of the global effort in providing digital soil information at a very fine resolution. He will explore the historical soil surveys in Nigeria, the challenges of the processes used for the capture and renewal of the legacy data, and how the challenges were overcome leading to the development of quantitative models for digital soil mapping (DSM) from the scant data. Furthermore, he will provide an insight into future work regarding uncertainty and reliability analysis of information resulting from DSM.

All welcome.

ARE Seminar by Asst/Prof Rohan Sadler (UWA)   View Summary
3 July 2012

Economics of Surveillance: a Bioeconomic Assessment of Queensland Fruit Fly


Regional management of endemic pests of trade significance typically requires a surveillance system, border controls, eradication protocols and conditions for market closure and reopening. An example is the systems for managing Queensland fruit fly (Qfly) within Australia where the preferred approach for intensive production areas is an Area Wide Management (AWM) scheme. An AWM scheme, such as the Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area (GSPFA) across northern Victoria and southern New South Wales, depends for its recognition amongst trade partners on an effective and credible surveillance system that identifies outbreaks rapidly, notifies exporters of trade restrictions and initiates eradication. These 'market rules' are fundamental to the economics of surveillance: they define an outbreak and thus the probability of market closure, the expected time to eradication, and consequent time to market reopening.This paper uses a spatial and dynamic bioeconomic model of Qfly infestation and spread to determine the expected optimal investment in surveillance within the GSPFA.

Everyone is welcome to attend

Faculty Research Symposium   View Summary
17 July 2012

Throughout the epochs, civilisations that have failed to secure their soil have fallen by the wayside of history. With globalization, securing soil is crucial for the whole of humanity's future wellbeing.

The 2012 Agriculture and Environment Research Symposium- jointly hosted this year by the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment and the United States Studies Centre - will bring together experts from across the globe to discuss the different dimensions and approaches that must be considered in the development and establishment of international research and policy agreements on Soil Security.

Professor Ian Chubb, Chief Scientist of Australia, and Professor Marie Bashir, Chancellor of the University of Sydney, will open the 2012 Agriculture and Research Symposium. The Symposium will investigate the Political, Economic, Social and Scientific dimensions with a line-up of local experts and a cross-section of international speakers including:

  • Professor Edward B Barbier - John S Bugas Professor of Economics, University of Wyoming, USA
  • Professor Johan Bouma - Emeritus Professor of Soil Science, Wageningen University, Netherlands
  • Professor Cornelia Flora - Charles F. Curtis Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Agriculture and Life Sciences, Department of Sociology, Iowa State University, USA
  • Professor Rattan Lal - Distinguished Professor, School of Environment & Natural Resources, Ohio State University, USA

Hosted by Professor Mark Adams, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment and Professor Robert Hill, Adjunct Professor in Sustainability from the United States Studies Centre, the 2012 Research Symposium is relevant to scientists, economists, industry, government and business.

A coherent Soil Security strategy will maintain and improve the world's soil resources to ensure continuity of quality food, fibre and fresh water, making major contributions to energy and climate sustainability and maintaining biodiversity and the overall protection of ecosystem goods and services.

A 3-minute thesis (3MTTM.) challenge for our final year PhD students will be contested, 3-4PM. Click on the link for more information about this exciting new challenge, which gives current postgraduates just three minutes to present a compelling oration on their thesis topic and its significance. The exercise develops academic, presentation, and research communication skills, and supports the development of research students' capacity to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience.

Followed by aCocktail Reception, from 4:30, for more information:

DES Seminar by Dr Federico Maggi (School of Civil Engineering, The University of Sydney)   View Summary
3 August 2012

A mechanistic accounting of SOM speciation and kinetics in soils

The nature of long-term Soil Organic Matter (SOM) dynamics is uncertain and the mechanisms involved are crudely represented in site, regional, and global models. Recent work challenging the paradigm that SOM stability is mainly related to the intrinsically recalcitrant compounds against biological decomposition motivated to develop a mechanistic modelling framework that can be used to test hypotheses of SOM dynamics. A carbon (C) cycling model is currently being developed within TOUGHREACT framework, which accounts for soil hydraulics and biogeochemistry processes at a high level of mechanistic detail including multiple phases (aqueous, gaseous, solid and protected), multiple species (chemical compounds and biological populations), and coupled reaction-advection-dispersion.

This preliminary work was aimed at designing a reaction network to describe microbially mediated processes and chemical/biochemical interactions of various SOM chemical species, including depolymerization, microbial assimilation, respiration, deposition of by-products, and incorporation of dead biomass into SOM pools. SOM was described by means of functional compounds including mono- and polysaccharides, lignin, amino compounds, organic acids, nucleic acids, lipids, and phenols. Each of these compounds was accounted for by one or more representative species in the model. Fungal and bacterial microbial functional groups were used to determine enzyme-mediated reactions of depolymerization and respiration.

The SOM reaction network and characteristics, its mathematical inclusion within TOUGHREACT, and some preliminary results of modelling grasslands and forested ecosystems will be presented.

All welcome.

ARE Seminar by Associate Professor Francesc Hernandez-Sancho (University of Valencia)   View Summary
9 August 2012

Tariffs and Efficient Performance by Water Suppliers: An Empirical Approach

Abstract: Water leaks are an environmental and sustainable issue as well as an economic issue. The objective of this paper is to analyze the efficiency of a sample of Spanish urban water systems by considering water leaks in the network as undesirable output. The analytical benchmarking methodology Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) is used to calculate technical and economic efficiency. We also discuss the possible relationship between efficiency and tariffs charged to users. Results show that the possibilities for reducing water leaks in networks are high - thereby demonstrating that there is room for savings from an economic and environmental point of view. The assessment of the efficiency performance could usefully assist local authorities and water suppliers in the task of optimising urban water management.

Keywords: benchmarking methodology, cost efficiency, data envelopment analysis (DEA), urban water systems, water leaks.

