Chickpea trials secure Cara a spot at Youth Ag Summit
A PhD student who conducted innovative trials on how to improve chickpea crop yields in Kununurra has been selected as one of four Australian delegates at the 2021 Bayer Youth Ag Summit.
Cara Jeffrey will join 100 delegates aged 18-25 from 40 countries at the fifth biennial summit, which will be held online due to COVID restrictions in November.
The 25-year-old, who was born in Sydney and studied at Queensland’s James Cook University, hopes to provide insight to breeding companies and farmers so they can produce a more resistant and heat tolerant chickpea crop.
Her research is taking data from the DNA of different breeds to discover which section breeders should target to produce a more resilient and reliable crop.
It is a fitting area of study, given the theme of this year’s summit is “feeding a hungry planet”.
“My main goal is researching sustainable food production and the research is trying to figure out how to safeguard the chickpea commercial crop from changes in climate, primarily heat,” Ms Jeffrey said.
“The Ord was such a fantastic place to work because it’s hot up there all the time.”
Ms Jeffrey has conducted commercial field trials in Narrabri, in North West NSW, and Kununurra, where she spent about eight weeks in 2019.
Though chickpeas thrive in temperatures between 20-28C, she said Kununurra was a great place for them to grow despite the harsh climate.
“Between my two sites, in Kununurra the yield was double just because of the amount of water they have to be able to put on those plants,” she explained.
“There’s no limitation to the success of that crop up in the Ord, other than obviously changes in climate and increases in temperature.”
Ms Jeffrey said chickpeas were domesticated from Syria and could survive long periods with minimal moisture and nutrients.
But while the crop is “pretty difficult to kill”, it is prone to disease.
“For the most part it can really control heat, but with my research we found that especially when you have heat at flowering and potting — the reproductive stages of the plant — you see a really dramatic decrease in yield,” she said.
“What we’re trying to do with this research is ... produce a crop that is going to give a little bit more protection and a more reliable yield and income to farmers.”
This year’s delegates were chosen from more than 2000 applicants from nearly 100 countries.
Joining Ms Jeffrey at the summit will be fellow Australians Dylan Male (Vic), Lucy Noble (NSW) and Meg Kennett (NSW), who will collaborate with other delegates on issues challenging food security across the world.
Between my two sites, in Kununurra the yield was double just because of the amount of water they have to be able to put on those plants.
They will also work with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Babele on a 10-week Youth Ag Summit University program following the forum, with mentoring from industry leaders, farmers and alumni.
Ms Jeffrey said it was a “phenomenal opportunity for professional development”.
“Looking at some of the research that other delegates are doing ... is wildly impressive and makes me feel so excited to see what the next generations of scientists are going to bring to the table,” she said.
Bayer Crop Science Division president Liam Condon said the delegates had the necessary passion to make a real difference.
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