A Queensland researcher has been recognised with an international award for her work to protect food security around the world.
Charlotte Rambla, a PhD candidate at The University of Queensland, received a 2022 Jeanie Borlaug Laube Women in Triticum Early Career award in honour of her wheat research.
She is joined by six other wheat scientists from China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Morocco, and Pakistan.
The WIT Early Career Award, announced by Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, provides early career women working in wheat with the opportunity for additional training, mentorship, and leadership opportunities.
Daughter of Nobel Prize-winner Norman E. Borlaug, Jeanie Borlaug Laube, said serving as BGRI chair had allowed her to cultivate and encourage the next generation of wheat researchers.
"These seven women are strong advocates for achieving my father's goal of global food security," she said.
Charlotte Rambla is a PhD candidate in the Lee Hickey Lab at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation at UQ St Lucia.
She completed her bachelor's degree and master's degree at the University of Padova in Italy and now studies the root system of wheat to aid in the development of elite wheat varieties by integrating a range of tools.
These include a novel single plant selection method for root traits, marker-assisted selection for key root genes, and rapid backcrossing using speed breeding.
Ms Rambla said winning the award gave her the confidence that she was doing the right thing and that she should continue pursuing her research in the future.
"As a woman, I feel that I am constantly affected by the imposter syndrome doubting my abilities and knowledge," Ms Rambla said.
"I think this award is a wonderful opportunity to empower women, to provide professional development opportunities and to give a support network for my peers, colleagues and prospective female scientists."
Ms Rambla said protecting wheat was important, as the crop supplied 20pc of the global population's calorific demand, but also contributed 20pc of dietary protein plus vitamins and other beneficial compounds.
"I mean, who doesn't like pizza and pasta? Can we live in a world without pizza and pasta? I don't think so," she said.
"I hope to make a change and create a positive impact in our food systems, and ultimately our world. I would like to help find and implement solutions to cultivate our crops in a more sustainable way for our planet."
Beside the need to save pizza, she finds roots very interesting and a potential target to help in the fight for food security.
"Roots are an essential part of the plant, but have been ignored for a long time, partly because studying roots is challenging compared to the above-ground part of the plant," she said.
"There is still so much to discover about roots, and I believe that to have a more sustainable agriculture and increase yield stability, we need to optimise crops root systems."
Root optimisation work was now widely acknowledged as a key component for increasing yield potential and stability during tough seasons, Ms Rambla said, offering new avenues to improve water and nutrient use efficiency.
BGRI science director Maricelis Acevedo said this cohort of award winners were from a broad geographic range, which spoke to the worldwide importance of wheat.
"The threats to wheat - such as climate change, biotic stresses, and human conflict - are global and require a global response," Prof Acevedo said.
"Answering these challenges will require collaboration of a global community of scientists and the 2022 WIT awardees cohort takes their place among our previous winners."
Since founding the WIT awards in 2010, the BGRI has recognised 66 early career award winners and 12 mentors from 27 different countries.
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