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Researchers lead discoveries on crop protection and electricity harvesting

The University of Southern Queensland has won nearly $1million in research funding to lead two projects awarded by the Australian Research Council as part of its Discovery Projects scheme.

The Director of USQ’s Centre for Crop Health Professor Levente Kiss will be the Chief Investigator on a collaborative research project with the University of Melbourne and the University of Zurich, Switzerland, focused on new solutions to control major plant pathogens that strike Australian crops.

“Agriculture is a major contributor to the Australian economy and yet crops continue to be attacked by a large number of fungal pathogens which threaten the economic return to farmers and the stability of rural communities,” Professor Kiss said.

“New solutions to targeting crop pathogens with innovative solutions to be learned from microbes that naturally attack them, instead of synthetic pesticides, are urgently needed,” he said.

“This project has the potential to make a ground-breaking discovery in this field, and also establish the starting point for the development of new methods to protect a wide diversity of crops.”

Professor Zhi-Gang Chen from USQ’s Centre for Future Materials will lead another ARC project that aims to produce outcomes that will lead to an innovative technology for harvesting electricity from waste or sunlight.

“We expect that the research work conducted through this grant will place Australia at the forefront of energy and manufacturing technologies, and significantly release our dependence on fossil fuels,” Professor Chen said.

“The project aims to develop cost-effective thermoelectric materials for high-efficiency solid-state devices using a novel industry-level approach, coupled with nanostructure and band engineering strategies,” he said.

“Ultimately the outcomes of this project will be utilised in the power industry and automobile industry and help to create new employment opportunities in the manufacturing, energy recovery and power generation sectors.”

Man holding a plant
Director of USQ’s Centre for Crop Health Professor Levente Kiss (USQ Photography)