HDR Scholarship

When Phil Thomas decided he needed a change of career after 30 years as an IT professional, he tentatively chose to study a single online unit on microbiology through University of New England (UNE). The decision changed his life.

Several years after getting hooked on understanding Earth’s most dominant form of life, Phil has moved from Sydney to Armidale and is working full-time on a Masters thesis that seeks to shed light on the little-understood world of microbiology in the roots of hydroponic plants.

His project is funded by Future Food Systems Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), and is being conducted in partnership with Western Sydney University and one of the biggest glasshouse operations in the Southern Hemisphere, the Costa Group’s Guyra Tomato Exchange.

Root microbiology is known to be a vital factor in plant health – good and bad – when crops are grown in soils, but far less attention has been paid to root microbiology in hydroponically grown plants.

Phil’s project focuses on the root microbiome of hydroponic tomato plants. He wants to establish what’s there, how it is affected by plant management, and how it in turn contributes to plant health and productivity.