Brisbane floods damage University of Queensland glasshouses, result in 'huge loss of knowledge'

Plant scientists are starting again after losing years of agricultural research to flooding in south-east Queensland, with fears some work at Australia's top agricultural research centre could be set back by decades. When floodwaters rose around Brisbane, the University of Queensland's St Lucia glasshouses were quickly submerged under metres of water, destroying research projects overnight. For many doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, the flooding came right at the end of their research contracts, leaving them no time to re-establish experiments and unable to pass their findings on to industry.

Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) research fellow Karen Massel had spent the last two and a half years working on improving the drought resilience of barley and sorghum crops. "We weren't allowed to come to campus, but I got emails texts every day showing the water rising," Dr Massel said.

"By Sunday, midday, the water was already 2 metres high or hitting the ceiling of the glasshouse, and I knew my plants were probably ruined." It wasn't until Thursday that Dr Massel was able to enter the glasshouse and assess the damage, but by then, her experiments were too far gone to salvage. 

"Once the water had ruined the electricity — although maybe some of the plants may have survived the water — it was already about 50 degrees inside the glasshouses just without temperature control, and it being summer. So, everything sort of went through a big shock. The plants were basically cooked."

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