Keynote – Dr. Laura Echarte, National Research Council & National University of Mar del Plata – Argentina

Research Overview :

Dr. Laura Echarte is an agronomist with expertise in Crop Ecophysiology. She is a researcher at the National Institute of Agricultural Technology and at the National Research Council, of Argentina; and Professor at the National University of Mar del Plata, Argentina.

Research Interests :

The main goal of her research is to contribute to increase crops water productivity. The focus of her current research is to understand the influence of management practices on the water related grain yield determinants. She and her group approach this issue with field experiments, measuring soil water content and productivity at the crop level.

Christian Leduc is director of research at IRD and implements his studies in the G-EAU lab based in Montpellier (France).

He is a senior hydrogeologist and has been working for some decades on changes affecting water resources and their uses in semi-arid areas (Africa, Mediterranean and Latin America mostly) under the pressure of climatic and anthropogenic drivers. He has been lecturing in many universities in France and Africa.

His main research interests are :
1. Identification and quantification of physical processes distributing water between surface and aquifers, with a special interest for their extreme variability in time and space
2. Reconstruction of past dynamics and trajectories from heterogeneous sets of information (hydrology, history, environment) and their respective importance depending on time (decade to millennium)
3. Critical crossing of approaches within hydrology (from field measurement to physical modelling, from hydrodynamics to geochemistry) and in an interdisciplinary dialogue considering equally environment and society


Keynote – Harold Roy-Macauley, AfricaRice, Benin

Harold Roy-Macauley is Regional Director, East and Southern Africa, One CGIAR, and Director General of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice).

Dr Roy-Macauley  is a Sierra Leonean national and has nearly 30 years of experience in agricultural research for development with extensive leadership and management expertise. Before joining AfricaRice, he was the Executive Director of the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), a leading sub-regional organization that coordinates and facilitates agricultural research and development activities in 22 countries in the region.

He served previously as the Regional Director for World Agroforestry (ICRAF) in West and Central Africa. He has consulted for numerous international and bilateral organizations on application of biosafety and biotechnology to agriculture, notably in Africa. He was the Managing Director for the Regional Center for Improving Adaptation to Drought (CERAAS) in Senegal, a research and training center of CORAF/WECARD that worked mainly on food crops grown in dry regions. He is fluently bilingual in English and French.

He obtained his PhD degree in tropical plant biology in 1993 from the Université Denis Diderot in France, his MSc degree in tropical plant biology in 1988 from the Université de Pierre et Marie Curie in France, and his BSc with honors in botany degree in 1982 from the University of Sierra Leone.


Keynote – Xavier Draye, University of Louvain, Belgium

Xavier Draye is Professor at the Faculty of bioscience engineering (UCLouvain, Belgium). His expertise is at the cross-roads of disciplines and scales to contribute to improving root water uptake under limiting conditions of water supply.

Xavier’s main objective is to advance our conceptual models of root system architecture towards a better consideration of the spatial and temporaldynamics of roots and their environment in crop physiology, management and genetics.

On one side of his activities, he investigates lateral root formation with developmental biologists and physiologists in order to understand the contribution of root morphological plasticity to crop water use. On another side, he interacts with the modeling communities to develop model-assisted phenotyping strategies to uncover the nature of the phenotypic and genotypic variations of root system architecture. Xavier is also a member of the EMPHASIS initiative federating national activities in plant phenotyping towards an EU phenotyping infrastructure.


Keynote – Andrew D.B. Leakey Professor and Head – Plant Biology Director – Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation – University of Illinois

Integrative plant physiology, genetics and genomics; plant water use efficiency, photosynthesis and carbon metabolism; crop responses to elevated CO2, drought, temperature and ozone; crop sustainability and responses to global environmental change

Our research broadly addresses the need to improve mechanistic understanding of:

(1) Plant water use efficiency, photosynthesis, respiration and water relations; (2) Plant responses in natural and agricultural ecosystems to global environmental change; and (3) Adaptation of food and fuel crops to global environmental change, especially drought

This will enhance understanding of how the environment impacts ecosystem goods and services and advance efforts to improve and protect crop production and water cycling. To do this we perform vertically integrated phenotyping of plant carbon and water relations by combining genetic, molecular, biochemical, physiological and ecological tools to assess plant performance in manipulative field experiments and controlled environment conditions.

The major focus of our group at present is to understand the genetic and physiological controls of stomatal patterning and photosynthetic water use efficiency (WUE) through a combination of molecular genetics, quantitative genetics, and physiology. This has practical application through our efforts to use biotechnology and breeding to enhance WUE through manipulation of stomatal patterning. The project will benefit substantially from significant advances made by our team and collaborators in recent years in: (1) high-throughput phenotyping of stomatal patterning and stomatal conductance, (2) development of transgenic germplasm and natural diversity collections, and (3) a new large-scale field facility for imposing drought treatments.


Keynote – Karine Chenu – Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), The University of Queensland. 

Dr Karine Chenu is a Senior Research Fellow at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) at the University of Queensland. Karine has expertise in ecophysiology, genetics and modelling with a focus on drought and heat adaptation.

Her group is conducting research that supports crop modelling technology, plant design and breeding strategies in winter cereals.

Her research mainly concerns :

– understanding trait physiology and genetics,

– developing gene-to-phenotype crop modelling

– exploring novel combinations of genotypes, environments and management practices to assist productivity improvement in changing environments.

Karine collaborates with plant breeders, geneticists, modellers and agronomists in a range of national and international research projects in both public and private sectors.

She is also one of the UQ representatives on the APSIM Initiative Reference Panel, which is responsible for the on-going development of the APSIM model (www.apsim.info), which is now used world-wide.


Keynote – Heidi Webber, PhD. – Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), Muncheberg, Germany

Heidi has been trained in Physics and Agricultural Engineering. Her PhD work investigated water saving irrigation strategies and cropping systems with on-farm experimentation and modelling in Uzbekistan.

Heidi’s broad research interest is to understand the interactions between crop management and climate risk in smallholder farming contexts, with the ambition to identify risk management options that enable more sustainable farming practices. In this context, Heidi uses a combination of on-farm experimentation, process based crop model improvement and model based climate change impact assessments at field, farm and regional scale. She is particularly interested in exploring how to quantify and communicate climate risk to cropping systems, as well as how to consider farmer decision making under risk, in climate change impact assessments. Heidi’s model development and analysis expertise lies in the consideration of crop canopy temperature as a driver of crop temperature responses and the decomposition of drought impacts on crops to effects on crop temperature versus direct water stress effects.


Keynote – Daniel Osgood – Research Scientist, Lead Scientist, Financial Instruments Sector Team

Daniel Osgood leads the Financial Instruments Sector Team at IRI, linking climate information to financial tools to improve livelihoods in developing countries.

His team supports most of the index insurance projects that have gone to scale, with hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers purchasing index insurance contracts they have helped design through farmer-driven, science-based processes, leading to significant development impacts. His research topics include uncertainty in decisionmaking, environmental valuation, remote sensing proxies, information, and work specific to index insurance and economic development. He has been involved in global policy processes such as the UNFCCC, with projects he works on highlighted by Ban Ki-moon in the opening speech at the 2015 Paris COP. He has had press coverage in venues spanning Voice of America, Al Jazeera, the Guardian, Nature, New York Times, and Reuters.