Capability development to encourage the next generation of sugarcane scientists

Date Posted

1 July, 2019

Posted by

brad.pfeffer

The next generation of sugarcane industry researchers is being offered a leg-up into the world of sugarcane industry science and technology, through two capability development programs being offered through Sugar Research Australia (SRA).

Applications are open for Sugar Research Australia’s (SRA’s) Sugar Industry Research Awards and Sugar Industry Postgraduate Scholarships. Both programs encourage innovative research ideas and aim to enhance the capability of the research sector that supports the Australian sugarcane industry.

The Postgraduate Research Scholarships program is aimed at Masters or PhD level researchers and is open for applications until October 31, 2019.

The Research Awards program is aimed at existing researchers looking to develop research skills or explore new and innovative ideas. This program is open for applications until October 1, 2019.

“These programs are intended to encourage innovative thinking and allow participants to conduct projects that can demonstrate benefits to the Australian sugarcane industry,” General Manager of the SRA Research Funding Unit, Dr Harjeet Khanna, said.

“Through the Research Awards, projects may be used to develop research skills or explore new and innovative ideas. Not every idea or concept leads to success, but the objective of this scheme is to help provide a catalyst that could result in great potential R&D opportunities.

“We encourage existing or prospective sugarcane industry researchers to apply for these excellent opportunities to advance their career.”

Applications will be preferred in the fields of:

  • Optimally adapted varieties, plant breeding and release: sugarcane breeding / quantitative genetics / genomic selection / molecular marker implementation.
  • Pest, disease and weed management: sugarcane entomology / soldier fly / biosecurity.
  • Farming systems and harvesting: digital agriculture (integrating precision farming and smart farming)

SRA Burdekin-based researcher Mr Sijesh Natarajan recently completed his PhD through a Postgraduate Research Scholarship, where he looked at understanding how different sugarcane varieties respond to water stress.

“Water stress is a major constraint for sugarcane productivity, estimated to cost the industry $250 million per year,” Mr Natarajan said. “Even in irrigated conditions, having varieties that use water more efficiently is increasingly important.

“Increasing transpiration efficiency (TE), the amount of biomass produced per unit of water used, is one way of improving water productivity and water use efficiency of sugarcane.

“My PhD research, supported by the SPRS, was aimed at understanding the underlying physiological basis for variation in TE among sugarcane genotypes, and its impact on productivity for the typical production conditions in Australia. Results suggests that targeted selection for higher TE in the breeding program may lead to varieties with higher water use efficiency, improved productivity and resilience under water stress conditions.”