Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation project aims to boost food yields

Ethiopian technicians at the Melkassa Research Station making breeding crosses between sorghum lines. Photo: Professor David Jordan.

Ethiopian technicians at the Melkassa Research Station making breeding crosses between sorghum lines. Photo: Professor David Jordan.

The University of Queensland’s expertise in plant breeding has been recognised by a $3.8M grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to evaluate and improve breeding programs in developing countries.

UQ was selected to implement the Breeding Program Analysis Tool because of the university’s international reputation for excellence in plant breeding, particularly in tropical crops, and its experience in improving sorghum breeding in Ethiopia.

UQ School of Agriculture and Food Sciences project leader Dr Chris Lambrides said the project would identify ways of improving breeding programs, leading to greater genetic gains and on-farm profitability.

“This is a very exciting project because it will contribute to making a real difference to millions of resource-poor farmers worldwide,” Dr Lambrides said.

“We will be using the Breeding Program Analysis Tool developed by the Gates Foundation across key public sector plant breeding programs in Africa and Asia for sorghum, rice, maize, wheat, cowpea, chickpea, common bean, groundnut, yam, sweet potato, cassava, and banana.”

Project co-leader and UQ Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation researcher Professor David Jordan said very few organisations possessed the range of technical and applied breeding expertise of UQ and its partner, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Professor Jordan leads Australia’s sorghum pre-breeding program funded by the Grains Research Development Corporation.

“Sorghum is a great example of the gains that can be achieved by effective plant breeding even in difficult dryland cropping environments,” Professor Jordan said.

“Productivity gains from sorghum in Australia are the highest in the world.”

The Gates Foundation’s project involves developing a website to act as an information hub and encourage organisations to conduct self-assessments using the tools available online.

The project will review breeding programs in 11 key African and Asian geographic regions – Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Bangladesh and the Indian states Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh.

“We are investigating the possibility that in the future the tool will be made available to other donors and or interested parties at a reasonable cost,” Dr Lambrides said.

“Effective plant breeding is fundamental to improving farmer profitability and reducing risk.”

Media: Margaret Puls, m.puls@uq.edu.au, 0419 578 356.






‘The doctors are out to get Mrs Snook!’

  • Patricia Blundell of East Fremantle, ‘The West Australian’, May 26, 1990.


In late 1983, aged seventy, Dorothy Snook moved with her daughter Barbara to Peppertree House on a 24-acre property in an area known as Doctor’s Hill in Northam, the town where she had been born, and close by to where she spent her childhood on her family’s farm in Koorda.


23 foods that contain NO calories

These 23 foods that contain NO calories because you burn more than you consume as you eat. And watch those raspberries! There’s one calorie in a raspberry.


Calorie content: 47 kcals per 100g

As the old saying goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away – and there may be some truth to it. Apples are packed full of important vitamins such as C, and A and can promote heart health.


Calorie content: 12 kcals per apricot

Eating apricots is said to help reduce the risk of strokes, and heart attacks. They’re also full of vitamin C, potassium and dietary fibre, which all promote good heart health.


Calorie content: 6 kcals per spear

As well as being packed with antioxidants, it contains lots of essential vitamins such as A, C, E and K along with plenty of fibre.



Calorie content: 36 kcals per 100g 

Beetroot is a good source of iron and folate as well as containing plenty of antioxidants. It’s also been said to lower blood pressure, boost exercise performance and prevent dementia.


Calorie content: 33 kcals per 100g

Broccoli is a great source of vitamins K and C, and also has lots of potassium and fibre. It also contains plenty of the powerful antioxidant Vitamin C which is said to help cuts heal quicker and fight off diseases such as cancers.


Calorie content: 3 kcals per floret

One serving of cauliflower is said to contain 77 per cent of an adult’s daily recommended allowance for vitamin C. The vegetable is also a great source of other important vitamins.  


Calorie content: 2 kcals per stick

It’s mainly water which is why you’ll burn more calories than consume them when you eat this vegetable.



Calorie content: 15 kcals per 100g

These red fruits are another great source of vitamin C, as well as fibre, manganese, and plenty of antioxidants.


