A Grain Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Scholarship has been awarded to The University of Western Australia’s (UWA) Soodeh Tirnaz, for her work in the area of protecting canola yields from blackleg disease.
The GRDC scholarship will support Ms Tirnaz’s PhD studies in identifying and mapping disease resistance genes in the Brassicaceae plant family, with a focus on canola.
She is studying new approaches to better understand how canola resistance genes respond to blackleg, and her work will build on existing research into improving resistance in canola to this disease.
Ms Tirnaz says blackleg disease has a huge economic impact on the grains industry in Australia, with average annual yield losses for growers of 15 per cent.
“The Australian canola industry was devastated by blackleg epidemics in 1972 and in 2003 and in many years it is still a very damaging disease,” she said.
“I am examining the mechanisms whereby defence genes can be switched on and off without changing the plant’s underlying DNA, and the role this plays in increasing tolerance to blackleg disease.
“Information generated by this research could potentially be used in canola breeding programs to improve resistance in future canola varieties.
“Reducing yield losses even by a few percentage points can benefit Australian canola growers by millions of dollars each year.”
Mr Tirnaz says the scholarship will provide her with the opportunity to expand her PhD experiments, attend international conferences and visit other institutions to develop her skills and knowledge.
“I hope to complete this project in 2020 and am looking forward to continuing my research in this field,” she said.
The GRDC’s research scholarship program supports post-graduates in fields of study aligned with the GRDC’s research priorities. The program is part of the GRDC’s thrust to build research capacity within the grains industry.
GRDC Research Scholarships are awarded on the basis of the academic excellence of the applicant, relevance of proposed research to GRDC priorities, and evidence of industry contribution or involvement.