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Food fights: bananageddon and the fungus tyranny

If you’re hungry for information, join our monthly event series, Curious Science

Produced by the City of Sydney

City of Sydney Library is teaming up with Inspiring Australia to delve into some cutting-edge research. Over three seasons, we’ll be focusing on three big-impact topics: food, obesity and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills. In this first series, Feeding the World, we’ll be focusing on food and exploring the role science plays in contributing innovative solutions to global issues.

Plant diseases founded by fungi reduce food production by 10-20% worldwide. These fungi routinely poison food productions, jeopardising the livelihood of farmers, especially in the developing world. Now, these plant pathogens have their toxic sights set on some of our favourites such as bananas, coffee and chocolate.

Every spoonful of soil shows up billions of micro-organisms; some plant-loving and others which distribute disease. Our two scientists will dissect how researchers and plant breeders can put their heads together to establish new crops which embrace disease-provoking organisms. The big picture is that these smart plants will grow faster and more autonomously, without the need for pesticides and fertilisers.

Dr Zoe-Joy Newby
After completing an Agriculture Science degree majoring in Phytopathology, Dr. Zoe-Joy Newby started investigating phytoalexin production in plants in response to pathogen infection. Her PhD researched the impacts of Phytophthora Dieback in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, with her field-based research investigating spatial models of the interactions between plant host, the environmental and the pathogen, Phytophthora cinnamomi. Dr. Newby started working in orchid research in 2013, looking at mycorrhizal interactions, ecology, genetics and germplasm conservation.

Dr Jonathan Plett
Dr Plett’s focus on the connection between plants and microbes has led him around the world, working with leading researchers in the field. Dr Plett’s screening tools continue to push the envelope by selecting highly disease-resistant crops. This trial by choice smoothes the way for sustainable agricultural practices.

Bookings recommended as places are limited.



Wednesday 8 March 2017 from 6pm to 7pm


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