Distinguished ANU Professor Graham Farquhar has won Australia's top science prize for his work on water-efficient crops and to help the world understand the impacts of climate change.

Professor Farquhar has won the 2015 Prime Minister's Prize for Science.

A global leader in plant biophysics and photosynthesis, Professor Farquhar has helped develop new water-efficient varieties of wheat, improved global food security, and discovered evaporation and winds speeds are slowing as the climate changes.

Professor Farquhar said the award was recognition of the great work being done by teams of plant scientists at ANU.

"It's a great honour for both me, and for my colleagues," Professor Farquhar said. "It is recognition of work I've been part of at ANU now on and off since about 1970."

The Prime Minister's prize is the latest in a string of accolades for Professor Farquhar.

In 2014, he won Britain's prestigious Rank Prize with CSIRO colleague Dr Richard Richards for developing a new variety of wheat, Drysdale, which provides higher yields with less water.

He was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) in 2013, and won the 2016 Australian Academy of Science Macfarlane Burnett Medal and Lecture. He was appointed a Life member of the Australian Society of Plant Scientists in 2015, and shared the Nobel Prize in 2007 with other members of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Professor Farquhar was appointed a Distinguished Professor at the ANU Research School of Biology in 2004, and he is a Chief Investigator at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis, which is based at ANU.

He also leads a collaboration between ANU, University of Western Sydney and the CSIRO on Forests for the Future: making the most of a high CO2 world, funded by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund.

His latest research is looking at how plants will cope with climate change and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and which plants will grow best in drier marginal farm lands.

"My interest in is in the biophysics of how plants interact with the environment. That covers things like droughts, increases in carbon dioxide and changes in atmospheric composition," Professor Farquhar said.

"The world needs to produce more food and produce it more efficiently as the global population increases. It has to be food production that is nutritious and healthy.

"To achieve this, we have to move into marginal lands that are not productive yet.

"This sort of research should climate proof us to some extent. The big thing is climate variability. If you can breed plants that help famers deal with climate variability, that's the main challenge to help see us through climate change itself.

"It is a great time to be a plant scientist."

Professor Farquhar has been interested in plant science since his childhood in Tasmania, where his father was an agricultural scientist.

He particularly wanted to do science that could one day help farmers.

"My parents were both from the land in Tasmania. I used to go to holidays with uncles and aunts who had farms," he said.

"The feeling from my family was that it is great to do something useful and for people on the land."

First published on the ANU website.