Scientists explore shared heat stress challenges in agriculture

Australian and Indian agriculture face many of the same challenges from animal heat stress, particularly in the context of increasing frequency of heatwaves and a changing climate.

Experts from the University of Melbourne joined 48 scientists, veterinarians and industry and research leaders from India to share solutions to this challenge at a three-day workshop in Bengaluru, India, in February.

This workshop was jointly organised by the University’s Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the National Institute of Animal Nutrition and Physiology Bengaluru.

Professor Frank Dunshea
Professor Frank Dunshea addresses the workshop.

Four staff from the Faculty joined Indian experts in delivering presentations:

The work was part of the project “Transfer of mitigation technologies for heat stress in farm animals,” funded by the University of Melbourne and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the 2019 Australia-India Council Grant Round.

Dr Chauhan, who is leading the project, said that this Bengaluru workshop provided an excellent opportunity for Australian experts to interact and share their knowledge on heat stress mitigation in farms animals with influential leaders and eminent scientists in Indian agriculture.

“Exchanges like this are opportunities to both share knowledge and develop strategic partnerships and collaborations for future research and exchange of knowledge,” he said.

“The workshop also provided us with a great opportunity to promote Australian excellence in research in India and contribute to Australia India Council’s mission to promote person-to-person connections, enhance the awareness of Australian research in India and help Australian experts to develop an understanding of Indian traditional culture and scientific excellence.”

The workshop was jointly inaugurated by Professor Dunshea, Chair of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne and Dr Trilochan Mohapatra, Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

Following three days of presentations, the participants outlined recommendations for heat stress mitigation and improving farm animal productivity and identified critical gaps to better understand the impacts of heat stress on farms animals under heat stress. These included metabolic and molecular mechanisms driving changes in animal production and product quality, and potential use of genomic selection for improving animal thermotolerance and production under hot conditions.

Professor Frank Dunshea
Left to right: Dr Parimal Roy (Director – NIVEDI, ICAR), Professor Robyn Warner, Dr Bhupendra Nath Tripathi (Deputy Director General – Animal Science, ICAR), Dr Surinder Singh Chauhan, Dr Trilochan Mohapatra (Director General – ICAR), Professor Frank Dunshea, Dr Kristy DiGiacomo, Dr Joykrushna Jena (Deputy Director General – Fisheries Science, ICAR), Dr Raghavendra Bhatta (Director, NIANP, ICAR).

Experts from both countries agreed strategic research partnerships between the University and ICAR could lead to the joint development of a research proposal for suitable funding from Indian and Australian Governments to address these gaps.

The Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences’ Director (India) Greg Harper said the workshop demonstrated Australia and India’s shared interest and research expertise.

“Animal heat stress is a clear shared challenge for Australia and India, and excellent research is happening in both of our nations to secure our agriculture industries into the future,” Associate Professor Harper said.

“The Australian Government has made a significant commitment to be a valued partner in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s India Economic Strategy to 2035, with agriculture and the relationship between our university systems as strategic priorities. Bilateral exchanges around mutual interest like this clearly contribute towards realising that goal.”

A second “Transfer of mitigation technologies for heat stress in farm animals” workshop will be held at the University of Melbourne on Tuesday 26 May 2020, with experts from the National Institute of Animal Nutrition and Physiology Bengaluru, ICAR and the University.