Get Regular Updates!
Search
|How clovers can help future-proof Aussie agriculture

Earth

image|

Parwinder Kaur

Australia’s premier feed crop: subterranean clover

How clovers can help future-proof Aussie agriculture

Aussie scientists have sequenced the entire genome of Australia’s premier feed crop, and say the future looks brighter—and less burpy—for Aussie agriculture.

How clovers can help future-proof Aussie agriculture

Subterranean clover dominates pastures across the nation, providing food for our grazing livestock, but the plant is not without its problems.

Certain types of subterranean clover contain high levels of isoflavone, a plant-based oestrogen, or phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens can have oestrogenic effects when consumed, causing infertility in certain animals, including male sheep.

Eating other clover varieties can make animals burp excess methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

WA scientists are looking to fix these problems by optimising—and burp-proofing— subterranean clover.

INSPIRED BY EXPERIENCE

Growing up, Dr Parwinder Kaur witnessed her uncles’ farming heartbreak.

“Although farmers produce all the wonderful food we eat, I saw them struggle,” she says.

“The success of a crop can come down to the weather, or some terrible disease or pest can wipe it all out.”

Determined to do something, Parwinder completed studies in agricultural science and began the hunt for the perfect clover.

THE BURP-BUSTING CHALLENGE

Perth is home to the world’s clover collection: 10,000 different kinds of clover. “So why can’t we find the perfect clover that releases the least methane into the environment?” asked Parwinder.

In 2011, she set out to do just that but soon came to a roadblock.

“I found it wasn’t a simple thing,” she laughs.

Parwinder realised she didn’t have enough detail about the clover’s genes.

To solve the problem, she boldly suggested she might sequence the complete clover genome. Her proposal won the 2013 Science and Innovation Award in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Looking closely at clover
. Credit: Brad Wintle, DAFWA
View Larger
Image |

Brad Wintle, DAFWA

Looking closely at clover
Pawinder Kaur in her lab
. Credit: Amit Dhir
View Larger
Image |

Amit Dhir

Pawinder Kaur in her lab
Showing the next generation of Aussie researchers
. Credit: Amit Dhir
View Larger
Image |

Amit Dhir

Showing the next generation of Aussie researchers
Clover seed production
. Credit: Pawinder Kaur
View Larger
Image |

Pawinder Kaur

Clover seed production

CRASH COURSE IN CLOVER DNA

Fast-forward to 2016, and Parwinder has identified and ordered 481 of subterranean clover’s 552 million DNA base pairs.

“It’s like a shredded book with 552 million words,” she says.

As for the burp-busting challenge, the answer is written in the plant’s genome. “And now we can read it like a book,” says Parwinder, who has already found the DNA associated with methanogenic potential.

“It’s a region on chromosome-8,” she smiles.

THE RIGHT CLOVER FOR THE RIGHT PURPOSE

“There are more than 50 clover traits we can select for,” Parwinder enthuses.

Clovers low in isoflavones are better for breeding sheep; clovers high in isoflavones are great for managing menopause.

“We can make sure we’re growing the right things for the right purpose—the key to the grower’s prosperity.”

Parwinder’s research could have even larger implications for the future of Australian agriculture.

“Just imagine we find out what is required on a genomic level to make plants grow well in drought. If we have drought-tolerant crops, we can make a big change to the whole scenario.”

We love science puns VIDEO

Republish

Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.

Guidelines

You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.

Images

Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.

Video

All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.

Contact

For more information about using our content, email us: particle@scitech.org.au

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?