March 28, 2013
DPI’s Horsham pathology staff have won the prestigious $5000 Daniel McAlpine DPI Science Excellence Award. The Cereal Crop Pathology Team, took out the award for their work managing stubble-borne diseases and rusts. The team comprises Dr Grant Hollaway, Dr Mark McLean, Frank Henry and Graham Exell. Grain diseases cost the Australian cereal industry hundreds of millions of dollars every year, amounting to almost 20 per cent of the average annual value of the nation’s wheat and barley crops. The team is working to combat these losses by developing disease management solutions for farmers and industry. As well as managing stubble borne diseases and rusts, the team has trained more than 150 agronomists. The team has made significant contributions to the management of root and foliar diseases of cereals. A focus in recent years has been on the development of improved control strategies for spot form of net blotch in barley and crown rot in wheat. Each year thousands of breeding lines are evaluated for their reaction to the disease. The team also recently developed a crop diseases smartphone application for farmers, agronomists and agricultural consultants. The crop diseases app allows users to identify crop varieties and disease ratings in the ute, office or paddocks. It was fitting that the Daniel McAlpine Award is named after a former DPI staff member. Daniel McAlpine was a pioneer plant pathologist considered the father of plant pathology in the Australasian region. He worked for Victorian Department of Agriculture from 1890-1911 with one of his most notable contributions to cropping being the study on wheat rust following the 1889 epidemic. He also classified and described Australian smuts and recognised Ophiobolus graminis (now Gaeumannomyces graminis) as the cause of wheat take-all. Daniel McAlpine also collaborated with William Farrer on resistance to rust in wheat and contributed extensively to vegetable pathology. Other DPI Science Award Winners were: Hugh McKay Award DPI Industry Partnership Award (a $5,000 grant for an individual or industry partner’s contribution to RD&E projects) – Rick and Jenny Robertson of Gracemere fine wool merinos, for improving on-farm management, working with DPI scientists and sharing knowledge and experience with Victorian producers. Nancy Millis Postgraduate Thesis Award ($5,000 grant for the best thesis (PhD or MSc) by a DPI staff member) – shared by Dr Rachel Kilmister for work on tannin extraction from wine grapes and Rachel Mann for research on the bacterium that causes fire blight in fruit. Samuel Wadham DPI Practice Change Award ($5,000 grant for a DPI staff member or team for leading practice change in farm businesses and primary industries) – the Native Pasture Management Team for work on restoring grasses.