Murdoch venture to protect future generations

December 10, 2010

Murdoch University Professor John Howieson will travel to the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen early next year to deposit a unique collection of rhizobium strains in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault stores plant seeds to ensure preservation of important seeds in the event of global crises. Professor Howieson said the voyage, which is funded by the Australian Academy of Science Scientific Visits to Europe program, represented an important milestone for Australian science.

“The Svalbard Seed Vault has cutting edge technologies in cryo-preservation that would be extremely valuable for Australian scientists to be exposed to,” he said.

Professor Howieson, who is the Director of Research Institute for Crops and Plants at Murdoch University, said the preservation of rhizobium strains – which form nodules on the roots of legume plants to produce available nitrogen from the air – is critical for future generations.

“Our rhizobium group has the most important collection of nodule bacteria in the world and this will be preserved for hundreds of years to ensure we put important genetic resources away for future generations,” he said.

Professor Howieson will be joined by Professor Ken Giller from Wageningen University in The Netherlands. Professor Howieson said the voyage will also help strengthen relationships between Murdoch and Wageningen University, one of the world’s most important agricultural universities.

“Professor Giller is at the peak of his profession in legume physiology, nitrogen fixation and farming systems research which would provide an excellent counter-balance in training of Australian graduates in this discipline,” he said.

“An interdisciplinary connection with Wageningen University would be of great value to Australian science.”

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