waite precinct

Bumper funding to enhance national infrastructure and grains research

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Dean of the Waite Mike Keller, GRDC Managing Director Steve Jefferies, and GRDC Chairman John Woods in a greenhouse with DroughtSpotter system at the APPF’s Adelaide node.

 

National infrastructure at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility’s (APPF) node at the University of Adelaide Waite Precinct will be enhanced as part of a $1.1 million grant announced by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) today.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the funding was another important measure supporting the productivity and profitability of Australia’s grain industries through the development of more drought-resistant crops.

Almost $1 million will be invested at the APPF to build a specialised heat and drought phenotyping facility consisting of two new controlled environment rooms (CERs) fitted with LED lighting and gravimetric watering (DroughtSpotter system), and add further LED lighting in the facility’s greenhouses. The specially fitted CERs are the first of their kind in Australia, and will boost research into improving stress tolerant crops.

GRDC Chairman John Woods said the GRDC Grains R&D Infrastructure Grant was part of $15 million the GRDC Board had agreed to invest in key infrastructure, in a strategy to build national research capacity and to create enduring profitability for grain growers.

A co-contribution from the University of Adelaide supported the GRDC grant which will also add a polytunnel and birdproof enclosure to the Waite Precinct, expanding grains research capabilities.

These investments are expected to improve trait selection and increase trait delivery to breeders, facilitate simultaneous drought and heat experiments, expand bulking and selection capacity, reduce research costs and improve energy use efficiency.

For more information, visit grdc.com.au and the APPF.


What are CERs? CERs enable plants to be grown within precise temperature, light, humidity and other environmental parameters.

What is the DroughtSpotter system? DroughtSpotter is a fully automated gravimetric platform that was made to assess the transpiration dynamics of plants with a precision of up to 1 g. The integrated irrigation units allow precise and reproducible water application for drought stress or related experiments requiring accurate control of water volume to 1 ml.

A better way to tackle environmental variation in your greenhouse research

Statistics prove the smart way to deal with variation in your controlled environment greenhouse.

Plant phenomics allows the measurement of plant growth with unprecedented precision. As a result, the question of how to account for the influence of environmental variation across the greenhouse has gained attention.

Controlled environment greenhouses offer plant scientists the ability to better understand the genetic elements of specific plant traits by reducing the environmental variances in the interaction between genetics and environment.

But controlled environments aren’t as controlled as they seem – variation does exist. For example, some days are cloudy, some are not. The sun, as it crosses the sky, casts shadows differently on plants, depending on their position within the greenhouse. In fact, a recent study by colleagues at INRA in Montpellier showed significant light gradients within a greenhouse and provided sophisticated tools for understanding how much light each plant receives.

One practice for dealing with variation has been to rearrange the position of the plants around the greenhouse during the experiment, however, there is a better way.

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Rice plants growing in The Plant Accelerator® at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility’s Adelaide node

The automated high-throughput phenotyping greenhouses at The Plant Accelerator® are controlled environment facilities which use sensor networks to identify and quantify environmental gradients (light, temperature, humidity) in the greenhouses. To further tackle environmental variation, Chris Brien, Senior Statistician at The Plant Accelerator®, led a study that showed good statistical design and analysis was key to accounting for the impact of environmental gradients on plant growth. It was argued that rearranging the plants during the experiment makes it impossible to adjust for the effect of gradients and should be avoided.

The study involved a two-phase wheat experiment involving four tactics in a conventional greenhouse and a controlled environment greenhouse at The Plant Accelerator® to investigate these issues by measuring the effect of the variation on plant growth.

To learn more about Chris’s study read the full paper here.

To discuss the benefits of good statistical design contact Chris Brien.

To access The Plant Accelerator® for your research:  The Plant Accelerator® at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF) is available to all publicly or commercially funded researchers. We have a full team of specialists including statisticians, horticulturalists and plant scientists who can provide expert advice to you when preparing your research plans.