Rick Bennett

Dr

  • The University of Western Australia (M089), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth

    Australia

  • Source: Scopus
  • Calculated using citation counts from Scopus for publications in the UWA Profiles and Research Repository
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Personal profile

Biography

Since completing a Bachelor of Biological Science with 1st Class Honours at Murdoch University, Rick has gained over 15 years’ experience in plant biology and breeding, with foci on discovery and development of novel plants for agriculture and breeding agricultural crops to expand their adapted range.

Rick’s journey at UWA began in 2003. Employed on a blue-sky project that investigated the potential of Australia's native legumes, herbs and shrubs for their potential use as perennial pastures in the low-rainfall wheatbelt of Australia. The project required plant collection trips in rural and remote WA and glasshouse and field evaluations of plants collected on these trips and from others around Australia. The work led to a PhD research project evaluating a large collection of native legumes belonging to the Cullen genus for adaptation to growth in WA’s agricultural areas with acidic soils and low rainfall. Several papers were published based on this research. Rick worked closely with researchers from WA’s The Department of Agriculture and Food, and interstate agriculture organisations.

Nearing completion of his PhD, Rick was offered a position with the CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences team based in Floreat to investigate the potential to increase growth rates of oil mallee plantations in the south-west of WA. The position required management of a large-scale and heavily instrumented field site in Narrogin, providing fine-temporal-scale data on tree water-use and growth rates, and soil moisture measurements. The data was used to understand ROI of fertiliser management and increased access to water in oil mallee plantations.

In 2014, Rick returned to UWA to work as a research fellow in a group specialising in novel plant breeding technologies such as double-haploidy, embryo rescue and in-vitro growth, and rapid generation cycling under controlled conditions. In this role, Rick has been responsible for developing screening methodologies that worked with these advanced breeding techniques to identify lines tolerant to biotic and abiotic stresses. This work continues to be sponsored by GRDC for the benefit of plant breeders and pre-breeders around Australia.

Research interests

Rick's had a diverse research career that's helped to develop a pragmatic approach to scientific inquiry. His agricultural upbringing feeds into this, with practical skills like electronics, welding, carpentry, building and 3d printing all providing Rick with novel ways to solve experimental problems. 

Rick has experience and expertise growing plants under diverse conditions of the wheatbelt, glasshouse, controlled lighting and temperature, and hydroponics, with each suiting different applications and experiments. Controlled lighting is a particular interest, as is understanding the response of plants to different portions of the visible light specurum. 

Throughout his career, Rick has been responsible for the maintenance and analysis of large datasets and has expertise in data manupulation using databases, large worksheets and R, as well as expertise in statistics and data presentation.

Rick enjoys applying this diverse and pragmatic skillset to solving problems faced by agriculture, particularly through plant breeding and development.

Education/Academic qualification

Agronomy, PhD, The University of Western Australia

Award Date: 1 Aug 2016

Biology, Bachelor, Murdoch University

Award Date: 1 Dec 2002

External positions

Post-doctoral Researcher, CSIRO Land and Water

20102014

Research expertise keywords

  • Agriculture, abiotic stress, crop physiology, agronomy, farming systems, germplasm enhancement and breeding of cereals, legumes and oil seed crops, climate change adaptation, conservation agriculture
  • Plant physiology/ecology
  • Plant development and genetics

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