Calorie content: 4 kcals per quarter of a bunch

Watercress is thought to have medicinal properties and contains particularly high levels of vitamin K – important for bone health – and vitamin A (eye health). It also contains glucosinolate compounds, which have been found to have anti-cancer properties.


Calorie content:  6 kcals per 1 inch piece

This vegetable is mostly water, and helps to flush out toxins from the body, say health experts. It also helps you stay hydrated, and contributes to both heart and eye health.

  1.  FENNEL

Calorie content: 12 kcals per 100g

As well as containing lots of fibre, it is thought that fennel helps to rebalance the female sex hormones blamed for some of the symptoms of PMT.

  1.  GARLIC

Calorie content: 49 kcals per 100g

It won’t be zero calorie if you eat too much of it, but you’ll burn off more calorie than you consume if you eat one clove, it’s said.



Calorie content: 24 kcals per half a grapefruit

A study has found that drinking grapefruit juice when eating fatty food lowers the amount of weight put on by up to a fifth.


Calorie content: 24 kcals per 100g

Eating green beans will help you get a flat stomach, according to some nutritionists. It’s packed full of essential vitamins and vitamins, as well as some protein too.

  1. KALE

Calorie content: 33 kcals per 100g

There are dozens of claims about the cancer-beating properties of kale, and while some nutritionists say eating broccoli and brussels sprouts is actually better for you, the vegetable still contains plenty of essential vitamins.

  1. LEEKS

Calorie content: 22 kcals per 100g

Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin K as well as manganese, vitamin B6, copper, iron, and vitamin C.



Calorie content: 3 kcals per slice

When life gives you lemons… just eat them. A slice contains just three calories, meaning you’ll burn more or the same number – making it a zero calorie food in moderation.


Calorie content: 14 kcals per 100g

Made up of mostly water, a lettuce leaf won’t contribute to your daily calorie intake.

  1. ONION

Calorie content: 7 kcals in one slice

Every recipe book will contain more than a few recipes containing this staple ingredient, but in moderation, you’ll burn more calories by eating that than you consume. 


Calorie content: 1 kcal per raspberry

Raspberries contain very high levels of vitamin C, and it’s said that eating them could help to boost fertility.


Calorie content: 3 kcals per fruit

Strawberries contain more vitamin C than the equivalent amount of oranges and have been said to aid digestion.

  1. SWEDE

Calorie content: 24 kcals per 100g

Swedes are low in calories, making them an ideal food for slimmers. They supply a reasonable amount of vitamin C – about 20 per cent of the RDA in an 85g cooked portion – as well as some beta-carotene for a healthy immune system.


Calorie content: 16 kcals in a quarter of a slice

It’s said this fruit could help hydrate you just as much as a glass of water can, and it’s also reported to prevent heart attacks and weight gain because it halts the build-up of bad cholesterol.

Read full article in Daily Mail Online








Alice Caporn’s Hollywood Juice Cocktails c.1930s

  • Carrot juice – Magnetises the blood stream, good for hair and skin. Best method for extracting carrot juice: use a fine grater and then squeeze the pulp through cheese cloth.
  • Beetroot and lemon juice – Rich in sodium food for dissolving stones in the kidneys and gall bladder.
  • Celery – Rich in calcium for strong bones and teeth.
  • Parsley and cabbage juice – Rich in manganese for memory cells and iodine for thyroid gland (youth and beauty governor)
  • Watercress and mint juice – Rich in vitamin E, the fertility vitamin. Rich in iron for red blood.
  • Lettuce or silver beet, lemon juice – Rich in sodium, the dissolver, calcium for strength and endurance.
  • Rhubarb juice – Excellent cleanser and purifier of the blood stream.
  • Grape fruit juice – Rich in iron and quinine – feeds brain and nerves, induces sleep.


Mary Morse Baker was a difficult child.

Born in 1821 to a strict religious rural New Hampshire household, she was the youngest of six children.

At the age of eight she claimed to hear a religious voice calling her name and she would fall into a faint, lying comatose for hours.

Her father kept her out of school as he feared her brain was too big for her body.
Her mother indulged young Mary and her tutor described her as a “genius” remarking on her independence of thought.

At various times in her life, Mary was afflicted by colds, fevers, chronic dyspepsia, lung and liver ailments, backache, nervousness, gastric attacks and depression – which propelled her on a lifelong search for a remedy for disease.

