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Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

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Published: 5 Apr 2019

It doesn’t take a scientist to tell you that red cherries are a tangy, delicious treat.

It does, however, take a scientist—or an inquisitive child—to ask “But what makes them red?”

Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) Researcher Nadine Macha is hoping to find out more about a special kind of antioxidants called anthocyanins that do just that.

There’s a bit of a buzz around anthocyanins lately, especially around their potential therapeutic role in improving cardiovascular health, increasing lifespans and even preventing cancer.

Ms Macha is hoping to find out more about the uptake and metabolism of anthocyanins following cherry consumption, which is a polite, scientific way of saying she’s going to be analysing…ahem…what’s left behind after we process the cherries.

The research was designed in a close partnership with the University of Tasmania’s Centre for Rural Health to conduct trials with people willing to eat cherries in the name of research, which sounds like a nice gig to us.

While the jury is still out on the health benefits of anthocyanins, Ms Macha’s research is a fundamental step to better understanding how our bodies process them. Her results should inform a number of future studies and may provide evidence of how exactly cherry anthocyanins work.

As Ms Macha looks to the microscopic level to see how cherries may benefit us, her colleague Dr Peter Quin is pulling back to look at the entire orchard to see how he can help benefit growers.

Dr Quin wants to maximise nitrogen use efficiency to increase productivity, profitability and improve environmental management in the cherry industry.

For Dr Quin, that involves using innovative techniques to trace the movement of nitrogen within cherry trees to get a complete picture of how they actually process nitrogen. This includes using stable isotopes on a number of selected trees that will then be excavated and the movement of nitrogen within the whole tree, from roots to leaves, will be examined.

Visitors to Agfest this year from the 2-4 of May will get a chance to chat with Ms Macha, Dr Quin and other TIA researchers about their work to keep food safe, sustainable and productive.

TIA has partnered with the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) for a combined site at Agfest.

Visitors of all ages and professions will have a chance to learn more about cutting edge food and beverage research. The kids can have a go at colouring in bugs—or getting up close and personal with them under a microscope—while mum and dad test their spud knowledge with more than 10 different varieties of potatoes on display. Interact with an infrared drone camera, have a squiz at how we’re improving sparkling wine production, check out some innovative new ways we’re preparing food, or just have a wander around the different pasture varieties we’re working with.

As always, a dedicated display in the DairyTas Legendairy Expo will showcase TIA’s research on milk production.

Come say g’day to TIA during Agfest from 2-4 May on Sixth Avenue at site 606/610.

This article appeared in the Tasmanian Country on 5 April 2019.