Associate Professor Francesc Hernandez-Sancho is from the Department of Applied Economics, Faculty of Economics of the University of Valencia in Spain.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

PFS Seminar by Dr Steve Siembieda (Advanced Analytical Technologies Inc.)   View Summary
9 August 2012

The Fragment Analyzer in TILLING and other applications

A combination of two presentations:

Fragment Analyzer™A Parallel Fluorescent Capillary Electrophoresis System for efficient and effective separation of small and large DNA fragments and RNA

Using the Fragment Analyzer™A Parallel Fluorescent Capillary Electrophoresis Instrument, to automate the discovery of mutations through TILLING.


The Fragment Analyzer is a capillary electrophoresis based instrument designed to improve workflow and laboratory throughput. Due to the superior design of this instrument, multiple plates and gels can be loaded at once, allowing for different sample types to be separated without extensive manual preparations or intervention between the sample types. The capillary design allows for the widest application range of any instrument on the market, including separating large and small NGS smears, RNA, genomic DNA and fragments up to 20,000bp. Coupled with a powerful analytical software, the Fragment Analyzer is an easy to use capillary electrophoresis instrument that allows for workflow gains and time economies of scale not offered by other instruments.

Efficient detection of point mutation is key to discover of novel mutation. Previous methods for separating and detecting point mutations derived through induced or natural mutagenesis have been time consuming and labor intensive. In order to streamline this discovery process, we have developed steps to automate the post-PCR sample handling and subsequent separation, leading to faster discovery and significantly less hands on time and labor. The superior design of the Fragment Analyzer provides additional benefits to users over the traditional methods of separation.

All welcome to attend

DES Seminar: Three PhD Projects Proposal Presentations by new candidates    View Summary
10 August 2012

Utilization of Nigeria legacy soil data for digital mapping of functional soil properties - by PhD candidate Stephen Akpa

Problem Statement

The soil resource of any country is one of its most valuable natural resources and therefore need to be carefully managed to ensure sustainable development. In most developing countries, one of the major challenges to increased agricultural productivity is the lack of accurate and specific information of their endowed soil resource. This limited useful information on functional soil properties is quite acute in Nigeria, despite the huge number of historical soil inventories in the country. This is particularly disturbing because agriculture is the dominant national economic activity providing means of livelihood to more than 65% of the populace. Furthermore, studies have shown that in the West African region (and indeed most of the sub-Saharan Africa), agriculture is dominated by small scale farm holdings with food production depending mainly on diversity of mixed-cropping/livestock farming and a resultant low output. To increase food production, a large-scale agricultural intensification system has been recommended. For such a large-scale agricultural intensification system to succeed would require land suitability assessment for various agricultural production systems. However, the uptake of these practices has been hampered by lack of specific information on variability of soil resources and crop yield. Thus, there is the need for enhanced knowledge of soils to enable farmers and policy makers decide where is best for the production of a particular crop or whether it could be allocated for alternative uses. This is particularly relevant to fragmented cropping systems with unit land holding of less than 2 hectares as in the case of Nigeria.

Land use and Land cover (LULC) impacts on soil organic carbon in a montane ecosystem of Bhutan, Eastern Himalayas - by PhD candidate Tshering Dorji


Soil organic carbon (SOC) is the largest terrestrial carbon pool. However, it can be a sink or source of atmospheric CO2 depending upon the fluxes of C entering or leaving the soil. Land use and land cover change are considered to be one of the main anthropogenic activities, which contribute to GHG emission (CO2). Therefore, their impacts on SOC need to be studied first to better understand the whole process of C sequestration.

Himalaya is one of the data-poor regions in the world. To date, there are only few soil related studies done in the region. Fully dedicated studies on land use and land cover impacts on soil organic carbon (SOC) in a montane environment is rare in the region. Furthermore, past studies have flagged the existence of huge gap in knowledge and in the database on SOC stock and C pools in the region. Therefore, my research would focus to address some of the above issues.

Variation in mesophyll conductance of wheat (Triticum aestivum) and its effect on WUE - by PhD candidate Eisrat Jahan


Wheat is one of the most important grains in the world and is a major source of nutrition in the human diet. An indirect effect of global warming is higher plant water demand due to increased transpiration at higher temperatures (assuming vapour pressure deficit also increases), which can potentially reduce plant production. Thus, improvements in water-use efficiency are required to maintain and improve wheat yield. The conductance to CO2 diffusion from intercellular airspace to chloroplasts has been termed mesophyll conductance, and depends on the ratio of intercellular CO2 (pi) to ambient CO2 (pa) as well as CO2 assimilation rate. Increased mesophyll conductance has the potential to improve leaf-level water-use efficiency through increases in photosynthetic rate. For estimating mesophyll conductance we will use gas exchange measurements in combination with discrimination against 13CO2 Our objectives are; to assess genetic variation in mesophyll conductance of CO<2 diffusion among selected wheat cultivars, to quantify the effect of plant water potential and leaf nitrogen concentration on mesophyll conductance and to determine the physiological basis of variation in mesophyll conductance and its effect on water-use efficiency among selected wheat cultivars. We have planned five experiments for achieving our objectives and all the experiments will be conducted in the Faculty's new controlled environment facility in Camden.

Agriculture Careers Night   View Summary
16 August 2012

Meet a variety of employers in agriculture and hear them give their insights into what it's really like to work in a variety of industries, the variety of opportunities and how students can apply for jobs.

There will be presentations by each of the guest employers followed by the chance to network and talk with the employers over nibbles. The employers attending recruit students from across the whole faculty including agricultural science, agriculture economics, environmental science and resource economics..

This event is proudly brought to you by the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment and the Agriculture Alumni Association.

