Study level

  • Master of Philosophy
  • Honours


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Ayesha Tulloch
Future Fellow
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Science


Legume-supported value chains, from production to consumption, provide benefits to people and nature that include improved ecosystem functions and resource use efficiency, as well as farmed animal and human health provisions. Environmental co-benefits of legumes include reduced nitrate leaching, increased food sources for pollinators, a greater structural diversity of farmland, and improved soil fertility. Despite the potential of legumes to improve the sustainability of cropping systems and enhance human health, the production and consumption of legumes in Australia is low.

Multiple barriers limit the production, processing, marketing, and consumption of legumes, including insufficient understanding and appreciation of products and services of legumes by farmers, agri-environmental regulations and public or private payments that only partly address the negative externalities produced by market failure of crop specialization, potential lower yields of legumes compared to other major non-legume crops, reduced access to agricultural extension or advisory services skilled in legume-supported crop system management, and poor markets for legumes.

Identifying the barriers to production and consumption of legumes in Australia is the first step to creating new pathways towards sustainable legume-supported food systems that benefit people and nature. Policies that attempt to favour legume-supported value chains are often inconsistent, as they conflict with a complex set of social, structural, market, and behavioural factors and capacities that influence stakeholders’ perceptions and decisions. Policies that impact legume-supported systems operate across multiple governance levels shaped by international, national, and regional agreements. The result is a conflicting policy framework: Some seek to diminish the environmental footprint of agriculture; others incentivize agri-business strategies that are not in line with sustainable food systems or healthy diets.

This project will ask: Can we identify an effective “policy toolbox” that is capable of sustaining increased grain legume production and consumption across Australia? Any improved suite of interventions should sustain legume grain production even when subsidies are removed and ensure sufficient market “pull” while overcoming negative perceptions by farmers or consumers. To achieve this, the student will engage with key policy and legume value chain stakeholders and decision-makers, to identify policies and governance frameworks that might sustainably increase legume production and consumption in Australia.

Research activities

You will be part of a team that engages with stakeholders and decision-makers using a structured communication process, the Delphi method, to identify policy interventions leveraging barriers that hinder the production and consumption of legumes Australia.

This will be achieved by:

  • Review of reports and scientific literature to identify policies aiming to increase production and consumption of legumes.
  • Contribute to elicitation of expert opinions using the Delphi method to identify the significant factors contributing to relatively low levels of legume production and consumption in Australia.
  • Contribute to expert-based elicitation of potential impacts from different policy scenarios outlining the potential target areas of policy scenarios, where future actions could support legume production and consumption.

The successful candidate will become part of Ayesha’s new 'Food for Nature and People' research group dedicated to decision science that empowers communities and governments to make more sustainable choices about agricultural production and food consumption. The research group will include five PhD  students, a postdoctoral fellow and a research assistant, and will be interconnected with an international community of scientists and scholars, particularly those working within the fields of conservation decision science, sustainable production and consumption, and environmental management.

Our research group is a transdisciplinary space that explores how our choices about the food we grow and eat impact biodiversity, our environment and our well-being, and flow on to impact global environmental and socio-economic change. We will build insights from research in the fields of ecology, biodiversity  conservation, agriculture, food and nutrition science, health, and human well-being, to reveal important impacts on nature and people from behaviour changes at both the production and consumption ends of agri-food chains.

By applying methods from decision science, operations research and behavioural  science, our team will use these insights to understand which interventions, if successful, would have the greatest outcomes for recovering biodiversity from ongoing declines whilst maintaining or improving people’s well-being. Identifying agri-food production and consumption behaviours that are resilient,  healthy and sustainable is particularly critical in these times of rapid environmental, social and economic change.


The goal of the project is to identify a resilient policy mix capable of overcoming the barriers hindering the production and consumption of legumes in Australia, with the overarching goal of improving environmental sustainability and human well-being.

Outcomes will include:

  • a literature review of studies investigating the outcomes of policy interventions around the world that focused on increasing legume production or consumption
  • identification of the optimal policies for increasing legume production or consumption in Australia under current versus future socio-political conditions
  • communication with key stakeholders and policy makers to progress sustainable agriculture and nutrition policy in Australia.

Skills and experience

To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the entry requirements for an Honours Degree at QUT, including any English language requirements for international students.

You must also:

  • enrol as a full-time, internal student
  • hold a Bachelor degree in a discipline of relevance to the research topic (e.g. environmental sciences, social sciences, agricultural sciences, behavioural sciences).

It is desirable that you have:

  • strong written and oral English skills
  • alignment with the research areas: sustainable production and consumption, supporting human well-being, environmental policy.
  • experience and interest in reviewing literature
  • knowledge of experimental methods in behavioural and social sciences including eliciting beliefs, qualitative surveys, and semi-structured interviews
  • enthusiasm for working with stakeholders and researchers across disciplines.


You may be eligible to apply for a research scholarship.

Explore our research scholarships



Contact the supervisor for more information.