Spain and the Wimmera may be a world apart but according to Spanish PhD student Ana Moreno de la Fuente, it is our similarities that will help her to better understand the effects of climate change on agricultural systems.
Ms Moreno is mid-way through a PhD examining the effects of climate change on crops and has made Agriculture Victoria’s Horsham Grains Innovation Park her homebase 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 AGFACE (Australian Grains Free Air CO2 Enrichment) program.
“We don’t have a FACE facility in Spain and the novel and important research conducted 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 on June 1 for a six-month research placement.
The placement is part of her doctoral studies, which she is completing through the School of Agriculture, Food and Biosystem Engineering at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid.
She is being supervised by Agriculture Victoria vector borne disease researcher, Dr Piotr Trebicki who has spent eight years studying the impact of climate change on pests and diseases.
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), which are 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 degrees) with future predicted conditions, when carbon dioxide levels will reach 800 ppm and the temperature will be 2 degrees hotter,” she 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.
She expects to complete her doctoral studies in 2020.