Thirty years of achievement for QAAFI’s sorghum superstar

25 July 2019

At the recent Australian Summer Grains Conference Professor David Jordan was honoured by the grains industry with the Sorghum Industry Award for significant contribution.

The award recognises a 30 year career in sorghum research that has dramatically impacted on-farm productivity, grown the Australian sorghum research community and been recognised internationally for its scientific excellence.

Professor David Jordan, Professorial Research Fellow at QAAFI's Centre for Crop Science with his Sorghum Industry Award for significant contribution. Photo by Neil Lyon.

During Professor Jordan’s leadership of the public sorghum pre-breeding program, more than 2000 inbred lines have been licensed to commercial seed companies. This partnership of public and private research has contributed to a sustained increase in sorghum yields that rivals the best yield growth of major cereals anywhere in the world. The increased resistance to midge, an insect pest of sorghum, has reduced insecticide use and given farmers much greater flexibility in management of their farming system. Having worked for a seed company as an agronomist and plant breeder early in his career, Professor Jordan has unique insight into the sorghum seed market that has helped maintain the relevance of the public pre-breeding program.

Over this time Jordan has co-supervised 12 PhD students, several of whom have gone on to work in sorghum research and breeding in Australia and internationally. Since taking over leadership of an annual sorghum researchers meeting from Dr Bob Henzell, he has grown the group and drawn researchers from many fields into the network to address problems and opportunities in Australian sorghum. The group is recognised as a role model of research collaboration.

In 2010 then Dr Jordan was among the elite researchers who made the move from Queensland’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to UQ’s newly formed Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI). Since working in QAAFI Jordan has attracted large research investments in both basic sorghum biology and plant breeding by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the United Sorghum Check-off Program (the USA’s equivalent to the GRDC). These investments have identified new genetic variation and new techniques in crop roots, water use efficiency, heat tolerance, pollen production and disease resistance.

The relevance of the pre-breeding team’s on-farm research has not diminished their scientific achievements in basic plant genetics and biology. Over the last decade Jordan and colleagues have published in prestigious journals including Nature Communications. The research funding from international investors such as the Gates Foundation is a consequence of world-wide reputation for scientific excellence that is always pointed towards results for farmers.

2019 Summer Grains Conference crop award winners (back L to R) Andrew Borrell (mungbean award), Andrew James (soybean award), David Jordan (sorghum award) and in the front Col Douglas (mungbean award), Liz Alexander (sunflower award) and Harley Bligh (maize award). Photo by Neil Lyon. 

Contact: Professor David Jordon Professorial Research Fellow, QAAFI at The University of Queensland, E. T. +61 7 4542 6722 or Alan Cruikshank, Senior Plant Breeder, Crop and Food Science, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries T. 61 7 4542 6719 E.  

Articles: Read more about the Grains Industry Awards, see article by Neil Lyon Summer grains champions recognised at awards published in Grain Central 11 July 2019 and Grains industry celebrates at gala dinner published in GroundCover on 17 July 2019.