OVER a decade’s worth of research in the name of future food production was celebrated at Horsham recently.
To mark the end of the landmark Australian Grains Free Air CO2 Enrichment (AGFACE) project, and its many achievements, scientists, researchers, investors, engineers and technicians recently gathered at Horsham Golf Club to debrief on the 11-year-long investigation and marvel at its many outcomes.
AGFACE was the only FACE facility in the world located in a semi-arid zone, allowing researchers to test the effect of elevated CO2 on crops in drought conditions.
The project was jointly managed by Agriculture Victoria and the University of Melbourne.
Funding support came from the Grains Research and Development Corporation, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Australian Research Council and many university fellowships and funding supporting students.
Project leader and Agriculture Victoria senior research scientist Glenn Fitzgerald said experiments carried out in the Wimmera and Mallee tested the impacts of elevated CO2 on growth, physiology, agronomy, yield, and quality of grain, bread and noodles.
“We tested the effects of drought, heat waves, different inputs and types of fertiliser, soil types and studied pests and diseases and crop traits for response to CO2,” he said.
“Ultimately, the main question we wanted to answer was: How can Australian agriculture maximise the positives and reduce the negatives of elevated CO2 on crop production in a changing climate?”
Dr Fitzgerald reminded everyone who gathered to cerebrate AGFACE’s achievements of the extraordinary amount of work that went in to the project, which was initially set up to examine how wheat would respond to future atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
Levels are predicted to rise from 405ppm to 550ppm over the next 35 years.
“Over 11 years, at two locations and five facilities we ended up performing experiments on nine species (wheat, peas, lentils, canola, clover, medic, barley, brassica vegetables and chickpeas),” he said.
“Of these crop types we looked at 55 cultivars across 55 environments, performed 64 experiments and over the 11 years took 100,000 unique measurements.”