Collaborating in the United Arab Emirates and the MENA region
Since 2011, CSIRO has been partnering and co-authoring publications with United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) researchers which have gone on to have a lasting impact.
We have extensive research in areas such as water management, agriculture and sustainable urban systems, which are highly relevant to the MENA region. Take the example of Kuwait, which experienced a serious challenge with crude oil and saltwater contamination affecting the soil and groundwater, particularly within the Raudhatain and Umm Al-Aish aquifers located in the north of the country. The scale of the issue required extensive research, modelling and testing, not only to remedy the situation in the short-term but also to introduce long-term preventative measures to future contamination.
Collaborating with the Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research (KISR) and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Company (SMEC), CSIRO-led research and recommendations have been introduced which have made significant headway in alleviating the contamination issues and have had a profound positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the affected communities.
One of the project milestones has made significant headway in the global effort to eradicate mosquito-borne diseases. We have developed a method of sterilising male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (one of the most common disease-spreading mosquitoes in the world) and releasing them into the wild, reducing populations by up to 80 per cent.
Collaborating with the King Abulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), we have been able to provide management strategies on controlling and preventing vector-borne diseases in Saudi Arabia utilising their new discovery.
Improving cowpea production in Africa
Cowpeas are an important food crop in Sub-Saharan Africa but yields are often reduced by more than 80 per cent due to pests and diseases. CSIRO is part of a global project to improve cowpea production in Africa. We aim to create 'built-in' insect pest protection that could help to reduce food shortages in the region.
Cowpeas are a staple food and an important source of protein for more than 200 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa. They are mostly grown in West Africa on an area of more than seven million hectares. The leaves and green pods of cowpeas can be eaten before maturity. Communities eat cowpeas that haven't matured between harvests so that they don’t go hungry.
The legume pod borer is one of the major pests affects cowpeas. They damage cowpea flowers, young pods and seeds which drastically reduces yield. Communities are unable to use insecticides in this region as they cannot afford them and do not have the equipment to handle them safely. CSIRO researchers are developing a system for genetically engineering cowpeas so that they can introduce new genes for insect protection. They have successfully engineered plants to produce a protein that affects pests.
Results from field trials were very promising. Selected cowpea lines were fully protected in Nigeria, Ghana and Burkina Faso over several years. The cowpea plant breeders have introgressed the protein producing gene into farmer-preferred cowpea varieties and evaluated their acceptability and suitability for local environments.
In 2019 a new insect-resistant cowpea variety was successfully registered in Nigeria. This paves the way for commercial cultivation. CSIRO aims to transfer knowledge of the cowpea technology to other parts of Africa. Several African stakeholders including regulators are establishing protocols based on the technology. This research is managed by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation with financial support from the United States Agency for International Development and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Square Kilometre Array – the world's largest telescope
The SKA will explore the Universe in unprecedented detail, doing so hundreds of times faster than any current facility with antennas will be located in both Australia and South Africa.
The SKA Infrastructure Australia consortium, led by CSIRO – Australia's national science agency – and industry partner Aurecon Australia, has designed everything from supercomputing facilities, buildings, site monitoring and roads, to the power and data fibre distribution that will be needed to host the instrument at CSIRO's Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in remote Western Australia.