Partner Profile: Southern Cross University

| Posted Jul 30,2020

Soil CRC Project Leader and Southern Cross University researcher Dr Hanabeth Luke

Southern Cross University was established in 1994 with its main campus in Lismore, Northern NSW, and other campuses on the southern Gold Coast and in Coffs Harbour on the mid-north coast of NSW.

The University boasts nine research centres, which include the Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry; Centre for Organics Research; Forest Research Centre; National Centre for Flood Research; and Southern Cross GeoScience. It also operates the National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour.

Southern Cross undertakes research in a wide range of areas, including agriculture, crop and pasture production, ecology, earth sciences, environmental science and management, fisheries sciences, forestry sciences, geochemistry and zoology, all of which achieved ‘above world standard’ in the 2018 Excellence in Research Australia rankings. It offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate academic programs, including the world’s first undergraduate degree in Regenerative Agriculture.

The team of Soil CRC researchers from Southern Cross University work in the School of Environment, Science and Engineering; Southern Cross Plant Science and the Centre for Organics Research. They bring expertise in social science, biogeochemistry, agronomy and plant nutrition, organic waste management and re-use, and stable and radio-isotope geochemistry.

Research in soil science is underpinned by some world-class laboratories. Southern Cross University are one of the only Australian facilities routinely running the compound-specific nitrogen isotope techniques and have laser and mass spectrometers for high-precision, high-throughput analysis of light stable isotopes (carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur) on a range of liquid, gas, and solid samples.

Southern Cross Plant Science infrastructure includes state of the art genetics, genomics, proteomics and analytical chemistry laboratories, plant growth facilities comprising controlled environment chambers, glasshouses and field facilities. These facilities are critical for rhizosphere and soil meta-genomics studies undertaken within current Soil CRC projects.

One of the reasons Southern Cross University wanted to be involved with the Soil CRC was to use existing soil and social science expertise to deliver practical outcomes to end-users. The Soil CRC is not only using soil science research but is taking a more holistic look at soil and agriculture and delivering real world practical results for farmers, agronomists and industry.  

The networking and collaboration between researchers, scientists, farmer groups and industry groups within the Soil CRC has also been very beneficial for Southern Cross University. These are groups with which the University may not have otherwise formed connections, strengthening the research.

Southern Cross University projects:  

Surveying farm practicesled by Dr Hanabeth Luke, Southern Cross University, with collaborations from Charles Sturt University, North Central CMA, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Primary Industries and Regions SA, Western Australian No-Tillage Farmers Association (WANTFA).

What drives farmer decisionsled by Dr Hanabeth Luke, Southern Cross University, with collaborations from Charles Sturt University, Soils for Life, Burdekin Productivity Services and Southern Farming Systems.

Plant based solutions to improve soil performance led by Professor Terry Rose, Southern Cross University with collaborations with Central West Farming Systems, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Murdoch University, Charles Sturt University, Burdekin Productivity Services, Herbert Cane Productivity Services, FarmLink, Hart Field Site Group, Riverine Plains and Western Australian No-Tillage Farmers Association (WANTFA).

Increasing nutrient efficiency with new organic amendments – led by Professor Terry Rose, Southern Cross University with collaborations with NSW Department of Primary Industries, FarmLink and NSW EPA.

Do deep carbon and nitrogen pools play a role in high performance Australian soils? – led by Dr Naomi Wells, Southern Cross University with collaboration from CSIRO Land & Water and Federation University.

Is the isotopic composition of bulk soil carbon and nitrogen a robust indicator of agricultural soil health? – led by Dr Naomi Wells, Southern Cross University with collaboration from CSIRO Land & Water. Project completed 2019.

Improved management of herbicide residues in soilled by Dr Michael Rose (NSW Department of Primary Industries) with collaboration from Murdoch University, Southern Cross University, WANTFA, Hart Field Site Group and Birchip Cropping Group.

Recovering nutrients from organic waste streams – led by Dr Dane Lamb, University of Newcastle with collaborations from Griffith University, Southern Cross University, Central West Farming Systems, Primary Industries and Regions South Australia, Australian Organics Recycling Association, South East Water, Herbert Can Productivity Services and Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research New Zealand.

Team of Researchers  

Researcher  Field of expertise  
  Hanabeth Luke  Rural Sociology and Regenerative Agriculture
  Shane McIntosh  Soil amendments and waste product re-use
  Dirk Erler  Isotope geochemistry, biogeochemistry
  Terry Rose  Agronomy and plant nutrition
  Mona Malekzadeh  Soil physics
  Naomi Wells  Soil science, biogeochemistry, isotopes
  Andrew Rose  Soil chemistry