PFS Seminar by Professor Brian Atwell (Macquarie University)   View Summary
16 August 2012

Discovering mechanisms of abiotic stress tolerance in rice

Domesticated rice (principally Oryza sativa but also O. glaberrima in Africa) is a critical food source for half of all humans. Indeed, averting the disastrous consequences of climate change will largely come down to sustaining rice yields throughout Asia (Peng et al., 2004 - PNAS 101: 9971-9975). While biotic stresses are an imponderable threat, it is abiotic stress that poses the most immediate hazard. While rice is notoriously tolerant to inundation, uncontrolled floods cause dramatic yield losses. Drought is a rising threat, as upland rices become necessary to sustain production: failed monsoons can devastate non-irrigated crops. Furthermore, as in all crops, quite small deviations from optimal temperatures impose a penalty on production. This talk will address the process of discovering mechanisms of stress tolerance in rice. Emphasis will be on the various ways we have narrowed the targets, from eco-physiological approaches through to proteomics. The talk will concentrate on flooding and heat tolerance with passing reference to drought and salinity.

Professor Atwell works in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University.

All wellcome to attend.

ARE Seminar by Dr David Ubilava   View Summary
17 August 2012
El Niño Southern Oscillation and Primary Commodity Prices: Assessing Causal Inferences using Smooth Transition Models


Global climate anomalies can affect world economies and primary commodity prices. The source of this relationship is teleconnections through which lower-frequency climate phenomena are linked to higher frequency local weather events in many regions of the world. One of the more pronounced climate anomalies is El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). In this study I examine the relationship between ENSO and world commodity prices using monthly time series of sea-surface temperature anomalies in Niño 3.4 region, and real prices of the twenty four food and agricultural commodities. I apply nonlinear modeling techniques to assess causal inferences that could potentially be camouflaged in the linear setting. I find evidence of causality between ENSO and prices in the case of thirteen commodities; of which four commodities reveal evidence of nonlinear causal relationship. I illustrate these results using generalized impulse response functions.


Dr David Ubilava ( has recently joined the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, via Mississippi State University, following a PhD from Purdue University. He has a longstanding interest in assessing the economic impacts of climate anomalies, such as the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, and its impact on agricultural production and commodity prices. His research in nonlinear time series econometrics, especially that applied to ENSO and price data, has been widely published and is the focus of ongoing collaborations. He has also worked as a post-doctoral associate at Mississippi State University, where he examined individual crop insurance and area-based programs.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

DES Seminar: Two PhD Projects Proposal Presentations by new candidates    View Summary
17 August 2012

Numerical approaches to Australian and global soil classification. - by PhD candidate Phillip Hughes


Soil classification is a means of applying meaning to the collection of attributes soils display. The invention of computing in the 50's and 60's has resulted in a multitude of methods in which accurate soil information can be displayed, yet many of the classification schemes have not changed much since the turn of the 20th century. Although they work well, these systems are based on discrete horizons with fixed boundaries. This occurs rarely in nature. Numerical approaches such as fuzzy k means use a method of thought that although has been known for over a millennia, that only now do we have the technology to apply. Instead of referring to a soil profile or attribute as a discrete entity, it can now be viewed as continuous. Instead of defining a boundary between classes or horizons, memberships can be allocated which have greater accuracy, especially when dealing with current issues such as the estimation of soil carbon.

Global soils will be analysed, primarily from US sources. US data has been ordered and analysed by use of the fuzme software developed at the University of Sydney. This output will be used along with PCA and end member identification to create hard centroids. Memberships will then be applied to these to create more diverse soil classes. If the system works for a global database, then similar procedures can be applied to Australian data. This will help further differentiate Australian soils which may have changed in structure from agricultural use without changing in classification. It is my intention to create a methodology in which soil can be easily converted into continuous groups which can then be tailored for the needs of relevant stakeholders.

Soil processes in the vertical distribution of soil organic carbon. - by PhD candidateMario Pedraza


With the development of new statistical techniques and cost effective remote sensing, it is possible to analyse large datasets and make predictions about soil behaviour using environmental covariates. Until now there are numerous successful works on predicting spatial distribution of different soil properties, but there is still work to do when trying to explain soil properties in depth. There have been various attempts of measuring and modelling vertical distribution of soil properties using different numerical approaches, but most of them have a low predictability in subsurface. There is a general challenge in capturing subsurface conditions and for that reason we need to create a more integral type of modelling, one that could explain the relations behind soil development.

The aim of this project is to study the processes that are affecting soil organic carbon (SOC) vertical distribution, to relate those processes with variations of soil properties within the soil profile and to establish relations that can be useful to predict vertical variability of SOC in depth. If we were able to partially explain how the SOC accumulation in depth is affected by the first soil layer conditions (or vice versa), our understanding of carbon sequestration short and long-term practices can be improved.

PFS Seminar by Dr James Mahan (USDA/ARS, Lubbock, Texas)   View Summary
23 August 2012
Canopy temperature, monitored seasonally in near-real time, as a tool for understanding plant/environment interactions. Looking for a new Rosetta Stone.

The growth and development of plants is incremental and cumulative over seasonal timescales. Environmental conditions are continuously variable with plant responses occurring on sub-hour time scales. The cumulative metabolic activity in sub-hour increments over 100-day seasons results in agricultural productivity. It is now relatively simple to monitor canopy temperatures in the field on 15-minute intervals over 100-day periods at an appropriate temporal resolution for understanding plant/environment interactions. Crop water use, metabolic optimality and crop development can all be monitored under research and production conditions using commercially available infrared thermometry systems. Large numbers of observations can be made in an automated manner. Such fine-scale measurements provide a "seasonal narrative" of the plant's interaction with the environment. Interpretation of this narrative in terms of our traditional understanding of plant/environment interactions is the challenge. We need the equivalent of a Rosetta Stone to translate plant temperature into plant physiology. Examples relating to water use, metabolic optimality and crop development will be presented.

Dr Mahan is a research plant physiologist with the USDA/ARS (federal research organization) at the Plant Stress and Water Conservation Laboratory in Lubbock, TX (28 years). He received a BS in Biology from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and a MS and PhD in plant physiology from Texas A&M University.

Dr. Mahan's research has broadly considered the response of plants to water deficits and thermal stress under irrigated and rainfed conditions. The focus has been on the development of metabolic indicators of stress. As agricultural production transitions from water inputs designed to prevent water deficits to a future where water deficits will be unavoidable sustainability will be defined by our ability to identify, quantify and manage water deficits.

