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New $46 million research facility to help fight crop disease

Media release

A $46 million agriculture research facility opened today at Curtin University will allow scientists from the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) to take crop disease research to new horizons.

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The facility, opened by Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Food, the Honourable Mark Lewis, will be pivotal in helping the CCDM − a national research centre co-supported by Curtin and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) – to reach its goal of reducing the economic impact of crop disease on Australian growers.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said that with the building’s three storeys of specially designed laboratory space, up to 80 CCDM researchers would be able to work on pathogens that pose a threat to Australian farming systems within a safe contained environment.

“Crop diseases are a primary cause of reduced yields in Australia, costing the grains industry more than $1.5 billion per year,” Professor Terry said.

“Never before have CCDM researchers, who do such important research in areas including crop genetics, fungicide resistance and farming systems, been in a better position to reduce this economic burden on grain growers.

“I look forward to seeing the differences they will make to the Australian agriculture industry.”

GRDC Managing Director Dr Steve Jefferies said the new building was a major outcome of the bilateral co-investment research agreement signed in 2014 between GRDC and Curtin, and he was very pleased to see it operational and being used to deliver value to Australian grain growers.

“Two and a half years into the bilateral agreement between GRDC and Curtin and we’re already seeing success,” Dr Jefferies said.

“Australian grain growers have saved more than $100 million a year with better disease-resistant varieties of grain and improved disease management practices. CCDM researchers have contributed to delivering these outcomes to growers.

“New varieties with higher levels of disease resistance as well as improved disease management practices are contributing to putting money back in the pockets of growers.”

CCDM researchers using the new facilities will continue to work on reducing the economic impact of a number of important cereal, oilseed and pulse diseases, including yellow spot and septoria nodorum blotch in wheat, powdery mildew in both wheat and barley, net blotch in barley, as well as sclerotinia in canola and ascochyta blight in pulses.

The building features uniquely-designed physical containment (PC) level two and three laboratories, enabling high-level strategic experimentation on important crop diseases as well as those that pose as a biosecurity risk to Australian farming.

The facility’s floor-to-ceiling windows will enable visitors to see CCDM scientists at work. The design also encapsulates a balance between high-level containment functionality and architectural style and includes an integrated artwork display of coloured glass.

Situated on the eastern side of Curtin’s Bentley Campus and adjacent to the Curtin Bus Station, the facility also includes write-up spaces and private meeting rooms.

For more information on the building, watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qh3t2FTQrE