Food Futures Institute

Centre for Sustainable Farming Systems

Centre Director: Professor Daniel Murphy
Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia


About the centre

The Centre for Sustainable Farming Systems works to increase farm productivity without further degrading water, land and soils.

Addressing the challenges posed by climate change and increasing human population, the Centre’s research focuses on optimising crop production in rotation with legume pastures, and increasing biological nitrogen fixation while minimising impact on the environment.


News from the centre


The centre’s core research areas

The scientists and academics at the Centre for Sustainable Farming Systems have outstanding capabilities and track records in increasing the profitability, resilience and sustainability of farming enterprises.


Legumes and nitrogen fixation

Legume Rhizobium Sciences research focuses on understanding the basic biology of rhizobia-legume symbioses and their application in the field to improve agricultural productivity and sustainability.

We also manage the International Legume Inoculant Genebank (ILIG) online catalogue and our scientists provide oversight and expertise through the National Rhizobium Steering Committee.


Complementarities between production enterprises

We focus on managing grain protein and quality through manipulating organic and fertiliser sources of nitrogen.

Our research also examines integrated weed management, maximise production farming systems based on water use, and minimising biotic threats to production through systems integration.

Close up of yellow barley stalks with blue sky in the background

Building robust land use options

We have a strong focus on developing farming enterprises to suit environmental constraints and conservation agriculture and soil fertility, including rehabilitation of poor or damaged soils.

We also investigate precision and remote data collection technologies and advanced agricultural chemistry.


Consumers, markets, politics and education

We undertake research that assesses consumer concerns, markets and attitudes to different systems of agricultural production, for example. organic versus industrial; rainfed versus irrigated; live export versus manufactured meat.

We also evaluate the environmental consequences of different land uses in the agricultural space.


Key researchers

Professor Daniel Murphy

Professor Murphy is an expert in soil-plant-microbial interactions (rhizosphere engineering). He leads major research programs on the development of sustainable management practices for agricultural farming systems. This includes quantifying soil organic carbon, improving nutrient and water use efficiency, regenerating soil function in degraded agricultural land and monitoring soil quality.

Professor John Howieson

Professor John Howieson is an internationally recognised expert in sustainable agriculture, specialising in the nitrogen fixation of legume crops.

He has led the discovery program for new pasture and forage legumes in Australian agriculture and is currently on the steering committee to put nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa.

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Dr Jason Terpolilli

Dr Terpolilli joined Murdoch University in 2012 and is a Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry and Microbiology. His research on nitrogen fixation in legumes and their associated bacteria (termed rhizobia) is targeted at understanding the genetics and biochemistry of these symbioses.
He also works on tracking the evolution of suboptimally effective rhizobia in Australian farming systems and in developing strategies to minimise and manage their emergence. 

Professor Richard Harper

Professor Harper has a PhD in Soil Sciences, spending over 20 years with the Western Australian Government and Industry working on science and policies to reduce the effects of both increasing soil salinity and climate change in plantations, farms and forests.

Richard has received accolades including being a member of the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee (2015-2016) and is President of the Australian Council of Agricultural Deans

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Robert Harrison

Mr Harrison is an expert in the field of pasture legumes and farming systems, in particular hard seed ecology and applied rhizobiology.

His work on dry land pasture legume systems has seen his involvement in legume breeding, hard seed ecology and farming systems for low-medium rainfall areas of southern Australia. The National Fixation Program (NFP), another national project focuses on increasing sustainable nitrogen fixation from pulse legumes by developing elite rhizobia strains.


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