Agricultural Science Research

We’re developing solutions to protect plants against diseases, pests and parasites, while studying how beneficial insects interact with a wide range of ecosystems including pasture crops, vegetables, fruits and vineyards. 

Wheat

Our experts are co-located with industry and government partners at the University's Waite and Roseworthy campuses which allows us to investigate a wide-range of research areas including: biofortification, plant reproductive biology, plant breeding, soil chemistry, crop pollination, and agricultural crop bioinformatics.

Research strengths

  • Farming systems

    Chris Preston holding a weed in a paddock.

    Our expertise on sustainable agricultural systems focuses on crop production and agronomy and is particularly relevant to dryland agricultural systems in Australia and overseas. Our internationally-recognised research also covers on biofortification, agroforestry and extension. Our experts in weed science research address integrated weed management, herbicide resistance, weed ecology and crop-weed interactions in agricultural systems. 

    Research centres and groups

  • Plant biology, pathology and biochemistry

    Plant Accelerator Bettina Berger

    Our plant biology and biochemistry expertise covers a broad spectrum of plant science including plant and cell physiology, membrane transport, plant reproductive biology, plant cell wall biology and biochemistry, glycoscience and cereal chemistry. Our pathology research addresses the biology, ecology, and plant responses to attack and provides foundations for diagnosis, control and management of plant diseases, pests and parasites. We focus mainly on viticulture, broad-acre and horticultural systems, but also consider native vegetation and post-harvest damage to stored products. 

    Research centres and groups

  • Plant breeding innovation

    Stuart Roy plant accelerator

    Our scientists analyse the genetic and epigenetic control of economically important plant traits such as abiotic stress, biotic stress, productivity and end-use quality. This helps us understand the causes of observed variation in plants so we can develop tools and technologies for crop improvement. We develop improved germplasm, breeding methods and breeding technologies, plus develop new varieties of durum wheat, faba bean, almond and ornamental eucalypts. 

    Research centres and groups

  • Soil science

    Fertiliser Technology Research Centre lab

    Our researchers combine scientific expertise in: 

    1. soil chemistry – fertilisers, contaminants and soil carbon; 
    2. soil physics – structure and water availability; and  
    3. soil biology – nutrient cycling, roots and rhizosphere, mycorrhizae. 

    We conduct research that improves understanding of soil processes and functions, leading to improved methods for soil management which is critical for sustainability of agricultural and natural ecosystems. 

    Research groups and centres

    • Fertiliser Technology Research Centre:
      Novel research that's improving the quality and efficiency of fertilisers. Our scientists are international experts in soil chemistry, fertiliser technology and plant nutrition.
    • Soil Plant Atmosphere Interaction (SPAI) research group:
      Exploring the impact of environmental change and management on soil ecological processes.
    • Graphene Hub:
      Leading knowledge, research and development capabilities and critical services to assist industry commercialise graphene research.
  • Entomology and pollination

    Blue-banded bee

    Our research in entomology and pollination addresses the biology, behaviour, ecology of insects. We study insects that occur in a wide range of ecosystems, including pasture crops, vegetables, fruits, vineyards, greenhouse crops and natural ecosystems. 

    Key areas of interest are biological control of insects and weeds, integrated pest management, biosecurity, crop pollination and conservation and enhancement of ecosystem services delivered by insects. Our research considers beneficial parasitic wasps, predatory arthropods, crop pollinators and a wide range of pest organisms. 

  • Biometry and statistics

    Biometry Hub and SAGI-STH logos

    In the era of data-rich agriculture, biometry research involves methodological statistics development and the use of modern scientific computing methods for the design and analysis of research studies and experiments conducted in the life sciences. 

    The University of Adelaide Biometry Hub specialises in statistical methodologies for field trials, comparative and multi-factorial experiments and field sampling in application to agriculture, horticulture, oenology and food sciences. 

    Biometry Hub

  • Crop bioinformatics

    Wheat trials

    Technological and data driven approaches have become the cornerstone of modern biology. Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary science with the focus on developing and applying computationally intensive methods to solve formal and practical problems arising from the management and analysis of biological ‘big data’. 

