USQ plans to build $10 million research facility

THE University of Southern Queensland will soon call for tenders to build a $10 million precinct that will transform the way agriculture is researched in the region.

The new Agricultural Engineering and Technology Precinct will provide a new home for the university's Centre for Crop Health.

The project also includes an expansion of field trial and laboratory facilities for the university's National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture.

Funded by USQ with significant co-investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation, the precinct will build on the university's internationally-acclaimed reputation for crop science.

Stage one of the project will include environmentally controlled glasshouses, laboratories, outdoor trial sites and a centre for the study of biopesticides.

It also includes a $2m investment from GRDC to support ongoing research and development for the GRDC's northern cropping region.

Stage two will incorporate new road access, lighting and the construction of an artificial lake to help with water retention and long-term irrigation supply.

It is vital that ongoing research be undertaken into disease and drought-resistant crops. Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas 

The precinct will cover about six hectares between Handley and Baker Sts in Toowoomba and includes a re-purposing of the Cedar Centre into a research and education hub for scientists and postgraduate students.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas said the precinct would undertake specialist activities that would add to research into crop production, harvesting, and yield outputs and provide farmers with more accurate information for improved crop returns on their farming methods.

"With the world heavily dependent on growing new foods and harnessing more efficient and effective cropping to meet global demands it is vital that ongoing research be undertaken into disease and drought-resistant crops," Prof Thomas said.

The precinct will give researchers the ability to undertake trials using new technologies involving machine-vision sensing and robotics.

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