7 February 2012

UQ's Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) has bolstered its growing reputation for high-impact science by co-developing innovative new crop technology in consort with one of the world's biggest seed companies.

Director of QAAFI's Centre for Plant Science, Professor Graeme Hammer, is leading a team of UQ scientists working with the international seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, to develop a world-class computer model that helps farmers and scientists to better predict crop yields.

The work utilises the Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM) software platform developed in Australia through a collaboration of CSIRO, the Queensland Government and The University of Queensland.

Advancing the maize crop modelling capability in APSIM with Pioneer opens the door to fast-tracking more efficient breeding of drought-tolerant hybrids, which ultimately means that growers around the world will be better able to meet the increasing demands on agricultural productivity.

The platform allows researchers to input several specific characteristics about how experimental plants behave under test conditions, and facilitates prediction of those few that will respond best under drought conditions in the field.

According to Professor Hammer, the modelling capability is state-of-the-art and incorporates the most recent understanding of crop responses to drought.

Both UQ and Pioneer have recently joined a European Commission-sponsored research consortium on DROught-Tolerant Plants (DROPS), contributing expertise and the state-of-the-art modelling platform for use by the consortium. DROPS is developing novel tools and breeding strategies that advance drought-tolerance research in maize and other crop plants.

"Pioneer and UQ scientists will work together with consortium scientists to improve the modelling platform so that it can accept even more traits, thereby increasing the utility of the platform," Professor Hammer said.

"Members of the consortium will then have access to the resulting advanced modelling platform to facilitate their further drought research in a number of crops."

Professor Hammer conducts research on the physiology and genetics of complex adaptive traits in field crops with a focus on water productivity in cereals.

His research underpins the development of mathematical models of crop growth, development and yield that enable simulation of consequences of genetic and management manipulation of crops in specific target environments.

Professor Hammer's research capabilities are focused on the major cereal crops: sorghum, maize and wheat.

He collaborates closely with plant breeders, geneticists, molecular biologists and agronomists in a range of national and international research projects in both public and private sectors.

Media: Professor Graeme Hammer
Centre for Plant Science
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

QAAFI Communications
Ron Hohenhaus
0417 425 510

See Pioneer media release