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International Coup for Food Crop Research

09 Jan, 2023 - A $15 million collaboration between The University of Queensland and the German Research Foundation (DFG) will accelerate genetic improvements in cereal and pulse crops.

The International Research Training Group (IRTG) will be made up of UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and School of Agriculture and Food Science (SAFS) with Justus Liebig University (JLU) in Giessen.

QAAFI’s Professor Ian Godwin, the Group co-leader, said getting the green light was wonderful news after years of planning.

“It’s a coup for UQ ­­­- the DFG has funded 22 Research Training Groups and only two of them involve international partners,” Professor Godwin said.

“We will be working with sorghum, faba beans, wheat, barley, mung beans and chickpeas, looking at genetic selection, predictive breeding, gene editing and improving stress tolerance.”

IRTG will have 20 Chief Investigators, 11 at UQ and the rest from JLU, Julius Kühn Institute and Geisenheim University.

“It’s a great chance for our early career research trio of Dr Karen Massel, Dr Millicent Smith and Dr Owen Powell to slot into projects with international collaboration,” Professor Godwin said.

“We also have three CIs in Warwick, one in Gatton and two from SAFS and there will be opportunities for about 24 UQ PhD candidates to do some research in Germany.

“The team in Germany has fantastic high-throughput phenotyping equipment that will speed up our research and there is the potential to generate data year-round from crops grown in both the German and Australian summers.

“German research will benefit from QAAFI’s leading position in sorghum genetics, breeding, biotechnology and physiology.

“Annual workshops alternating between Australia and Germany will allow students to present their research and engage with industry, honing all the skills they need to be scientists.”

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