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October 27th, 2014
New Australian Research Centre Set to Secure Food for the Future

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A research centre exploring new technologies for improving crop yields to secure food supply has been launched at The Australian National University (ANU). The Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Translational Photosynthesis seeks to increase yields of major crops such as wheat and rice by improving the way that plants capture the sun’s energy through photosynthesis.

“This is an underexploited area of science that could enable us to feed future populations. By 2050, nine billion people are expected to survive on earth with the food resources produced by plants; today’s agricultural methods will struggle to meet these demands,” said Director of the Centre, Professor Murray Badger.

All the food we consume and the air we breathe is the result of photosynthesis. Despite its importance for all life on earth, it is only recently that scientists have developed the technology to manipulate photosynthesis at a molecular level.

“We now have tools that could initiate a new agricultural revolution through enhanced photosynthesis,” Professor Badger said.

“One of our goals is to bridge the knowledge gap between cellular and crop research and engage with agricultural industries.”

Long-term funding is one of the features of the ARC Centres of Excellence Scheme, said Professor Aidan Byrne, CEO of the Australian Research Council (ARC).

“The scheme allows relationships to be built nationally and internationally, and for relationships to be developed between universities and industry,” he said.

“This particular Centre has established links that will enhance the prospects of translating genetic improvements into crops. This is an important research programme at a time when there is unprecedented demand on food supply and food security.”

The Centre will use the $22 million funding from the ARC to focus on national priority research areas, such as securing agricultural sustainability and developing plant varieties that are more resilient to climate change.

The strategic partnership brings together world leaders in photosynthesis research from six institutions: Australian National University, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney, the University of Western Sydney, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

It features state-of-the-art plant science facilities and the most sophisticated suite of photosynthetic measurement technologies in Australia.

A video is available at http://youtu.be/Sct1CantKIU.

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