Taking the stress out of plant life

I heard a funny story from a biology teacher the other day. In a discussion about stress in plants a student says to the teacher “plants are rooted Miss”. The teacher looks a bit mortified and the student replies “they are rooted because they cant get up and move when they are under stress’

its stressful being a plant

Grain crops under stress – get this stuff off me

So loving this story shared with me yesterday Plants freak out  like animals when stressed. Extract

Both plants and animals produce a neurotransmitter known as GABA, which stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid. This acid is primarily produced when the organism is under stress: when it’s hungry, or scared, or exposed to pathogens or (in the case of plants) acidity or salinity.

What has only been suggested up until now is that the presence of this acid acts as a signal to tell the plant to behave in a certain way. That’s changed now. According to the authors of the ARC study, “We’ve discovered that plants bind GABA in a similar way to animals, resulting in electrical signals that ultimately regulate plant growth when a plant is exposed to a stressful environment.”

Breeding plants for stress reduction

With the help of farmer levies from the GRDC the CSIRO are breeding plants that are more stress and disease tolerant to help our grain farmers supply safe, affordable and nutritious food to Australian families

Seed to Store – creating a buzz around grains

Young Farming Champion Dan Fox certainly got a great opportunity this week to combine his two first loves – teaching and food production (apologies to his girlfriend)

Dan is a very bright young man who completed HSC physics and maths in Year 10. As I always struggled with physics and maths I am just awestruck that some people can do this

When Dan completed his HSC he went off to Uni to become a teacher. After completing his degree he found his farming roots calling him back to the farm where is waking up every day committed to growing the best grain for your weetbix, the barley for your beer and the canola oil for your salad and helping turn spring into that amazing colour carpet splendour that is canola in flower.

Daniel ox  (3)

Dan Fox in the canola

At the invitation of the Grains Research and Development Corporation which funds Dan to be a Young Farming Champion Dan had a whirlwind trip to South Australia to help promote the Seed to Store Video Competition

As part of the team who did the ‘Seed to Store – Story of Australian Grain’ schools presentation sessions today Dan visited Urrbrae Agricultural High School and Oakbank Area School and presented to over 400 secondary school students.

The hour long sessions looked at the Australian grains industry, growing great grains, plant breeding for quality food products and careers in grains / agriculture.

Dan shared his journey with the students, speaking about his career, sustainable farming and opportunities in the grains industry and knowing Dan I am positive the crowds loved him!


There was lots of activities, quizzes, plant crosses, prizes


Apparently this young man was asked to  “emasculate” a plant! Priceless!


Dough stretching competition – learning about gluten and dough quality


everyone had lots of fun including Dan front and centre here


You can find out everything you need to know about the competition here

Seed to Store CompetitionCheck Cosi in the video clip here

Meet Jessica Kirkpatrick who enjoys both the challenges and opportunities a career in agriculture offers

Hi I’m Jessica Kirkpatrick, a 19 year old student, grain analyst and sheep breeder.


I’m from a mixed farming operation in south western Victoria. I loved growing up on our 3000 acre property with sheep, horses, dogs and an array of farm animals. The best part was having all the wide open spaces to explore! Beaufort is our closest town only 10 minutes away and the next rural centre is Ballarat about a 45 minute drive.


Galloping to knock over the tent peg (2011)

The Kirkpatrick’s have been on our home property, “Glenayr” for 150 years. My father took over the farm when my grandfather died and has been a farmer for 41 years. There aren’t many people can say they have stayed in a job for that long! My brother and I are the sixth generation to be apart of the business.
We have always been encouraged to be involved in the farm including animal husbandry activities including shearing, drenching, pregnancy testing, fleece testing and general mustering.

At the age of 12, in partnership with my brother we established the “Jessie James” Border Leicester stud.

Initially, it was a huge shock for an 11 and 12 year old to succumb to the reality of debt! However this project has given me so much. It is the book keeping skills, the understanding of fluctuating markets, the responsibility of checking the lambing ewes before school and selecting desirable traits we wish to breed in our flock.


Droving sheep on horseback was always a common occurrence (2009)

My passion for agriculture has also stemmed from my education. I went to a rural primary school and then high school involved a bus trip every day to go to Ballarat Grammar. At Grammar, I studied agriculture and horticulture in years 10, 11 and 12. I was involved in the school sheep and cattle show teams. These experiences broadened my horizons to see a variety of industries and the potential career pathways.


