Scientists join Murdoch University’s Food Futures Institute

Countryman
Professor Daniel Murphy, Professor Frances Hoyle and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Professor Chris Gazey.
Camera IconProfessor Daniel Murphy, Professor Frances Hoyle and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Professor Chris Gazey. Credit: Peter Maloney

Murdoch University has welcomed four new scientists to its Food Futures Institute, with hopes they will strengthen the university’s leading position in agricultural sciences.

Professors Daniel Murphy, David Jones, Rob Griffiths and Associate Professor Frances Hoyle were recently appointed to the WA-based institute.

The Food Futures Institute works to provide solutions on the sustainable use of limited land and water resources to economically and ethically improve food, forestry and fibre production.

Food Futures Institute pro vice chancellor Peter Davies said it was terrific to have the “world-leading” scientists join the university as it continued to build on its “research strengths across food, health and the environment”.

Mr Davies said each of the professors brought a wealth of experience in food production, climate variation and adaption, and environment and natural resource science.

“Intensification of agriculture over the past 50 years has increased food production, but urban expansion, erosion, nutrient run-off, salinity, biodiversity loss and climate change are posing enormous challenges,” he said.

“This team will help us contribute solutions to some of these challenges.”

Professor Murphy and Associate Professor Hoyle bring well-established industry connections, having established Soils West, an alliance between universities and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

The organisation brings industry, government and academia together for the discovery and development of soil research.

Professor Murphy will be the director of the Centre for Sustainable Farming Systems as he continues his major research programs addressing issues relating to the development of sustainable management practices for agriculture, horticulture and mine sites under rehabilitation.

“I’m really excited to be coming across to help consolidate agricultural research in WA and, importantly, translational research,” he said.

“We’ve got some really exciting prospective work on improving nutrient and water use efficiency, regenerating soil function in farming systems and growing bioplastics as an area of research focus, which all present terrific opportunities for farmers here and throughout Asia and Africa operating in similar environments.”

This work will be undertaken alongside Associate Professor Hoyle, who is also the SoilsWest director.

Intensification of agriculture over the past 50 years has increased food production, but urban expansion, erosion, nutrient run-off, salinity, biodiversity loss and climate change are posing enormous challenges.

Peter Davies

She has a deep understanding of the challenges faced by WA farmers in managing crop production systems and the management of soil organic carbon.

Professor Jones joins on a 50 per cent fractional appointment as a highly-cited researcher whose current work spans controlling viral pathogens — including COVID-19 — in agricultural, freshwater and marine ecosystems, promoting carbon sequestration in agricultural systems and improve nutrient use efficiency in cropping systems.

Professor Griffiths is also a highly cited researcher with a focus on microbial diversity in natural environments.

Professor Griffiths has been widely published for improving our understanding of the drivers of microbial biodiversity and determining how biodiversity change relates to change in ecosystem functioning. He will also take up a fractional appointment.

Murdoch University’s agricultural and environmental research is recognised internationally, working at the cutting edge of science and in successful collaborations with industry and governments to ensure future food production systems are both profitable and sustainable.

“This team will continue to improve connections from the laboratory to the farm gate by delivering answers to the pressing questions that farmers have,” Professor Davies said.

The team will officially begin their roles at Murdoch on July 1.

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