SCU genomics workshop attracts leading researchers

Published 22 March 2006

Leading researchers from around Australia and overseas will attend a Plant Genomics workshop at Southern Cross University's Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics at the Lismore campus on Friday (March 24).

The workshop is being held as part of the 10th birthday celebrations for the Centre, which has become one of the leading agricultural research facilities in the country.

World-first discoveries in the field of rice and grain genetics are among the achievements of the Centre, which has attracted around $30 million in funding to the region.

Director Professor Henry said the Centre was now internationally recognised for innovation in plant science, with a key focus on providing agricultural solutions and conserving biodiversity for the future.

"We have made significant discoveries in the field of plant genetics which will benefit agricultural producers but also provide health benefits for consumers in Australia and internationally," Professor Henry said.

Among those discoveries have been the identification of the gene that gives long grain fragrant rice - such as jasmine and basmati rice - its unique aroma and taste, and the gene that controls the temperature at which rice cooks.

Professor Henry said the Centre had also established a unique DNA testing and analysis facility, which placed it at the forefront of agricultural research in Australia.

The sequenom mass array facility, partly funded through the Sustainable Regions funding program, enables the University to conduct DNA testing of samples from any source.

Professor Henry said this was the only facility of its type in use in Australia for agricultural purposes, and was ideal for testing the varieties of particular seeds and grains.

"We are really quite unique in terms of the technology we have got and it will certainly help us to attract further research funding and collaborative partners."

The Centre is also a partner in four Co-operative Research Centres and has established the Australian Plant DNA Bank Ltd, which aims to collect samples of all Australian plant species.

An art exhibition featuring the works of art produced by plant scientists at Southern Cross University will also be a feature of the anniversary celebrations. Vegetative Visions 3 "Visualising the Invisible" will be opened on Friday, March 24, at the Next Art Gallery, at 4.30pm.

Photo opportunity: Media are invited to tour the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics at 10am, Thursday, March 23(Y block, opposite Whitebrook Lecture Theatre). Professor Henry will be available for interviews.

Media contact: Brigid Veale SCU Communications Manager, 66593006 or 0439 680 748.