The word "food" spelt in crops

Future Plants for Food Security

National Science Week 2021

School groups are invited to join our diverse and passionate plant scientists online for free talks and activities as they delve into the National Science Week topic of Food: Different by Design.

Future climate scenarios put increasing pressures on the environment and on our food production systems.

Rising greenhouse gas emissions are causing increasing temperatures and are changing global weather patterns, seasonal cycles, rainfall patterns, disease pressures and cause water scarcity in many regions.

Nevertheless, the world needs to produce about ~40% more food and fibre to meet the demands of an estimated 9.4 billion people by 2050.

Join the University of Sydney’s plant scientists online this National Science Week to get insights into their exciting research aimed at meeting these challenges.

Hear from our scientists and participate in a range of activities that emphasise the critical role that plant science and agriculture play in safeguarding our future food security.

Supported by the Australian Society of Plant Scientists for National Science Week 2021.

Event details

Date: Friday 20 August 2021
Time: 9:30am - 11am
Where: Online via Zoom, free!
Audience: Year 10 and 11 science, biology and agriculture students

For more information or to register your interest in attending please email

Please email us the following details by 17 August:

  • Your name
  • School name
  • Your email and phone number
  • Year level (e.g. year 10, year 11)
  • Learning area at school (e.g. science, biology, agriculture)
Please post your questions for our researchers to our Padlet before the event.



Protein Power
Professor Brent Kaiser

Protein is a key ingredient in our diets, and a growing population will increase the need to produce more protein to feed the world. Plant based foods are no longer niche and are starting to form a more central part in the innovation pipelines of food and drink brands. There are exciting future opportunities to develop new products and businesses based on plant protein, and Australian-grown pulses.


A CRISPR Outlook
Associate Professor Brian Jones

CRISPR is a 21st century breeding tool. From gluten-free wheat and non-allergenic peanuts to relaxing tomatoes; with CRISPR we finally have the ability to make precision changes to virtually any DNA in any organism. Brian will discuss what CRISPR is, how it works and show us some of the innovative outcomes it has already led to.

Cotton plant

Cottoning on to Plant Production
Professor Daniel Tan

The cotton industry is one of the most progressive plant industries in Australia and the first to adopt genetic modification (GM). Since the introduction of GM cotton, there has been a 97% reduction of insecticide use. However, GM traits are not a silver bullet and a crop stewardship program with a resistance management strategy is needed to preserve the efficacy of GM traits.

Plant rust

Diagnosis: Pathogen
Professor Robert Park

Diseases of animals, including humans, are caused by viruses, bacteria and even fungi. Plants are also infected by such pathogens, which reduce global production of the six most important crops by about 42%. Our research develops genetic approaches to control plant diseases, which have had huge national and global impacts in reducing the need to use pesticides and in stabilising crop yields.

Dr Floris van Ogtrop

Food in the City
Dr Floris van Ogtrop

We’ll explore urban agriculture and the circular economy, what we think it means and consider the benefits and challenges of urban farming. We will look for examples of students who are urban farmers and move on to designing urban farms that will feed the cities of the future. We will also have a look at some of the technologies out there.

Interactive activities

From Little Things...
Associate Professor Mary Byrne and Associate Professor Marcus Heisler

Did you ever wonder about some of the strange and beautiful looking vegetables that we eat? Although cauliflower, broccoli and canola plants look very different, only small changes can explain these differences. Come and learn how plants grow and what makes your veggies so special.  

Dr Claudia Keitel

Let's Get Physiological
Dr Claudia Keitel

Claudia will lead us through an activity on the physiological aspects of gas exchange in plants and will take us on a tour of the growth facilities at the University’s Camden campus to show us how researchers can alter conditions to maximise plant growth. We will also investigate plant phenotyping using our understanding of genetics and environmental conditions and their effects on plant traits.

Photomicrograph TS Purslane leaf, Credit: Rosanne Quinnell

Plants Down the Microscope
Associate Professor Rosanne Quinnell

Join Rosanne on an adventure to the microscopic world of plants. We will examine plant material down the microscope, and together, we will explore the cells and structures of plants adapted to the Australian landscape. Image by Rosanne Quinnell: Photomicrograph TS Purslane leaf.


Engineering Resistance
Dr Peng Zhang

To increase genetic diversity in wheat, making it more resistant to disease, Peng's team crosses wild relatives with wheat and uses chromosome engineering to introduce beneficial genes into the wheat. Join Peng’s activity looking down the microscope to see how to fingerprint chromosomes and identify the fragment coming from the wild relatives.

Main image credit: Josh Smith, University of Sydney research farms, Narrabri