The Baker family doctor dismissed Mary as suffering with nothing but a case of bad temper and hysteria.

From a difficult childhood, Mary Baker Eddy (she married her student Gilbert Eddy in 1877, her third marriage) popularised a theory of mind healing that remains persuasive today and founded the ‘Mother Church’, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1894.

During the first three years of her church’s existence, membership remained at fifty but by the turn of the century, membership had surpassed forty-thousand. Members came predominantly from the middle classes and nearly two-thirds were women.

The church practised spiritual healing and several thousand Christian Science healers, of whom more than eighty percent were women, set up throughout the United States in the early 1900s.

As a young woman Mary wanted to be a writer and she did end up writing a best-seller which is still in circulation today.  Her ‘Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures’ was published in 1875, articulating the new Christian Science mind cure doctrine she developed and made famous.

She trained in homeopathy and experimented with diet but her most significant healing influence came from the famous mental healer, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-66) of Portland, Maine, who was famous as a magnetic healer. Quimby hypnotised patients and healed them by impelling his own mind into their brains. “Electricity had more or less to do with it,” he stated.

Quimby had studied and experimented with magnetic healing since 1838, before developing his own mind techniques, which were similar to hypnosis or the power of suggestion. His technique was to establish a rapport with his patients by experiencing their symptoms, massaging their head or limbs and speaking encouraging words.

After Mary Baker underwent such treatment with Quimby, she experienced an immediate, however, only temporary cure.

But in 1866 following a ‘miraculous’ recovery from severe injuries she received after a fall on an icy street which came about by focusing her mind on the divine, Mary became convinced that the mind in tune with the divine power of the universe could cure all disease, and the body was merely an appendage of the mortal mind.

Mary Baker’s mind cure theory involved a magnetic mental divine energy and willing a person to wellness. She also developed a theory about the flip-side of this energy, a ‘malicious animal magnetism’ which could be directed against a person by their enemies. She once chastised a student: “You are so full of malicious magnetism; your eyes stick out like a boiled codfish’s.”

While Mary’s theories were decried as a farrago of nonsense by physicians and cultural commentators including Mark Twain, there was some support for the cures claimed by Christian Science healing being genuine, based on the power of suggestion and placebo.

Mary Baker Eddy was charismatic and pragmatic enough to hold onto power in her Church. She did not believe in communicable disease but recommended Christian Science nurses decline to treat infectious or contagious patients. She was an anti-vaxxer but promoted her grandchildren being vaccinated.


In 1919, 44-year-old bush nurse Alice Caporn left her husband in Perth, Australia, to travel to Boston and save Mary Eddy’s church.

Alice stayed 20 years and became active in the mind cure faith and reform of the Christian Science church following the death of Mary Eddy in 1910. As well as working as a Christian Science nurse in Boston, she studied for four degrees in health including osteopathy, a Doctor of Naturopathy and Doctor of Philosophy, and two of her books are held at Harvard.

In an era before the word ‘vegan’ was coined to describe a diet free from meat, dairy, eggs and meat products Alice Caporn was proclaiming the benefits of a vegan diet. She was a nature cure activist who became known as ‘America’s famous nutritionist’ in the 1930s and developed a special set of exercises called the Dr Caporn Exercises. She was a prominent advocate for nudism tried to establish a nature cure colony for Modern Health Scientists in British Honduras.

Before taking up her meat-free diet and naturopathy in 1925, Alice Caporn wrote that she felt called to Boston, to serve Mary Baker Eddy’s Church in a passionate debate on church by-laws. She wrote of her great love for the church’s leader, Mary Baker Eddy:

When quite an infant in Science, I remember the most influential newspaper on the Western Australian goldfields giving an account of how one of the members of our Leader’s household “who resembles Mrs Eddy in appearance is receiving Mrs Eddy’s callers, impersonating her, dressed in Mrs Eddy’s ermine cloak,”: because – the paper affirmed – Mrs Eddy was either dead or too ill to receive visitors! This malignant attack had the effect of arousing (in the writer) a great abiding sense of love for our Leader, whom she never saw nor ever had any great desire to see in the flesh, and whom she knew was persecuted for righteousness sake.

