Soil science team to tackle food security

Soil science team to tackle food security

Grains
Professor Daniel Murphy (left), association professor Francis Hoyle and Chris Gazey from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Professor Daniel Murphy (left), association professor Francis Hoyle and Chris Gazey from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

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Soil science team to tackle food security

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MURDOCH University has welcomed professors Daniel Murphy, David Jones, Rob Griffiths and associate professor Francis Hoyle to its team at the Food Futures Institute.

The appointments strengthen the university's leading position in agricultural sciences with a wealth of experience in food production, climate variation and adaptation and environment and natural resource science.

"It's terrific to have this group of world-leading scientists join the university as we continue to build on our research strengths across food, health and the environment," said professor Peter Davies, pro vice chancellor of the Food Futures Institute.

"Intensification of agriculture over the past 50 years has increased food production, but urban expansion, erosion, nutrient run-off, salinity, biodiversity loss and climate change are posing enormous challenges.

"This team will help us contribute solutions to some of these challenges."

Mr Murphy and Ms Hoyle enjoy well-established industry connections, having established Soils West, an alliance between universities and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development that brings industry, government and academia together for the discovery and development of soil research.

Mr Murphy will be the director of the Centre for Sustainable Farming Systems as he continues his major research programs addressing issues relating to the development of sustainable management practices for agriculture, horticulture and mine sites under rehabilitation.

"I'm really excited to be coming across to help consolidate agricultural research in Western Australia and, importantly, translational research," Mr Murphy said.

"We've got some really exciting prospective work on improving nutrient and water use efficiency, regenerating soil function in farming systems and growing bioplastics as an area of research focus, which all present terrific opportunities for farmers here and throughout Asia and Africa operating in similar environments."

This work will be undertaken alongside Ms Hoyle, director of SoilsWest, who has a deep understanding of the challenges faced by WA farmers in managing low fertility, largely rainfed, crop production systems and the management of soil organic carbon.

Mr Jones joins on a 50 per cent fractional appointment as a highly cited researcher whose current work spans controlling viral pathogens - including COVID-19 - in agricultural, freshwater and marine ecosystems, promoting carbon sequestration in agricultural systems and improve nutrient use efficiency in cropping systems.

Mr Griffiths is also a highly cited researcher with a focus on microbial diversity in natural environments.

Mr Griffiths has been widely published for improving our understanding of the drivers of microbial biodiversity and determining how biodiversity change relates to change in ecosystem functioning.

He will also take up a fractional appointment.

Murdoch University's agricultural and environmental research is recognised internationally, working at the cutting edge of science and in successful collaborations with industry and governments to ensure future food production systems are both profitable and sustainable.

"This team will continue to improve connections from the laboratory to the farm gate by delivering answers to the pressing questions that farmers have," Mr Davies.

The team will officially begin their roles at Murdoch on July 1.

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