Plants are the foundation of food production. As well as being consumed directly by humans, plant products also feed livestock produced for food and are used for fibre and fuel. Increasing global population means that plant production systems need to be more productive than ever before, without using more resources. This requires a research approach from the molecular level through to whole farming systems.
At the molecular level, Waite researchers are using genomics, the study of how genes function, to identify genes for important traits such as tolerance to environmental stresses, quality characteristics and disease resistance. Many of these genes work at the cellular level, controlling the way substances move in and out of cells, or how substances are used in the plant's cellular chemical reactions. Our researchers in genetics are studying the way these genes and other important characteristics are inherited in populations and are developing molecular markers to be able to rapidly identify superior individuals. The Waite is also home to a number of national breeding programs, enabling plant breeders to work closely with molecular biologists and geneticists to develop future plant varieties.
Plants do not exist in isolation. They are part of a dynamic system and interact with a range of other organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, insects and other plants. Some provide benefits to agriculture, but many have a negative effect of plant yield and the quality of plant products. The Waite's capacity in plant protection includes plant pathologists, entomologists, weed scientists and post-harvest physiologists.
Plant production systems are diverse. From broadacre cropping to viticulture and horticulture, Waite researchers are working to increase the productivity and efficiency of plant production systems.