Spend a day with NSW DPI crop physiologist Rajneet Uppal | Video

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Rajneet Kaur Uppal goes about her work as a crop physiologist with NSW Department of Primary Industries with a perfect backdrop of flowering canola. 

She is currently working on projects which are supported by both the department and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). However, before moving to Australia she grew up in the farming community of Punjab, India. She comes to NSW DPI from University of Reading, UK. 

“It is very important to understand the yield limiting factors in the changing climates to sustain the agricultural industry,” she said.  

“Varietal selection for drought and heat stress is the integral part to expand the industry in contrasting environments.” 

Her work focuses on facilitating the development of germplasm that can mitigate and/or adapt to abiotic stress.

6.00am The day starts by having breakfast with my husband Daman.

9.00am “Work starts with responding to emails and meeting and ringing technical staff,” she said. Her conversation always begins with the one question “how did it go yesterday.” After quick discussion, I leave and hang up with five more questions in my mind on what could be improved. 

10.00am “It’s time to be with the canola plants,” she says.  Dr Uppal generally visits each experiment trial for scoring and recording data. “The most interesting part is tagging newly-opened canola flowers before and after heat stress treatments,” she said. Besides that data recording on canola flowering time, transpiration rates, biomass and ultimately yield at the harvest is carried out.

3.00pm “After lunch on site and filled with caffeine, I will spend afternoon on data analysis, writing scientific articles, project reports and also setting up new proposals,” she said. She said the time was used to discuss research results with peers and sometimes discussions go for hours. 

5.00pm Time to head home and “it’s family time now.” 

6.00pm Evening walk and yoga with Daman. “This is my favourite time of the day.”

8.00pm After dinner, evening activities include downloading and reading research articles and revising manuscripts etc.

9.00pm “I like to watch movies/tv shows, just depends, Dexter and Stranger Things have been my favourite.

Encouragement for others: “It has been fantastic that my work spans to different ecological environments from the UK, India and Australia,” she said. “The common goal worldwide is to maximise food production in a limited space. It is a progressive industry and young people must explore agriculture science as a career choice.”