• The University of Western Australia (M080), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


William Erskine is Director of the Centre for Plant Genetics and Breeding (PGB) at The University of Western Australia. He was at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Syria as Assistant Director General (Research) from 2001-2007, Leader of the Germplasm Improvement Program (1998-2001), and Lentil Breeder from 1980 for 18 years. Scottish born, William completed a BA (University of Cambridge) in 1973, a MAg in 1976 in Papua New Guinea, and a PhD from Cambridge in 1979.

Roles and responsibilities

On the Editorial Board of the following journals:

• Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge
• Experimental Agriculture
• Food Security

Funding overview

Since coming to UWA I have received grant funding from Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Council of Grain Grower Organisations Ltd (COGGO), Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC), Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), and the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Prior to UWA I was the recipient of research project grants from International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada; BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) Germany; Overseas Development Agency (ODA) UK; and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), USA.

Previous positions

2001 - 2007 : Assistant Director General (Research) - International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Aleppo, Syria
1998 - 2001 : Program Leader - Germplasm Improvement Program, ICARDA
1980 - 1998 : Lentil Breeder at ICARDA
1973 - 1977 : Tutor with Agriculture Faculty of University of Papua New Guinea


My research interests are broad within the theme of plant breeding for food security - both nationally and internationally. I currently lead the major project in Timor-Leste funded by ACIAR - 'Agricultural Innovations for Communities for intensified and sustainable farming systems in Timor-Leste', and an ACIAR project on crop intensification with salt tolerance wheat and legumes in rice systems in coastal Bangladesh. I am also involved in MLA-funded project on the pre-breeding of the pasture subterranean clover, which includes its recent sequencing.

Research results

National programs had released a total of 99 lentil cultivars in 31 countries from the ICARDA lentil breeding program that I ran for 18 years by the time I left ICARDA.
Lentil technologies from ICARDA have been adopted on hundreds of thousands of hectares globally, recognized, for example, by an award by the Minister of Agriculture in Bangladesh for the impact of ICARDA's lentil research in that country received in February 2005.
The previous ‘Seeds of Life‘ project in Timor-Leste resulted in the release and dissemination of a range of high yielding varieties of the staple food-crops, one or other of which were being grown by 48% of all rural households nationally by the close of the project in 2016. The ‘hungry season’ was shortened in adopting households.

Research student supervision:

Since coming to UWA in 2008 I have supervised 14 MSc and 10 PhD students.
Prior to UWA I supervised 7 PhD and 8 MSc students variously registered at the Universities of Helsinki (Finland), Durham (UK), Göttingen, (Germany), Konya and Çukurova in Turkey, American University of Beirut (Lebanon), Aleppo (Syria), and Jordan.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Research expertise keywords

  • Plant breeding, germplasm evaluation and genetics


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