In Boston Alice Caporn soon made her presence felt. She never shied of expressing her opinion. “I was born with reformer’s blood in me,” she wrote.

Later her reformist zeal would be transferred to Benedict Lust’s new naturopathy movement but when she first arrived in Boston, her energies were centred around a group agitating for change within the Christian Science church.

In a chapter titled ‘Man-archy’ in her 1921 book ‘Awake Christian Scientists’, Alice Caporn asks: “Does it not appear inconsistent that our church founded by Mrs Eddy, a woman, and governed by laws which she established, should have practically no representation by women…”

During her first two years in Boston, Alice Caporn was dismissed from her Christian Science nursing position with a Boston family following an incident where she castigated a charity collector from the Red Cross for the organisation’s support for vivisection (the use of animals in research).

Alice later defended her actions, writing: “I could do no other than become converted to Anti-Vivisection, the instant I heard about it. I am a vigorous opponent of this awful iniquity. I posted literature on the subject to all those whom I knew to be fond of animals. This, together with my interview with the Secretary of the New England Red Cross, and writing a letter to the Secretary of the Anti-Vivisection Society in New York was the extent of my activities in this worthy movement…”

Prior to her arrival in America, when living in Western Australia, Alice Caporn was an active follower of Henry George and the Single Tax League. She wrote several articles for the League’s monthly journal titled ‘Taxation’ in 1906 and later pursued her advocacy in Boston, where she chaired a single tax league society. “The Single Taxer,” she declared in an address in 1907 is “led by the burning desire to straighten out the crooked places in our social system”.

While Alice Caporn’s writings were very much influenced by Mary Eddy’s mind cure which she had seen work wonders, Alice now became focused on the spiritual and mental health benefits to be gained from a modern plant-based diet and nature-cure life.

She wrote she had seen cases where medical and Christian Science-style spiritual healing interventions had failed but the nature cure proved effective.

The nature cure, Alice Caporn wrote has a “decidedly beneficial effect upon the psychology of its student”.

Over the past twenty years research has revealed that our gut microbiome, in addition to regulating our physical health, plays a major role on our moods and behaviour.

The brain and gut are intricately connected, chemically as well as physically. Historically, the gut has often been referred to as our ‘second brain’ and the gut possesses the greatest source of neurons in the body outside of the brain.

Chemicals and vitamins of critical importance to our brains are produced in the gut. Bacterial metabolites, which are by-products from plant-based fibre digestion, are found to increase the levels of the gut hormone and neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with our moods and often referred to as ‘the happy chemical’

Around sixty percent of our faeces are made up of bacteria and human studies have indicated that the gut bacteria secreted in the faeces of people suffering from major depression differs from the faecal bacterial profile of healthy volunteers.

While a link between mental illness and gut bacteria has been established, much remains unknown.

Alice Caporn was a great believer in the benefits of the sun, diet and exercise to improve a person’s health and spiritual wellbeing. For her the body was a tuning fork, a conduit that enabled the brain to reach into a higher realm of consciousness.

For Alice Caporn’s famous student, Dorothy Snook, the nervous system was the most highly developed and important of all the body’s systems: “In the brain is situated the site of consciousness, thought, memory, speech and the will to carry out purposeful actions,” she wrote.

Mrs Snook recommended avoiding the extremes of emotion, and warned against neglecting spirituality, as the spiritual side of a person’s nature was “the real you” while the body was “the house where you live”.

Healing required a healthy mind as well as body, for healing began in the mind and the belief in success was paramount.

The Far-Reaching Influence of our Food

By Alice Caporn

“There is a great truth in the German proverb which says that “As man eateth so is he”. Devitalised, demineralised and adulterated food, and the right kinds of food badly cooked and poorly prepared, causes slow starvation of the tissues and higher nerve centres and in this way leads to physical and mental deterioration. What we eat and how we eat it, not only affects our efficiency but our disposition, our temperament and even our character: but it does it so insidiously that we little realise to what extent our successes and failures, as well as our popularity and lack of it, depend upon our diet.

Published in Alice Caporn’s monthly journal ‘Modern Living’ in Perth, 193939

Read more in GUT INSTINCT: MRS SNOOK’S DIET. Available in Kindle (ebook) and paperback.