Profile: Murdoch University

Posted Jun 11,2019

The Sandy soils project team at the Soil CRC conference

Located in Perth, Murdoch University is the only Soil CRC University partner from Western Australia. Murdoch University aspires to excel in translational research, taking new discovery research and applying it to real world. This aligns perfectly with the objective of the Soil CRC, which is to bring together scientists, industry and farmers to find practical solutions for Australia’s underperforming soils.

The team at Murdoch are recognised Australia wide for being a very strong nitrogen fixation and soil biology group, but they also cover a broad range of disciplines – from soil scientists to chemists to policy experts to molecular biologists. Both the Soil CRC and Murdoch University benefit from the collaboration of these researchers, bringing together different disciplines to create stronger, more robust research projects.

Being a part of the Soil CRC has enabled the Murdoch researchers to springboard off their current research and extend it to a national level. Western Australian institutes and farmers can be quite geographically isolated, so being a part of the Soil CRC helps to bring a more national collaboration. Western Australia plays a significant role in the national output of grain production and it also has unique soils, so it is very important that Western Australian agriculture is represented in the Soil CRC.

Being part of the Soil CRC has embedded the already established relationships between Murdoch University and the farmer groups from WA that are part of the Soil CRC. This gives Murdoch researchers a clearer focus for their field work now and in the future. The longevity of the Soil CRC is also vital for being able to develop projects not only for the Soil CRC but also beyond the life of the CRC.

Murdoch University is heavily involved in projects involving sandy soils which are a big problem for Western Australian agriculture. Partnering up with PIRSA for Soil CRC projects has been a valuable collaboration as South Australia and Western Australia share some common soil constraints.

Murdoch University is involved in Programs 1, 3 and 4 of the Soil CRC. They have worked in three completed scoping study projects, and are working on five current Soil CRC projects.

Current Soil CRC projects:

Sandy Soils – led by Professor Richard Bell (Murdoch University; including Richard Harper, David Henry, Damian Laird) with collaborations from Federation University, PIRSA, West Midlands Group, and AORA.

Collaborative approaches to innovation – led by Dr Nicholas Pawsey (Charles Sturt University) with collaborations from Federation University, Murdoch University (Simon Cook), University of Southern Queensland and University of Tasmania.

Evaluating alternative rhizobial carriers for improving soil performance – led by Professor Chengrong Chen (Griffith University) with collaborations from University of Newcastle, Murdoch University Graham O’Hara), Central West Farmers Systems, WANTFA, Herbert Cane Productivity, Burdekin Productivity Services and AORA.

Plant based solutions to improve soil performance through rhizosphere modifications – led by Associate Professor Terry Rose (Southern Cross University) with collaborations with Central West Farming Systems, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Murdoch University (John Howieson and colleagues), Charles Sturt University, Burdekin Productivity Services, Herbert Cane Productivity Services, Farmlink, Hart Field Site Group, Riverine Plains and WANTFA.

Developing knowledge and tools to better manage herbicide residues in soil – led by Dr Michael Rose (NSW Department of Primary Industries) with collaboration from Murdoch University, (Richard Bell and David Henry)  Southern Cross University, WANTFA, Hart Field Site Group and Birchip Cropping Group.

The Murdoch Soil CRC team:

ResearcherField of expertise
Prof Richard BellSoil fertility and soil management
Prof John HowiesonLegumes, nitrogen fixation and Rhizobium
Dr Graham O’HaraLegumes, nitrogen fixation and Rhizobium
Dr Jason TerpolilliLegumes, nitrogen fixation and Rhizobium
Dr Sophie De MeyerLegumes, nitrogen fixation and Rhizobium
Prof Simon CookPrecision agriculture and big data in agriculture. WA Premier’s Fellow
Assoc Prof David HenryChemical and analytical sciences, specialising in physical and computational chemistry
Dr Damien LairdOrganic chemistry centred around the detection, analysis, and characterisation of organic compounds and materials
Prof Richard HarperSoil management, salinity management, carbon in the land sector including both scientific and policy contributions
Dr Yvonne HaigPublic policy
Dr Halina KobrynRemote sensing and GIS
Prof Mike JonesHead of the Plant Biotechnology Research Group