Lamb marking at the school farm for agricultural studies (2010)

I decided at the end of year 12, I wanted to continue my education in agriculture and now I’m currently studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. At completion I want to become an agronomist. I have a particular interest in soil science and want to assist farmers in increasing yields whilst being economically and environmentally sustainable.

The four months of the year I’m not at university I spend at Lakaput Bulk Storage. This is a facility where grain growers can store their wheat, barley, oats and canola throughout the year and can arrange the selling of the grain to marketers. For the 2011/12 and 2012/13 I was a grain sampler. This role involves collecting a grain sample and then testing it for quality by following a standards chart. In the recent 2013/14 season I was manager of the classification and sampling arm at the site. This has been an excellent experience as it has allowed me to see the importance of an agronomist in grain production, to ensure the grower can make the highest grade and receive the best price. I have also learnt about the grain marketing aspect and how the markets work and how prices are determined. I feel it is my time at Lakaput which has helped me decide that agronomy is the right career choice for me.

Sampling a Broadbent Grain truck and is tested for quality. (2013)


Bunkers and Silos are where the grain is stored on site (2014)

The local agricultural show is a large part of my family and personal community involvement. I have competed at horse shows since the age of five and as I have grown older I have taken on more roles within the event. I feel agricultural shows are a place for the community to meet and a way for people to display their best crafts, art, cookery, and livestock, whilst in a healthy competitive environment.

I was awarded the 2013 Victorian Agricultural Shows Junior Ambassador Runner Up at state final. This is a competition that recognises youth involvement at Victoria Agricultural Shows, with criteria including agricultural show involvement, community service, general presentation, general knowledge, ambitions and public speaking ability. At the event I was interviewed by a panel of judges, participated in an on-stage interview and had time to interact with like-minded people. It is at events like this that I can see the sector has a bright future ahead with more younger people coming through the ranks.


Through the RIRDC Horizon Scholarship I have been able to experience the cotton industry. Being Victorian, cotton is a very foreign crop to me. I enjoyed a work placement on a property near Moree in Northern NSW. I was shown the basics of cotton farming and was even lucky enough to spend a day with an agronomist. It truly cemented my career pathway in agronomy and I’m looking forward to many more experiences in this field.

Starting siphons for irrigation (2014)

I’m excited to see the agricultural sector changing and developing in my life time. I’m looking forward to having a career which can take me anywhere around the country or even overseas. The grains industry is of particular interest to me and I’m keen to be able to provide agronomic services to cereal and oilseed producers.

It is important for me to give back to the sector through promotion. One way to do this is through education and showing young people of both urban and rural communities the numerous opportunities our industry has to offer.

We know how good our industry is so we must show it off to others!

“When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible.”

I feel this quote simply sums up my perception on agriculture. It’s not just a job. It is a lifestyle, passion and a place where family and friends meet. This passion is held by many people in agriculture and will ensure we can move forward as a united front and tackle issues such as feeding a global population, because after all who doesn’t like meeting a challenge head on and being part of a success story

Agriculture…is like an onion…it has lots of layers!

Today’s guest blog comes from Liz Lobsey, a very exciting young lady introduced to the exciting and diverse world of careers in agriculture whilst at school

Hi, my name is Liz Lobsey and I am 26 years old.


I’m an agronomist by day, and a closet agriculture advocate, also commonly referred to as an agvocate the rest of the time. I am a firm believer in the agriculture industry and it is not only my occupation, but it is also my passion.


On top of this I am lucky enough to I live in Toowoomba in sunny Queensland

Now, I’d like you to think about this.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about agriculture?

  • Livestock?
  • Crops?
  • Food?
  • Clothing?

Fair enough but these are stereotype images. To me agriculture is so much more than the food you put in your mouth or the clothes you wear on your back clip_image004

When I think about agriculture I think about people


I think about innovation


I think about passion and commitment


It wasn’t always this way When I first started high school and found out I had to do agriculture in year 7 the first thing I wanted to do was run away and hide. This was because my perception of what agriculture actually is was completely wrong. I thought of agriculture as dirty and, to be honest, boring; not something I was really looking forward to having to do. However, when I actually started learning about what it involved, my passion for agriculture surfaced and I have never looked back.

