Worldwide, the demand for plant-based products and foods is increasing, even as arable land diminishes and global climates change.

Growers and industries require efficient and sustainable solutions to:

  • improve crop productivity and resilience to stress, pests and disease
  • reduce waste
  • develop sustainable and economically viable fibres, biofuels, polymers and therapeutics.

Our world-renowned researchers make and apply the discoveries that improve plant-based foods and products to meet increasing needs.

UQ Science supports more than 120 biologists, chemists and food, crop, soil or environmental scientists working in this research theme.

Research impacts

Growing ideas for a better future

UQ Science researchers are leading a partnership between research institutions and industry to increase efficiency in crop plant breeding, ultimately helping to overcome global food shortages. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded project has enabled researchers to implement the Breeding Program Analysis Tool, which aims to significantly improve plant breeding in developing countries and maximise increases in crop yields.

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Using coal seam water to increase agricultural production

UQ Science researchers have developed a way to use coal seam water, a by-product of coal seam gas extraction, to treat irrigation water. In collaboration with industry, the researchers found that using coal seam water instead of more conventional and costlier water amendment facilities proved more robust and would increase agricultural production for landholders while meeting environmental targets.

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Improving broadacre cropping through phosphorus management

In search of more sustainable approaches to maintaining land fertility, UQ Science researchers examined the role of subsoil P reserves in maintaining crop productivity in rain-fed cropping systems. By engaging with growers and consultants across north-eastern Australia, our researchers contributed to the development of new fertiliser-use guidelines that were adopted regionally and are attracting national attention.

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Discovery unleashes growth in salty soils

A team of researchers from UQ Science and Western Sydney University has helped identify a naturally-occurring chemical in plants – known as 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate, or ACC – that reduces the symptoms of salt stress when applied to soil. The discovery blows a strike against salinity, which affects more than 220 million hectares of irrigated farming and food-production land worldwide. It increases salt-affected plant growth in lettuces by nearly five times and in plant models by more than 30 times, growing in extremely salty soil under lab conditions.

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Super clones to conquer coconut crisis

Ageing coconut palm trees could be replaced quickly and cheaply by superior cloned coconuts being developed by UQ Science researchers. The industry faces a looming shortage as most trees were planted 70 or more years ago and every year these older plants produce fewer coconuts. Nearly a billion new trees need to be planted to meet rising demand, and the researchers are developing coconut cloning, propagation and conservation techniques that are fast, economical and let us select desired traits.

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Natural weed control an Australian first

A natural weed control developed at UQ has become the first woody weed bioherbicide to be granted federal regulatory approval. UQ Science researchers developed the Di Bak Parkinsonia fungal bioherbicide after conducting a study that involved 90 trial sites. It will help manage one of Australia’s most invasive introduced weeds, Parkinsonia, which threatens rangelands, wetlands and natural waterways as well as native plants and animals. Current attempts to control Parkinsonia involve invasive mechanical clearing of land or potentially harmful chemical sprays. Using naturally occurring fungi that causes plants to die back, Di Bak Parkinsonia is safe and causes minimal harm to the environment.

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