Previous work has focused on the linkage between biochemical optimality and environmental stresses. He has investigated the effects of water and temperature stress on: antioxidants (waste of time), herbicide efficacy (insightful), activity of specific enzymes (dodgy), gene expression (confusing) and currently metabolite response (last option so it better work).

His recent efforts have focused on the use of seasonal patterns of near-continuous canopy temperature measurements as an indicator of water use, water status and metabolic function in crops. Dr. Mahan has developed the first low cost wireless infrared thermometry system for irrigation management and research. This system is marketed in the US by Smartfield (

While the primary focus has been on cotton, other crops investigated include: corn, sorghum, peanut, forage grasses, wheat, sesame, and palmer amaranth.

Mahan has ongoing collaborations with scientists and students from University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney and the Australian Cotton Research Institute in Narrabri.
DES Seminar by Peter Ampt   View Summary
24 August 2012
Integrating production and conservation objectives: learning from the Communities in Landscapes (CiL) project.

Peter's primary research interest is in the human side of agriculture and natural resource management. The values, attitudes and actions of people are critical to the future of the planet, and it is vitally important that social and cultural aspects are integrated with economic and biophysical knowledge. Integrative and systems thinking is very important to link research and teaching to real world issues and investigating complex adaptive social-ecological systems to design better real world interventions.

In this presentation, Peter will briefly describe the Communities in Landscapes project. The logic behind it is that landscape-scale change can be achieved by working with farmers and their communities to identify and advise on management practices that will benefit ecosystem function in Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands; have positive outcomes for production and increase community capacity to carry on these practices beyond the life of the project. He will then talk about what has been learned from it in the following categories:

  • Partnerships - what happens when you bring a Landcare network, state environment and Ag departments, NGOs, researchers and practitioners together in an endangered ecological community?
  • Practices - what happens when a 'community' of landholders goes off in a 'new'; direction and left others behind - have they discovered a path to sustainability?
  • Policies - What can governments and researchers do to stimulate, steer but not stifle community motivation.

The presentation will finish with identification of areas in which he is keen to apply this learning in the near future.

ARE Seminar by Professor Richard T. Carson (University of California, San Diego)   View Summary
24 August 2012

The Influence of Rebate Programs on the Demand for Water Heaters The Case of New South Wales


This paper examines the role of Australian hot water system rebate programs in shifting the existing stock of electric water heaters toward more climate friendly versions using two unique data sets from New South Wales homeowners. The first data set is based on a survey of households who recently purchased a water heater before and after the rebate programs were in place. The other is based on a set of stated preference questions asked of households soon to face a replacement decision. We find that the programs significantly increased shares of solar/heat pump systems. The programs, however, appeared less effective for households with access to natural gas and in an emergency replacement situation. Data from discrete choice experiments were analyzed using several choice models. Two newly proposed models using more flexible heterogeneity distribution clearly dominate mixed logit and latent class models currently in use. Predictions from our preferred model are reasonably consistent with actual purchase data. Results suggest considerable heterogeneity with respect to household preferences toward different types of water heaters and the discount rates they hold.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

DES Seminar: Three MPhil Projects Proposal Presentations by new candidates    View Summary
31 August 2012

Activation of bacterial sulfatases by plants - characterization ofa novel plant-bacterial interaction. - by MPhil candidate Nanako Horimoto



Provision of soil information for agroecological modelling. by MPhil candidateJose Padarian



Spatial-temporal variation of forest carbon storage in the urban fringes of NW MPhil candidate Long Zou



ARE Seminar by Associate Professor Graeme Poole (University of Western Australia)   View Summary
31 August 2012

Diffuse Pollution Policy Without the Bulldust


Effective regulation of nonpoint pollution is difficult given natural variability and the complexity of monitoring diffuse quantities. A new form of stochastic programming, scenario optimisation, is used to evaluate policies for reducing nitrate leaching from New Zealand dairy farms, while considering several sources of variability, multi-agent dynamics, and transactions costs. The value of a low-cost metric for estimating urinary nitrogen deposited by dairy cows is highlighted. Ambient schemes overcome moral hazard issues, but are demonstrated to fail in the presence of realistic climate variability. The implication of setting policy targets utilising mean values is explored.

Associate Professor Poole is working for the Centre for Environmental Economics and Policyat theUniversity of Western Australia.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

PFS Seminar by Adjunct Associate Professor Peter Selle   View Summary
3 September 2012 to 4 September 2012

Sorghum - an enigmatic grain for chicken-meat production


Presently, Australia processes 580 million broiler chickens annually and produces over 1 million tonnes of chicken-meat. Wheat and sorghum, either individually or as blends, constitute the bulk of broiler diets; however, there is the perception that the performance of chickens on sorghum-based diets is inferior to wheat. There has been a considerable focus, especially in human nutrition, on the shortcomings of the quality of protein/amino acids in sorghum for which kafirin is held largely responsible. Nevertheless, there is the real possibility that appropriately formulated sorghum-based diets can accommodate these shortcomings and perhaps there should be a greater focus on factors that influence the utilisation of energy (starch) from sorghum in poultry.


Quite some time ago, Peter graduated as a veterinarian from Sydney University andworked for two multinational companies involved in animal health and nutrition for more than 30 years. In 2001 he received a PhD from the same University in relation to the effects of dietary phytate and exogenous phytase in pig andpoultry nutrition. Since 2002 Peter has been a member of the Poultry Research Foundation initially as an Honorary Associate and now as an Adjunct Associate Professor.

All welcome to attend.

PFS Seminar by Paul Gende (MSc candidate)   View Summary
6 September 2012

The Cocoa Pod Borer, Conopomorpha cramerella, in Papua New Guinea: its distribution and host plant preferences.


