Agricultural Science

Delivering better crops and improving farming systems

Jason Able, Head of the Department of Agricultural Science

Associate Professor Jason Able
Head of the Department of Agricultural Science

The School of Agriculture, Food and Wine has a strong international reputation for research underpinning the breeding of crops, the management of soils, diseases and weeds and dryland farming systems agronomy.

Our experts are co-located with industry and government partners at the University's Waite and Roseworthy campuses, both of which are recognised as centres of excellence in agricultural science.

Waite campus is also the largest concentration of agricultural research expertise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Research strengths

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Farming systems

Our research on sustainable agricultural systems focuses on crop production and agronomy and is particularly relevant to dryland agricultural systems in Australia and overseas. Our international research includes research on biofortification, agroforestry and extension.

Weed science research addresses integrated weed management, herbicide resistance, weed ecology and crop-weed interactions in agricultural systems.

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Entomology & plant pathology

Our research in entomology addresses the biology, behaviour, ecology of insects. We study insects that occur in a wide range of ecosystems, including pasture crops, vegetables, fruits, vineyards, greenhouse crops and natural ecosystems.

Key areas of interest are biological control of insects and weeds, integrated pest management, biosecurity, crop pollination and conservation and enhancement of ecosystem services delivered by insects. Our research considers beneficial parasitic wasps, predatory arthropods, crop pollinators and a wide range of pest organisms.

Our research in plant pathology addresses the biology, ecology, epidemiology and plant responses to attack and provides foundations for diagnosis, control and management of plant diseases, pests and parasites. We focus mainly on viticulture, broad-acre and horticultural systems, but also consider native vegetation and post-harvest damage to stored products.

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Soil science

Soils are complex media that support plant growth by supplying nutrients and water. They are critical for sustainability of agricultural and natural ecosystems.

By applying expertise in soil chemistry (fertilisers, contaminants, soil carbon), soil physics (soil structure and water availability) and soil biology (nutrient cycling, roots and rhizosphere, mycorrhizae), we conduct research that improves understanding of soil processes and functions, leading to improved methods for soil management.

Biometry Hub


Biometry research involves development and application of statistical and computational methods for the design and analysis of experiments. This includes research in advanced experimental design and statistical modelling of comparative experiments conducted in controlled and field environments.

We have a strong focus on statistical genetics research including linkage map construction, whole genome QTL analysis and genome wide association studies (GWAS). We also focus on the computational aspects of digital agriculture including machine learning algorithms, high performance computing as well as user friendly online and mobile applications.

  • Lead researchers

    Researcher Focus area
    Dr Chris Brien Experimental design and statistical modelling for plant phenomics
    Dr Beverley Gogel Experimental design and statistical modelling for multi-environment multi-trait field trials; core member of the ASReml linear mixed modelling development team
    Dr Olena Kravchuk Non-parametric inference; sampling methodology; sensometrics
    Dr Helena Oakey Experimental design and statistical modelling; applied statistical genetics including whole genome QTL analysis and GWAS
    Dr Julian Schwerdt Protein family evolution, coevolution networks and biological applications for machine learning
    Dr Neil Shirley Identification and expression patterns of cell wall genes
    Dr Julian Taylor Advanced statistical modelling; computational statistics; R package development; statistical genetics including linkage map construction, whole genome QTL analysis and GWAS
    Dr Andy Timmins High performance computing; machine learning; bioinformatics pipelines
  • Research groups and centres

    Waite Research Institute Supporting collaboration between the Waite precinct partners; driving research and building capacity for Australia's agriculture, food and wine sectors
    SAGI-STH Statistics for the Australian Grains Industry - southern node. High quality statistical science to support rapid advances in crop varieties, agronomic knowledge and farming practices.
    Bioinformatics hub Coordinating the use of an open workspace, organises seminars and workshops for researchers, assists researchers and teaching 
    Australian Plant Phenomics Facility & The Plant Accelerator® Automated high-throughput plant phenotyping system providing a range of imaging technologies (RGB, fluorescence, infrared & hyperspectral) to facilitate innovative high-quality research into plant performance in different environments
    Animal Reproduction and Genetics group Group within the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences with research interests in the basic scientific aspects of both reproduction and genetics of livestock species