Researcher biography

Dr Jitka Kochanek is an innovator and problem-solver within the field of agricultural bioengineering and Project Leader of the Plant Performance Laboratory, a partnership between UQ researchers at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences (SAFS) and UQs commercialisation company, UniQuest. The team are actively developing and commercialising technologies for micro-dosing plants with chemistries essential to broadacre agriculture, horticulture, nursery production, revegetation following bushfires and more.

The Plant NanopatchTM is a chemical delivery platform developed by the team to provide the plant industries with the ability to fine-tune and ensure slow release profiles for both classic and novel chemistries, while significantly reducing user exposure and decreasing costs of chemistries 100-1000 fold per plant. Thus the technologies provide improved environmental and human safety profiles when applying plant chemistries, enhanced certainty to regulatory approval for novel chemistries and the possibility to re-register compounds deemed toxic with current application techniques. In 2019 the team won the CSIRO ON-Prime accelerator program for the Plant NanopatchTM concept.

Additionally, Jitka is a research scientist at the Centre For Crop Science within the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI). The QAAFI team are testing a novel systematic framework for waste recycling developed by Jitka's team across three Horticulture Innovation Australia research projects (2010-15). This ACIAR-funded research will use the novel framework to tailor waste recycling technologies to concomitantly control disease within sustainable Oil Palm plantations and provide high value growing media options for smallholder famers in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Jitka trained as a seed biologist and plant physiologist at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK during her PhD studies (2004-08) and since 2010 has received six publicly competitive R&D grants as Chief Investigator from Advance Queensland and Horticulture Innovation Australia and four additional grants and awards (total value $1.9M). Other notable career achievements: 1) Jitka's PhD research was the first to demonstrate empirical evidence for epigenetics in plants for seed longevity and among the first to confirm epigenetic effects in either plants or animals; 2) In 2012 Jitka developed a novel screening technique to rapidly ascertain plant responses for growth promoting or toxic compounds. The technique provides the ability to predict chemical dosages required within the Plant NanopatchTM; 3) In collaboration with the University of Western Australia's Flematti group of natural product chemists, Jitka's team elucidated the chemical mechanisms behind positive and negative biochar effects on the plant phenotype.