Barry Pogson awarded a 2019 ARC Laureate Fellowship
Professor Barry Pogson. Image: Lannon Harley, ANU Professor Barry Pogson. Image: Lannon Harley, ANU
12 September 2019

The Australian National University (ANU) has been awarded two Australian Laureate Fellowships from the Australian Research Council (ARC), including a project using synthetic biology to generate 'smart plants'.

Professor Barry Pogson, from the ANU Research School of Biology, was awarded $2.9 million to create higher-yielding and more resilient 'smart plants' for good and bad seasons.

He said the project could help chart the future of Australian agriculture and food security.

 "We know drought can drastically reduce yield for our crops and this threatens food security across the globe," said Professor Pogson.

 "I aim to produce higher yielding, more resilient wheat and rice, which together provide much of humanity's dietary energy and protein.

 "These smart plants will be able to switch on a resilience that will help chart the future of Australian agriculture.

"Australia, indeed the world, faces an unprecedented set of challenges, many of which will impact food security. My proposal aims to contribute to providing some solutions. But given the scale and breadth of challenges facing our rural communities we need a nationwide, integrated, large scale mission to produce better crops and communities." 

Professor Quentin Grafton, from the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, won $3.3 million for his sustainable water use project which aims to improve our understanding of the relationship Indigenous Australians have with water.

The professor said a sustainable Australia could only be achieved by recognising water's economic, environmental and socio-cultural value - including the values of First Peoples.

"Water is life; for people, our communities, our environment, our economy and our nation," Professor Grafton said.

"So properly valuing water, and reallocating it when necessary, is crucial to avoid catastrophic costs and recovery after droughts, and to ensure a sustainable water future for all Australians.

"This project aims to rethink how water is valued, used and governed in Australia."

Acting ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Mike Calford congratulated Professors Pogson and Grafton on their success.

"ARC Laureates are extremely competitive and prestigious. They recognise Australian researchers at the pinnacle of their game as well as research of the highest quality and impact," he said.

"Their research makes a major difference to Australia and Australians every day.

"With these projects they will help drive deeper understanding and better outcomes for two major challenges facing our nation and the world - crop resilience and water use.

"On behalf of the entire ANU community and Australians everywhere who will benefit from their work, I congratulate both of them and look forward to seeing what their vital work delivers."  

The ANU has been awarded 26 Australian Laureate Fellowships since the scheme began in 2009.