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Research to decode and sequence the DNA of soil microbes

DNA profiling of soil micro-organisms and their gene complement will identify how soils differ in fertility and the impact of land management practices on soil fertility.

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Groundbreaking research in Australia digs into soil DNA

Scientists in Victoria, Australia have released preliminary details of research to decode and sequence the DNA of soil microbes. The collaborative research project between the Victoria State Government and the US Venter Institution is using the same technique pioneered to map human DNA.

Victoria Innovation Minister Gavin Jennings said the work involving Victorian scientists is featured in the Innovation corridor at the BIO International Convention in San Diego, CA.

Mr. Jennings is at the conference and exhibition as part of a Victorian contingent being led by Premier John Brumby. The contingent includes delegates from 70 Victorian research institutes, universities, and industry bodies.

“Up to 90 per cent of the micro-organisms in our soils are yet to be identified; and they represent the world’s largest ‘gene reservoir’,” Mr. Jennings said.

“Soil is at the heart of any community’s wealth and well-being, primarily through food production, yet we know little about it.

“Collaborations in science, such as that undertaken with the Venter Institute, boost our collective scientific capability and ability to innovate and maximize our investment.

“The profiling of DNA from the 90 per cent of previously undescribed soil micro-organisms and their gene complement will allow us to not only identify how soils differ in fertility but also the impact of land management practices on soil fertility.“

Agriculture is of critical importance to the Victorian economy, with the state’s farm-dependent economy estimated to be worth $21.6 billion.

Victoria is responsible for 30 per cent of Australia’s food products, while the agricultural sector is a major employer with 131,000 people working in Victoria’s primary industries.

“The Brumby Government is taking action on innovation, that’s why we have supported the new $230 million Biosciences Research Centre, a joint venture between the Government and La Trobe University,” Mr. Jennings said.

“The facility, to be located in Bundoora, will deliver internationally recognised research and development science outcomes for the benefit of Victoria,” Mr. Jennings said.

Other agencies and organisations with complementary science objectives are invited to partner or link in to the new Centre.

Edited by Carolyn Allen
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