The Cocoa Pod Borer (CPB) moth, Conopomorpha cramerella (Snellen) (Lepidoptera: Gracillariidae) was first detected attacking cocoa in Papua New Guinea in 2006. Attempts to eradicate were unsuccessful and efforts to promulgate intervention strategies in the cocoa farming communities moved slowly due to various constraints. This provided an opportunity for the pest to spread. The pest, by now, has been in the country for more than six years. However, there is no information and work done on the local biological and ecological interactions of the pest and its distributions. This information is prerequisite to development of an effective location-specific integrated pest management strategy (Ls-IPM) for CPB in Papua New Guinea. This work intends to look into some aspects of the biology and ecology of the pest in its recently established local environment.
Two main areas of interest this work intend to investigate are: (1) the spread and distribution of the pest after the incursion, and (2) the host plants preferences. Historical information and literature indicated that CPB is native to Southeast Asia where cocoa was introduced into this region in the 16th century by the Spaniards. Since its detection in 2006, the pest has now spread to nine provinces in Papua New Guinea. Evaluation on host plant preferences using a simple improvised olfactometer indicated a significant difference in orientation responses to Theobromae cacao than Nephelium lappaceum and Pometia pinnata. Egg deposition on host plants offered simultaneously also indicated a strong preference for oviposition on T. cacao even though the latter two are believed to be original hosts. The attention of the pest towards T. cacao is a concern for cocoa cultivation. Also the ability of the adults reared purely from T. cacao to lay eggs and orientate towards N. lappaceum and P. pinnata, though not significant, is a serious concern for T. cacao cultivation in Papua New Guinea as N. lappaceum is gradually gaining momentum as an alternative cash crop and P. pinnata is edible and is a potential alternative cash crop and are seen within the vicinity of many smallholder cocoa farming systems. Location specific integrated pest management recommendations for control of C. cramerella for protection of T. cacao will have implications on the other crops.

This seminar will be chaired by Sarah Mansfield.

All welcome to attend.

DES Seminar by Dr Claudia Keitel   View Summary
7 September 2012

The link between photosynthesis and below-ground respiration

The mechanism that connects above-ground photosynthesis to below-ground metabolism and respiration is currently debated in the literature. The two major principles are: (1) basipetal transport of recent assimilates in the phloem (Münch-flow) and (2) transport via a pressure-concentration wave. In mature forests, increased belowground respiration after onset of photosynthesis is too fast to be explained by molecular diffusion alone. There is, however, no empirical evidence that pressure-concentration waves exist as a means of transporting assimilates to the rhizosphere. Stable isotope labeling is routinely used to study carbon transport in plants and the arrival of labeled CO2 respired from roots is assumed to be the arrival of recent assimilates. To test if pressure-concentration waves exist, we performed an experiment with Douglas fir saplings in a growth chamber under controlled conditions. Saplings were starved of carbon to create a strong source-sink difference between the canopy and the roots, before both light and a 13C label were applied. We measured photosynthetic rate and monitored the efflux of CO2 from the soil compartment, as well as its isotopic signature in real time. Soil respiration increased within minutes after light exposure to the canopy, whereas the label arrived three to five hours later. This experiment presents the first empirical evidence for pressure-concentration waves, as well as the molecular flow transport of recent assimilates from above-ground to below-ground tissues.

Those that cannot make it to ATP can join the seminar live by follwing the link below and registering as a guest.

All welcome to attend.

DES Seminar by Dr Brett Whelan   View Summary
14 September 2012

Is there potential value in more precise broadacre cropping system management?

At the commercial scale, the management of broadacre crop production requires decisions about input and operational management that greatly impact the financial and environmental outcomes of the seasonal process. The final production and the financial and environmental outcomes are where the industry and community see/measure value. The philosophy of Precision Agriculture (PA) has developed to help broadacre crop managers increase value by aiding in the identification and optimal treatment of variability in agricultural production processes in a timely manner. The uptake of PA across Australia is increasing as the benefits become more robustly described. This presentation will explore the ideas that offer increased value and use examples to show where the identification of spatial variability in inherent production potential are identifying significant potential for increased value from more precise cropping management.

All welcome to attend

PFS Seminar by Dr. Anjanabha Bhattacharya   View Summary
17 September 2012

Approaches to crop improvement


The talk will emphasise various GMO and non-GMO techniques available to increase productivity & quality parameters of crop plants. Mutagenesis & TILLING (Targeting local lesion in genome) have gained a lot of attention these days. I will discuss strategies to reduce peanut allergens by TILLING & RNAi approaches, and manipulation of plant architectures by regulating gibberellins in plants. This will also provide some insight into GA metabolism and regulation.


Dr. Anjanabha Bhattacharya is working as a Research Scientist III with Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Co Ltd., India. His primary area of interest is in Doubled haploids production and mutagenesis (TILLING by sequencing). Previously, he worked for Bench Biotechnology c/o Jai Research Foundation, India, as a Group Leader (Biotechnology) on TILLING & mutagenesis in various crops. He completely his post doc from University of Georgia at Tifton, USA. His project involved peanut allergen reduction using RNAi & TILLING approach. He completed his Ph. D in Plant Science (July, 2008) from the University of Nottingham, UK. He was awarded the prestigious Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Commonwealth Award, 2005 Cohort, for his PhD studies. His Ph.D. study involved modifying plant growth and development by regulating Gibberellin (GA) metabolism and he spent three months in Rothamsted Research, UK, learning the state of the art GC - MS (Gas Chromatography - Mass Spectrometry) technique for GA estimation. He has published 24 research papers, reviews, book chapters (Springer, Humana, CRC publishers), and 10 abstracts in international conferences. He obtained the B.Sc (Agriculture) and M.Sc (Agriculture) degrees from the Gujarat Agricultural University and Junagadh Agricultural University, India, respectively. Earlier he had also cleared the All India ICAR (Indian Council for Agriculture Research) administered test for entrance in undergraduate degree programme. Dr. Bhattacharya can be contacted at

All welcome to attend.

CANCELLED PFS Seminar by Dr Penny Smith (The University of Sydney)   View Summary
20 September 2012


Interactions across the symbiosome membrane in soybean nodules.

