Dr Caitlin Byrt has been awarded the 2017 Winnovation Award for Science. The awards aim to showcase South Australia’s best female innovators.
Dr Byrt has helped to address the challenge of global food security by identifying genes in wheat that contribute to salinity tolerance.
“Improving global food security is a big challenge” she says.
“The yields of many of our stable food crops are limited due to challenging growing environments. For example, water limitation, due to drought and soil salinity, limit the yields of important crops in Australia, such as wheat and barley”.
Dr Byrt is in the business of studying plants that differ in their tolerance to stresses such as drought and salinity to determine what makes some plants more tolerant than others.
Through her research its been found that breeding the discovered genes into commercial durum wheat varieties increased the grain yield on saline soils by 25%.
Dr Byrt has developed tools that have been distributed to 18 countries around the world so that plant breeders and farmers can improve the salinity tolerance of their local wheat varieties.
Recently she has also made an important discovery revealing the function of another key gene that will help in future endeavours to improve how plants tolerate environmental stresses, such as drought and soil salinity.
Through the discoveries of Dr Byrt’s research food crops can be modified to improve their performance in harsh environments.
- Karina Price (ARC CoE in Plant Energy Biology, Science Communications Officer) +61 8 6488 4481