LOOKING FORWARD: Southern Cross University research technician Tim Rhodes with the 'Ice Plant'.
LOOKING FORWARD: Southern Cross University research technician Tim Rhodes with the 'Ice Plant'. Marc Stapelberg

'Ice plant' shown off

IMAGINE being able to drink sea water and then expel it from your body in globule sacs all over your skin.

A major research project at Southern Cross University is looking into how a particular plant does exactly that.

The Mesembryanthemum crystalinum or 'ice plant' manages to live in high salinity environments and deposits the excess salt over its leaves which gives the plant the distinct appearance of being covered in ice.

Southern Cross University associate professor Brownyn Barkla is studying how the proteins in this plant may be adapted to assist agriculture in high salinity based soils.

The ice plant project and others were highlighted at the Southern Cross Plant Science (SCPS) Industry Open Day where 50 delegates looked for ways SCU's research could benefit the agricultural, horticultural and essential oil industries.

SCPS director Professor Graham King said the event was an opportunity to learn, engage and network.

"We want SCU to drive a new 'Green Revolution' for this unique sub-tropical region and to have global impact through its scientific innovation and training. There is a real opportunity for the Northern Rivers to become a major player in the domestic and export markets for 'clean, green produce' - be that high value fruit, speciality coffee, tea tree and other essential oils or other medicinal plants.”

Professor King said plant breeding was a key area where SCPS, through its expertise in genetics and genomics, was demonstrating its commitment to long-term development of regional industries.

"Over the past year we have been successful in securing funding from Horticulture Innovation Australia for projects focused on an open-source genetic roadmap to underpin future macadamia breeding and to lead the national passionfruit breeding program.”



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