Nitrogen is crucial for plant growth and nitrogen fertilizers still make large contributions to agricultural production. However substituting biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) for fertilizer N is a key part of improving the sustainability of agricultural production owing to the energy intensity of fertilizer production and issues associated with excessive fertilizer use. BNF relies on symbioses between legumes and rhizobia, and allows plants to grow without N fertilisers. Arguably BNF is perhaps the most economically important of all symbioses.

The symbiosome is the central part of this interaction; it is an organelle surrounded by the plant-derived symbiosome membrane (SM) in which rhizobia fix atmospheric N. Once engulfed in the SM the rhizobia rely on the plant for all their nutrients and this nutrient exchange across the SM effectively controls the symbiosis.

We have been characterising the symbiosome membrane and the transport proteins that are present on the membrane. In exchange for nitrogen fixed by the bacteroid, the plant provides reduced carbon, probably in the form of malate, to the bacteroids, as well as other solutes including iron, sulphate and zinc. Although characterised biochemically, the molecular nature of most of the transporters is not known. We have used a proteomic approach to identify components of the soybean SM and are now characterizing the proteins and the genes encoding them by utilising information from both the genome and the transcriptome. We have a particular interest in potential transporters for malate from the POT/PTR family and metal transporters. We are using GFP-fusions to confirm their localisation to the SM, gene silencing to investigate their importance to the symbiosome and heterologous expression in yeast to functionally characterise the transporters.

Natural Sciences Postgraduate Information Evening   View Summary
20 September 2012

The Natural Sciences Postgraduate Information Evening is designed to help you make the right choices for the next step in your education and career preparation. You will be able to speak with specialist advisors who will highlight all your options - options for Honours, Graduate Entry programs, Postgraduate Coursework, PhD and other research opportunities.

Staff from the Division of Natural Sciences will be on hand to answer your questions about postgraduate options in a range of areas.

Drinks and refreshments will be provided.

DES Seminar by PhD candidate Jason Lessels   View Summary
21 September 2012

The optimisation of water quality monitoring programmes for retrospective estimation of loads.

Water quality monitoring is undertaken to provide an overview of the health of a catchment however existing monitoring programmes are largely inadequate in terms of their design and how the collected data is used. Previous studies have attempted to address these problems, however have often been limited by a lack of data. There exists over 30 different estimation methods for water quality, however these methods are inappropriate for common monitoring schemes which do not use a form of probabilistic sampling. This research has examined:

  • the effect of event-based sampling on water quality estimation,
  • the effect of sample size on the uncertainty of event mean estimates,
  • the implementation of linear mixed model estimation methods,
  • and the design of probability based sampling scheme.

The results highlighted the importance of event-based sampling, affordable covariates to improve water quality estimations and the benefits of using a probabilistic based method to provide unbiased event water quality loads. It is hoped that the results of this study will provide critical information for catchment managers when designing water quality monitoring schemes.

PFS Seminar: Three PhD Projects Proposal Presentations by new candidates   View Summary
27 September 2012

New Postgraduate students in Plant and Food Sciences will present their research proposals. Viola Devasirvatham will also give her closing PhD seminar. Titles are listed below.

Ali Khoddami
Sorghum: A Food Source for Human and Animals
Amandeep Kour
Determining the molecular basis of the 50% increase in total seed yield in ARF18-1 mutant of Arabidopsis thailiana
Najeeb Ullah
Physiological approaches to understand waterlogging + shade tolerance mechanism in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.)
Viola Devasirvatham
The basis of chickpea heat tolerance under semi-arid environments

Everyone is invited to attend.

Plant Breeding Institute Narrabri Field Day   View Summary
3 October 2012

The Faculty of Agriculture and Environment'sPlant Breeding Institute has a long history of successful wheat breeding. The annual Field Day and Forum will showcase the significant impact of our crop breeding and research on agriculture in Australia. You will witness the latest in commercial plant breeding and be able to discuss emerging research activities. University bred cultivars helped establish the wheat industry in northern NSW and have underpinned the industry ever since. The Plant Breeding Institute at Narrabri is the main field-testing site for crops being developed by the University of Sydney. The breeding program at the Institute has produced a large number of rust-resistant wheat varieties in the Prime Hard and Australian Hard marketing classes.

FAPA Conference Series: I've got a PhD, what do I do now?   View Summary
10 October 2012

The main idea of the FAPA conferences is to give the postgraduates within the Faculty the opportunity to be prepared for their future jobs as well as increasing their confidence.

We noted that currently within the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, postgraduate students are only required to give 2 presentations during their degree process. However, professional scientists need to have good presentation skills to work successfully on a job, share their data at local/international conferences, and initiate collaborations.

With this idea in mind, we want to give Postgraduates the opportunity to connect them with "The real world" and give them the tools to be prepared for their future professional life.

The first conference will be presented by A/Prof Willem Vervoort and his topic will be:

I've got a PhD, what do I do now?

There's a common question that every student faces (especially the ones that have been studying for a considerable amount of time…. like us), when they finish their academic period and are confronted with the fact that….. They just don't know what to do.

A/Prof Vervoort is going to give us quick references of which are the possibilities outside the University walls and what should we expect when finishing our Postgraduate studies.

You are very welcome to this first FAPA conference, and we expect to see you all in the following ones!!


PFS Seminar by Prof. Paul Haynes (Macquarie University)    View Summary
11 October 2012

An overview of proteomics in rice and grapes


In this presentation we will discuss how we perform label-free quantitative shotgun proteomics in plants, focusing on rice and grapevines. We have revealed new information on how rice plants respond at the molecular level to drought stress, including evidence of long distance signaling between roots in different environments but attached to the same shoot. In recent years we have begun working in grapevines. Preliminary results from several of those projects will be presented and discussed, focusing on how the successful aspects of our rice research program can inform our work in grapevines.


Professor Paul A. Haynes received a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Macquarie in 1994, which was followed by postdoctoral appointments at the Rockefeller University in New York and the University of Washington in Seattle. He moved on to a Principal Scientist position at the Torrey Mesa Research Institute in San Diego. He was then appointed as an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, before completing the circle and returning to Macquarie as an Associate Professor in 2006. He was promoted to Professor in 2011, and currently receives grant funding from ARC Linkage and Discovery projects, and the NSF Grape Research Coordination Network.

