Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Poggendorff Lecture 2018

Kaiser Poggendorff
   “Establishing a sustainable nitrogen diet to
    agricultural intensive cropping industries”

   Professor Brent Kaiser 
   School of Life and Environmental Sciences
   The University of Sydney

Wednesday 1 August 2018
Room 432, New Law Annexe, University of Sydney

The Poggendorf Lectureship is awarded periodically for research in plant biology and more broadly agriculture. Walter Poggendorff was recognised as one of the major figures in establishing the Australian rice industry, developing high-yield crops for Australian conditions and maintaining controls on imports to limit the introduction of serious diseases. When he died in 1981, he made a bequest to the Royal Society of NSW to fund a lecture.

The 2017 Poggendorff Lectureship was awarded to Professor Brent N. Kaiser of University of Sydney's School of Life and Environmental Sciences. Professor Kaiser is a molecular plant physiologist, whose research into the sustainable use of nitrogen in cereal and legume grain crops has not only advanced the field, but also achieved tangible improvements in agricultural production and environmental stewardship.

About the talk

Across the globe, approximately 120 million tonnes of nitrogen fertilisers are applied each year to grow crops that support the dietary and fibre requirements of humans (FAO 2017). The majority of nitrogen fertiliser expenditure (~60%) is dedicated to the production of common cereals (wheat, rice, barley and maize) of which only 30-40% is retained in the harvested product in the form of either protein or dietary nitrogen. Unused or underutilised nitrogen is often lost to the environment through soil leaching of nitrate into the ground water, atmospheric release of nitrous oxide (N2O) and the volatilisation of ammonia from both the soil and the plant canopy. Nitrogen release into the environment is a global concern due to its devastating impact on water qualities and its (N2O) potent capacity as a greenhouse gas.

Agricultural intensive countries around the world have increasingly invested in technologies to lessen the requirement of nitrogen fertilisers through improved agronomy and the selection of nitrogen use efficient plants. However, the high dependency of reduced nitrogen to maintain crop growth and achieve sufficient yields remains a challenge to modern farming systems where nitrogen-enhanced yields are now plateauing. Moreover, the rapid increase in global population is driving an independent need to deliver even further increases in productivity and quality that unfortunately is increasingly subject to the detrimental effects of climate change on farm systems.

Professor Brent N. Kaiser is the Professor of Legume Biology and Molecular Genetics in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at University of Sydney. He is the current Director of the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub – Legumes for Sustainable Agriculture and Theme Leader in Plant Breeding and Production in the Sydney Institute of Agriculture. Brent is originally Canadian, and migrated to Australia in 1994 to complete a PhD at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. Prior to coming to Australia, he completed a BSc (Agriculture) and MSc at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario. He has worked as a postdoctoral fellow in France (Nice), Canada (UBC) and Australia (ANU). He arrived at The University of Sydney in 2015, and prior to that was a teaching/research academic at the University of Adelaide.

Professor Kaiser’s research focus is on the management of nitrogen nutrition in plants. His research group examines the genetic and biochemical mechanisms by which plants access, assimilate and redistribute nitrogen across their developmental life cycle. The research involves the use of two model systems that include symbiotic nitrogen-fixing legumes (chickpea, soybean, medicago) and cereals (maize and wheat). Across both programs, the research aims to deliver genetic-based traits which enhance nitrogen utilization and which contribute to improved plant health, productivity and sustainable nitrogen use qualities of Australian cropping plants.

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