From Spain to Hor­sham

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Aglife -

Spain and the Wim­mera might be a world apart but for Span­ish PHD stu­dent Ana Moreno de la Fuente, it is their sim­i­lar­i­ties that will help her to bet­ter un­der­stand the ef­fects of cli­mate change on agri­cul­tural sys­tems.

Ms Moreno, mid-way through a PHD ex­am­in­ing the ef­fects of cli­mate change on crops, said Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria’s Hor­sham site was the ideal lo­ca­tion to con­tinue her stud­ies.

“The Mediter­ranean cli­mate and the crops grown in the Wim­mera are very sim­i­lar to what we have in Spain,” she said.

“Also, there has al­ready been a lot of re­search into the ef­fects of el­e­vated car­bon diox­ide on crops car­ried out in the Hor­sham re­gion through the re­cently con­cluded 11-year Aus­tralian Grains Free Air CO2 En­rich­ment, AGFACE, pro­gram.

“We don’t have a FACE fa­cil­ity in Spain and the novel and im­por­tant re­search in Hor­sham will give me an un­der­stand­ing of fu­ture cli­mate af­fect­ing agri­cul­ture in both coun­tries and the op­por­tu­nity to make a dif­fer­ence.”

Ms Moreno ar­rived in Hor­sham in June for a six-month re­search place­ment based at Grains In­no­va­tion Park as part of her doc­toral stud­ies, which she is com­plet­ing through the School of Agri­cul­ture, Food and Biosys­tem Engi­neer­ing at the Univer­si­dad Po­litec­nica de Madrid.

Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria vec­tor-borne dis­ease re­searcher Dr Piotr Tre­bicki, who has spent eight years study­ing the im­pact of cli­mate change on pests and dis­eases, is su­per­vis­ing Ms Moreno’s work in Hor­sham.

The fo­cus of Ms Moreno’s PHD is as­sess­ing the im­pact of cli­mate change on the bi­o­log­i­cal con­trol of pests.

While in Hor­sham she will be specif­i­cally re­search­ing the ef­fect of el­e­vated car­bon diox­ide and higher tem­per­a­tures on wheat crops, aphids and their nat­u­ral en­e­mies, or ‘ben­e­fi­cials’.

Ms Moreno will carry out a range of field and lab-based ex­per­i­ments in a bid to bet­ter un­der­stand how aphids and the viruses they trans­mit, such as bar­ley yel­low-dwarf virus, re­spond un­der pre­dicted fu­ture cli­matic con­di­tions.

She will also look at what ef­fect higher tem­per­a­tures and car­bon diox­ide lev­els have on par­a­sitic wasps, Aphid­ius cole­mani, the nat­u­ral en­emy of the aphid. “I am look­ing to com­pare how ef­fec­tively ben­e­fi­cial wasps con­trol wheat pests un­der cur­rent car­bon diox­ide lev­els and tem­per­a­tures – 400 ppm and 20°C – with fu­ture pre­dicted con­di­tions, when car­bon diox­ide lev­els will reach 800 ppm and the tem­per­a­ture will be 2°C hot­ter,” Ms Moreno said.

To com­plete her PHD, Ms Moreno will need to pub­lish a the­sis and sev­eral ar­ti­cles in sci­en­tific jour­nals.

This is of­ten one of the big­gest chal­lenges for PHD stu­dents, but there will be another layer to this task for Ms Moreno as she in­tends to pub­lish her re­search in English, rather than her first lan­guage of Span­ish.

“It is not nec­es­sary to pub­lish in English, but I think my re­search will be more widely ac­ces­si­ble if I do,” she said.

Ms Moreno ex­pects to com­plete her doc­toral stud­ies in 2020.

EX­PLO­RATION: Span­ish PHD stu­dent Ana Moreno sets up an ex­per­i­ment that will as­sess the be­hav­iour of aphids and the im­pact they have on wheat plants grown un­der fu­ture pre­dicted cli­matic con­di­tions.

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