DES Seminar by Dr John Triantafilis (UNSW)   View Summary
12 October 2012

2- and 3- dimensional digital soil mapping (DSM) using electromagnetic (EM) induction instruments and inversion modelling.

Electromagnetic (EM) induction instruments are proving to be a useful source of proximally sensed ancillary data to enable the generation of digital soil maps (DSM) of soil properties and/or type. From a practical stand point, EM instruments are easy to use and do not require physical contact with the ground. From a soil science perspective, EM instruments measure the apparent soil electrical conductivity (sa-mS/m), which is related to various soil properties of agricultural value and importance. This includes, but is not limited to; soil moisture, clay content, soil mineralogy and salinity.

Finally, there is a growing array of instruments which are available and include both fixed-coil EM (e.g. Geonics EM38, EM31, EM34, DUALEM-421). However, the potential of EM instrumentation to provide information about the stratigraphical nature (e.g. soil horizons) of soil variation has not been fully realised. In this presentation recently published research in this area will be presented and include case studies on how joint-inversions of EM38 and EM31 data can provide useful information about soil variation at the field level and similarly how EM38 and EM34 data can provide equivalent information at the district scale. Recent collaboration in the application of developing quasi 3-d models that can be used to infer preferential flow paths of a leachate plume as well as jointly inverting DUALEM421 and EM34 data to discern the location of acid sulphate soil will also be described.

Dr John Triantafilis is a visiting scientist and alumni, who is now a Senior Lecturer within the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at The University of New South Wales.

All welcome.

PFS Seminar by Dr Bob Caldwell   View Summary
18 October 2012

Phytate in processed foods

Phytase has meant a lot for intensively farmed monogastrics. However unlike pigs, chickens, and more recently fish, we humans, as monogastrics, prefer our food in a somewhat more processed condition. The level of processing is usually governed by the level of development of the society in which we exist. Whereas intensively farmed pigs and chickens are fed a well defined diet, we humans have much greater choice in the types of food we eat and correspondingly the proportion of essential nutrients that we ingest. Much of the food that has characteristically high levels of phytic acid usually undergoes some form of processing before being purchased and consumed by humans.

In this presentation I would like to examine some of the foodstuffs made from "high" phytic acid sources and how processing has an impact on the phytate content of the processed food.

Phytic acid occurs almost exclusively in seeds. Any food derived from seeds has the potential of providing phytic acid in the diet. The major seeds used in foods are monocots such as wheat, barley, rice, maize, and legumes/oilseeds such as soybean, peas, beans, chickpeas.

In pigs and chickens the requirement is for both carbohydrate (starch as an energy source) and protein. In fish the requirement is predominantly for protein. For all these monogastrics the main carbohydrate source is that of maize (corn) whilst the protein is derived from soybean meal.

For humans, maize (corn) can be purchased in many different forms. Most have undergone some form of processing. The exceptions are "popping corn" and "fresh super sweet corn cobs" with the fresh corn cobs having been maintained at 5 - 10C between harvest and retail.

Soybeans are a major oilseed crop grown and traded world-wide. They are used extensively as a food source for animals and humans. For humans the seed can be processed into products such as soymilk, tofu, and tempeh. Soybean meal used in animal nutrition is derived from soybeans after extraction of the oil which is used mostly for human culinary applications.

Some examples of phytate content in processed foods from maize, wheat, and soybeans will be given.

Young Professionals in Agriculture Forum   View Summary
19 October 2012

The modern face of agriculture will confront many challenges over the coming years. With fewer resources, our young agri-professionals will be faced with the task of leading this sector through a tough period of global food insecurity. In order to reduce the threat of the world slipping into an unprecedented global food crisis, today's young agri-professionals will need to utilise their skills in an exceptional manner.

Join other young professionals in agriculture, including recent graduates, at a one-day forum to connect the dots on issues of our time, including:
- effectively communicating the science of agriculture
- the role of social media in agriculture
- promoting agriculture as a career path
- networking to influence national agendas

A much more efficient and productive group of young agri-professionals requires; coordination, dedication and education. The upcoming "Young Professionals in Agriculture Forum" aims to offer recent agricultural graduates the opportunity to further their professional development through a range of interactive educational workshops. Targeting the areas of communication, education and coordination, it is hoped that this one day conference will leave young graduates feeling invigorated about the challenges that lie ahead and eager to "keep the conversation going".

Key speakers include:

  • Costa Georgiadis from ABC's Gardening Australia
  • Tony Peacock - Eureka Prizewinner
  • Brendan Fox from Farm Plus
  • Bruce Howie from C-Qual Agritelligence

The forum will be followed by a networking private cocktail reception at Taste.

Register online (Capacity of 100ppl so get in quick) at link below for more info.

ARE Seminar by Dr Eric Naevdal   View Summary
19 October 2012

The genetic foundation for the formation of social norms - Why Olaf can't hold his ale.

Abstract: TBA

Dr Eric Naevdal is from the Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research, Oslo, Norway.

All welcome to attend.

PFS Seminar by Professor Mark Westoby (Macquarie University)   View Summary
25 October 2012

Species traits, niches and community assembly.


A long-standing research aim in ecology is to devise a strategy scheme that might summarize the variety of ways plant species make a living. Our approach to strategy schemes has been through measurable species traits. This has the benefit that comparisons can be scaled up worldwide. This sub-field has become known as trait ecology. The talk will describe the state of knowledge about some particular strategy-dimensions. While trait averages do change along climate and soil gradients, the spread is strikingly wide across species coexisting at sites. We need to understand how competition between strategies shapes the mixture of traits that can coexist. A new style of adaptive vegetation dynamics model is described for this purpose.

Mark Westoby grew up mainly in England and Italy. His university training was at Edinburgh (Forestry and Natural Resources), Utah State (Wildlife) and Cornell (Entomology). He came to Macquarie as a lecturer and has been there for nearly 38 years now.