    Specialising in agricultural crop bioinformatics, our team provides expertise across the intersection of molecular biology, plant breading, genetics, biochemistry, computer science, mathematics and statistics. 

    Crop Bioinformatics Adelaide (CroBiAd)

  • Plant phenomics

    Waite campus.  Plant accelerator. Greenhouse 20. Plant researchers collecting data.

    Growing and characterising plant performance in controlled environments, greenhouses and the field, is now the rate limiting step in crop research. New technologies are required for the high throughput, non-destructive phenotyping of plant traits. Our research not only develops new protocols for measuring plant traits using state-of-the-art imaging cameras, robotics and drones but also develops automated analysis tools using artificial intelligence to accelerate analysis. 

  • Lead researchers

    Name Research strength
    Prof Amanda Able Plant-pathogen interactions; post-harvest physiology
    Dr Anh Pham Molecular breeding and crop improvement in barley and soybean
    Dr Ashlea Doolette Soil chemistry
    Dr Bettina Berger Plant phenomics, salinity tolerance
    Dr Bryan Coad Biomimetic materials for understanding plant-pathogen interactions
    Prof Christopher Preston Weed ecology and management; management of herbicide resistance
    Prof Dabing Zhang Cereal reproductive biology
    A/Prof Glenn McDonald Crop physiology and plant nutrition
    A/Prof Gurjeet Gill Crop ecology and tillage systems; weed ecology and management
    Dr Huajian Liu Machine learning and image analysis
    Prof Jason Able Plant breeding, cereal epigenetics, barley quality, frost tolerance in cereals, industry relationships
    A/Prof Jenny Mortimer Synthetic biology, biofuels, bioproducts, complex multi-unit sugar chains
    Dr Camille Buhl Insect collective behaviour; locust management; complex systems modelling
    Dr Julian Taylor Statistical methodology and modelling
    Dr Kate Delaporte Ornamental eucalypt breeding
    Dr Katja Hogendoorn Behavioural ecology and evolution of native bees
    A/Prof Kenneth Chalmers Molecular genetics for cereal breeding
    Dr Kenneth Clarke Plant phenotyping technologies
    Dr Laura Wilkinson Novel crop species
    A/Prof Matthew Denton Managing legumes and nitrogen fixation in farming systems
    Prof Matthew Gilliham Transport and signalling; nutrition and stress tolerance (salinity)
    Dr Matthew Knowling Decision agriculture
    A/Prof Matthew Tucker Cereal reproductive biology
    Dr Megan Shelden Root biology, abiotic stress tolerance
    Prof Michael McLaughlin Environmental chemistry and toxicology; fertilisers and plant nutrition
    Dr Michelle Wirthensohn Almond breeding
    Dr Olena Kravchuk Nonparametric inference and applied statistics in plant and soil sciences
    Dr Peter Boutsalis Weed science and herbicide resistance
    Prof Petra Marschner Nutrient cycling
    Dr Philip Brewer Plant hormones and plant structure
    Prof Rachel Burton Plant cell walls, grains for health, biofuels
    Dr Ryan Whitford Reproductive biology and genome editing
    Dr Scott Boden Cereal inflorescence architecture and flowering time
    A/Prof Stuart Roy Abitoic stress tolerance in crops and crop biotechnology
    Dr Tamara Jackson Improving farming and marketing systems for sustainable, efficient, diversified food systems
    Dr Tatiana Soares da Costa Herbicide tolerance
    Dr Thomas Lines Soil health

Waite Research Institute

The Waite Research Institute drives innovation to secure a sustainable future for Agriculture - by creating high-quality, nutritious and climate-resilient products. We do this through close partnerships with the agriculture, food and wine sectors.

Waite Research Institute

Agriculture news

Bottled botanicals

Episode 4, In Their Element Podcast Meet agriculture and winemaking graduates Laura and Brendan - they're taking the wine and spirit industry by storm and creating their very own 'Big Label Energy'.

Food (science), glorious food (science)

Episode 3, In Their Element Podcast Meet Millie Shinkfield, her food and nutrition science studies gave her the appetite to pursue a career with one of Adelaide's largest food producers.

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