I’m not from your typical farming family, in fact, you could probably refer to me as a townie. My family connection to the land is minimal. But my passion for the industry is enormous! I have pottered about, I have studied a different degree, I even sat in an office for a good 3 years, and it was then that I realised that agriculture was where I wanted to be. So, I went back to uni and started studying agronomy. Some might think that I am a glutton for punishment after completing 6 years of university going on to my 7th, which tends to be a running joke with my friends. But when asked why I wanted to study agronomy, by one of my friends, my response was thus.

How many jobs are there, where you can sit on the front veranda of your clients’ home, have a beer and talk about the day while watching the sunset?


Do you get the chance to watch a storm roll in over the flat black soil plains at your job?


Do you have laugh while you’re helping a grower pull out that silly agronomist who got the tractor bogged? (Yes, I am talking about myself).


Does your job give you the opportunity to actually have relationships with your clients where they become surrogate families?

How many jobs do you know of where you have the chance to be constantly learning new things?

How many jobs do you know of that are involved with an industry that is one of the most sustainable, innovative and productive in the world?

A lot of people will associate agriculture with long hours, hot dusty days, and a lot of hard work. And I will openly admit, it is a lot of hard work, and it can be dirty and dusty, on the other spectrum even muddy at times.

Muddy boots

But it is all part and parcel of the experience and I wouldn’t change a thing for the world.

I am involved in the cotton and grains industries and the growers I work with are some of the most innovative and passionate people I have ever met and most likely ever will know. Both of these industries are constantly looking for new ways to be sustainable while remaining productive. It is inspiring to me to be involved in industries where the industries themselves are making the active effort to be better at what they do and making a conscious effort to implement change and be on the front foot to avoid outside influences impacting on what they do and can achieve.


Earlier I mentioned when I think of agriculture, I think of passion and I strongly believe no matter what you are doing with you, life has little meaning unless you have passion for what you do.

Sadly I also believe that agriculture is a misunderstood industry; it is so much more than what you see on the surface. I was recently at a committee meeting where our vice-chairperson was describing her role as a farmer’s wife: she did the books, looked after the kids, fed the workers, drove the tractors and the list goes on. There is so much more involved with working on a farm or within the industry than what appears on the surface.

While agronomy is my primary job I also do business analysis and management; sometimes I am even a farmhand.  My boss constantly says to me that while we are agronomists and think we are mainly working with soils and plants, its the people who make change so we also have to be psychologists and know what drives change.


Within agriculture you are so much more then what your title defines you .As an agronomist on a daily basis I assist growers make decisions about how to nurture their crops and produce the best yields possible while keeping production costs low, keeping the levels of chemicals used to a minimum and being friendly to the environment.

On a daily basis I learn something new, I change the way I thought about a process and I help implement these new processes into the production systems that I work within. The interesting part of this is that one idea, is never implemented in the same way, that one idea can result in 6 or 7 different production processes dependent on how that grower runs their farm. While all farming may look the same from the outside, their a subtle differences on each farm that make it operate in the productive way that it does.


I am proud to say I work in an industry that

  • produces enough food to feed 60 million people.
  • produces 93% of the food we consume.
  • produces enough cotton to clothe 500 million people.

Did you know?

  • one 227kg of bale of cotton is enough to produce 215 pairs of jeans and 1,200 shirts.
  • Australian agriculture produces some of the highest quality food and fibre on the world market, and does so with a decreasing amount of land and water.


Agriculture is an essential part of the economy, but I also think agriculture is an important part of our society’s way of life. We are blessed to have the agriculture industry with all it offers and it is time for a revival of sorts. It is time for everyone who has the potential to get involved with agriculture in some way to peel back the layers of what agriculture is and take a serious look. It is not just a career choice; it is a lifestyle choice as it offers a wonderful way of life.

The passion of the people in this industry is infectious and the resilience of the people in this industry its own life lesson. I’ve only been in the industry for a couple years now and the way I look at life has changed dramatically.

So, when you think about the word agriculture, have a real think about it and tell me what comes into your mind?