All welcome to attend.

ARE Seminar by Associate Professor Wendy Umberger (University of Adelaide)   View Summary
26 October 2012

Dietary Transformation in Indonesia: Is the "Supermarket Revolution" to Blame?


Economic growth, urbanization, and foreign direct investment have all contributed to the globalization and rapid rise of multinational supermarkets in developing and emerging economies. The resulting transformation of food chains has profound effects on the market conditions faced by both producers and consumers. There is increasing speculation that supermarket penetration is one cause of the dramatic shift in Asian diets towards more Westernized diets, typified by increased consumption of more refined carbohydrates, fats and oils, sugars, and increasingly more processed foods and fewer fresh fruits and vegetables. Previous researchers have found that when consumers in some developing countries start using supermarkets their diet quality decreases as highly processed and high-fat foods replace less refined and more nutrient rich foods. Despite the important role of supermarkets in the transformation of food markets, few studies have examined their impact on diet quality and the related nutritional and health implications.
This research sheds light on the relationship between diet transformation and modern retail format usage by consumers in Indonesia. A sample of households from three Indonesian cities, Surabaya, Bogor, and Surakarta was obtained using stratified multi-stage random sampling methods considering household income and distance to nearest hypermarket or supermarket. Trained enumerators interviewed 1180 households during November 2010 to January 2011. The survey assessed the following household characteristics: food purchase and consumption behavior (including retail format where purchased, expenditures, average monthly consumption and change in consumption over 5 years) of 67 different categories of foods; use, attitudes, and preferences towards retail formats; and socio-demographic information (assets, income, employment status, age, education etc.). This paper first examines changes in Indonesian households' per capita consumption of food categories comparing consumption changes across household expenditure quintiles. Multinomial logit models are then used to explore the relationship between consumption changes in food categories, socio-demographic factors and modern retail outlet usage. Tobit models are used to determine the factors which explain higher expenditure shares on food categories. The results and implications for policymakers are discussed.

All welcome to attend.

PFS Seminar by Professor Ray Rose (University of Newcastle)   View Summary
1 November 2012

Medicago truncatula as a model legume: genetic regulation of embryogenesis and seed storage product partitioning


Medicago truncatulacv. Jemalong has become a major genetic and genomic model for legumes. In the seminar I first wanted to first consider the development of Jemalong 2HA, its use in genetic modification and understanding somatic embryogenesis used in plant regeneration. Secondly, to examine the regulation of the relative amounts of protein, oil and carbohydrate in the cotyledons of legume seed. Three critical genes are involved in the somatic embryogenesis process MtWUSCHEL, MtSERK1 and MtSERF1. These genes help facilitate the integration of the culture stress and the plant hormones auxin and cytokinin in producing stem cells that form embryos. In addition these studies provide some new insights into the role of these genes in the whole plant. M. truncatula and M. orbicularis accumulate different amounts of oil and protein in their cotyledons and how this relates to the expression of transcriptional regulators and biosyntheis genes is examined.


After obtaining an Agricultural Science degree from Sydney and a short time in the NSW Dept. Agriculture I did my Ph.D. at Macquarie and then obtained a CSIRO fellowship to do postdoctoral work at Carleton University in Canada. I was then a lecturer at Massey University N.Z. Up until this point my research was primarily on the cell and molecular biology of plant cell growth. I returned to Australia to the CSIRO Division of Horticultural Research in Adelaide and researched chloroplast DNA and chloroplast division and development. I moved to the U of Newcastle and continued this type of work until commencing work on the annual legume Medicago truncatula developing transformation and genetic modification strategies and subsequently investigating the molecular genetics of somatic and zygotic embryogenesis (including partitioning into the major storage molecules) in this model legume. Currently a Professor of Biological Sciences involved predominantly in the Biotechnology Program.

All welcome to attend

Agriculture Teachers Workshop   View Summary
5 November 2012

Through a mix of plenary lectures and interactive activities presented by our professional academic staff, the Agriculture Teachers' Workshop provides detailed information about the HSC Agriculture syllabus, with special emphasis on the new electives. This single day workshop targets individual syllabus points using relevant and current examples.

Seminars on cutting edge teaching methodologies and electronic resources further compliment the event. Finally, during the catered lunch you will have the opportunity to meet and talk to our friendly staff and students.

DES Seminar by Gabriela Morales Luque   View Summary
16 November 2012

The fate of forests in the context of agricultural expansion in Chiapas, Mexico: a retrospective approach.


The highlands of Chiapas (also collectively termed as Chiapas Plateau of Mexico) are a part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, considered to be very important to biodiversity. As this plateau loses hundreds of square kilometers of natural vegetation each year, it is necessary to carry out a detailed spatial analysis of land use/ cover (LULC) transitions to target key processes of change. This talk will present some of the preliminary results of the analysis so far. In order to provide information on systematic changes in LULC between the years 1993-2007 and builds a model to predict future land uses under different management schemes, a post classification comparison of LULC maps was first done to explore changes in terms of percentages of gains and losses, persistence as well as net changes. Significantly, the work has revealed where all these changes have occurred in the landscape within the 15 years period. The talk will propose the use of biophysical and socioeconomic data to build suitability maps for the year 2007. Additionally, Markov chain will be coupled with transition potential maps, to develop a hybrid LULC change model and to predict changes into the future.

All welcome to attend.

Research Forum - From the ground up   View Summary
28 November 2012

The Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, University of Sydney, Professor Mark Adams has great pleasure inviting you to attend a half-day forum showcasing research being undertaken in the High Country as well as the Monaro more broadly.

Research in the High Country and the Monaro
Research in the High Country and the Monaro

Topics covered will include soil carbon, carbon and water cycles, greenhouse gas emissions, catchment hydrology, plant physiology, biodiversity and animal behaviour. We will discuss how current research contributes to sustainable practices and impacts on regional development.

To register online please click on the following link and scroll down:

Places are limited, so please register early.

To view the Research Forum Program please click here.