Space-age crop breeding innovation at The University of Queensland
Since humanity’s first venture into space in the early 20th century, space experiments have inspired some incredible technologies, including solar cells, enriched baby food, artificial limbs and invisible braces, just to name a few. NASA’s experiments that seek to grow wheat in space have inspired University of Queensland (UQ) scientists to develop the world’s first ‘speed breeding’ procedures here, on planet Earth.
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) Senior Research Fellow, Dr Lee Hickey, said the NASA experiments involved the use of continuous light on wheat which triggered early reproduction in the plants.
“We thought we could use the NASA idea to grow plants quickly back on Earth, and in turn, accelerate the genetic gain in our plant breeding programs,” Dr Hickey said.
“By using speed breeding techniques in specially modified glasshouses we can grow six generations of wheat, chickpea and barley plants, and four generations of canola plants in a single year – as opposed to two or three generations in a regular glasshouse, or a single generation in the field,” Dr Hickey said.
Dr Hickey started his journey into cutting-edge speed breeding with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) at The University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences. The school is ranked #1 in Australia, and representsa top-performing global leader in several of the world’s most prestigious league tables and assessments, including being placed in the top 20 in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017.
“The Bachelor of Agricultural Science, and other agriculture-based programs at UQ, are ideal for learning how to apply scientific techniques to find innovative and sustainable solutions that improve crop and animal production,” Dr Hickey said.
“One of the best things about UQ is just how connected the university is with industry. Strong links with the agricultural sector lets students do so much more and creates immediate pathways to help build their future.”
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