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Crop disease research facility now ‘topped out’

Media release

Tradition of ‘topping out’ during construction dates back to ancient Scandinavian mythology

Curtin CCDM Director Mark Gibberd, GRDC Executive Manager Research Programs Brondwen MacLean, Curtin Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry and GRDC General Manager Systems & Agronomy West Darren Hughes. (Photo credit: Doric)

Curtin University’s $46 million agricultural research facility has been ‘topped out’, celebrated with a traditional ceremony involving construction workers placing a tree on the highest floor.

With plans to open doors in the second half of 2016, the three story building will allow researchers of the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM), an initiative co-funded by Curtin and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), to safely carry out pathogen research with high containment, and ultimately help reduce the economic impact of important grain diseases.

Curtin’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Deborah Terry said the topping out ceremony provided the next step towards further reducing the economic cost of crop disease to Australian farmers.

“Researchers from the CCDM have already discovered innovations that have saved the national industry over $100 million in the past year,” Professor Terry said.

“Who knows what they may achieve when provided with even better equipment and an exceptional working space.

“The new building will provide better facilities to study current crop diseases as well as those that pose as a biosecurity threat to Australian farming, within uniquely-designed physical containment (PC) laboratories with essential safety precautions and procedures,” Professor Terry said.

Each level of the new building will include premium laboratory space to support up to one hundred researchers, with the main quarantine-approved laboratories for specific pathogen research located on the top floor.

The CCDM will enhance its work on a number of important crop diseases, including Yellow Spot, Septoria Nodorum Blotch, Powdery Mildew, Net Blotch of barley, Sclerotinia and Ascochyta Blight. The research aims to target both the fungal pathogens and the affected crops varieties, and help reduce the $1.5 billion impact of crop disease on Australian farming.

Professor Terry said the building was an important component of the commitment to the bilateral agreement with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), which saw the launch of the CCDM in 2014.

She said the building demonstrates the value of long term co-investment models to ensuring the maximum impact of GRDC funds by supporting the research activities and infrastructure that deliver better bottom line solutions to the Australian grains industry.

“In a time of uncertainty in the Australian agricultural sector, our commitment to agribusiness and farming systems research has never been stronger and I look forward to seeing the next Curtin discovery that really makes a difference to farm businesses in Australia and the world,” Professor Terry said.

Notes to Editor

The practice of topping out a building under construction dates back to ancient Scandinavian mythology. It is said that placing a tree or leafy branch at the highest point of the structure would appease the tree dwelling spirits displaced by the construction of the building.

Construction company Doric hosted the event. This construction project is the third project that Doric has delivered on behalf of Curtin, following the Curtin Recreation and Events Centre completed in 2008, and the Curtin Engineering Pavilion in 2010.