Two Agriculture Science students at The University of Western Australia have been awarded the Sir Eric Smart Scholarship through The UWA Institute of Agriculture.

The Sir Eric Smart Scholarship was bequeathed to UWA by Sir Eric Smart upon his death in 1973 and was further supplemented by a gift from his son Peter Smart.  Sir Eric Smart was a pioneer who worked hard to increase agricultural production and sustainability.  In 1950, grain production from Smart’s properties near Mingenew set an Australian individual record of 8,200 tonnes and later reached 13,400 tonnes. 

 Innovation, endeavour and sustainability have continued to pass on through the Smart generations and it is with this mindset that Honours student Ms Weilu Zhang, and Masters student Mr Muhammad Salik Ali Khan, both from the School of Agriculture and Environment, received the scholarship to complete their final year research projects in areas that benefit WA agriculture.

Weilu, an international student from Harbin, China, explored the main gene that regulates flowering time in narrow-leafed lupin, with the aim of expanding the range of crop maturities in lupins for different cropping regions. With her supervisors, Weilu has discovered a new variation in the main gene for flowering.

“Most interestingly, one of the wild lupins, P22660, showed reduced gene expression of the flowering time gene,” Weilu said. “Reduced gene expression was associated with a 7-day delay in flowering,and this may be particularly valuable for lupin breeders to develop elite lupin cultivars for long-season environments.”

 

Weilu was supervised by Professor Wallace Cowling and PhD Candidate Ms Candy Taylor from UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment and Institute of Agriculture, and Dr Matthew Nelson from Kew Botanic Gardens, UK.

As part of his Master of Agricultural Science studies, Salik investigated the effect of zoo compost on wheat yield and quality when grown in WA’s sandy soils. He said different approaches to reducing use of mineral nitrogen fertilisers are being considered by farmers, and his study adds to the knowledge the roleof compost as acomplementary source of mineral nitrogen. “The study showed that integrated nutrient management of sandy soils using zoo compost in combination with mineral nitrogen fertiliser increases wheat grain yield and nitrogen uptake,” Salik said. “In addition to getting higher wheat yield and better grain quality, applying recycled organic wastes restores soil carbon whilst limiting the use of chemical fertilisers.”

Salik is also an Australia Awards scholarship recipient and will return home to Lahore, Pakistan where he will serve with the Agriculture Department. He was supervised by Emeritus Professor Lynette Abbott and Dr Zakaria Solaiman from UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment andInstitute of Agriculture, and Dr Peter Mawson from the Perth Zoo.



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