April 12, 2013
A Victorian scientist’s ambition to provide the Australian dairy industry with a $147 million boost by breeding high-energy pasture has earnt him a nomination for the 2013 Victorian Young Achiever Awards. Pieter Badenhorst from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) research centre at Hamilton said he was delighted to be selected as a finalist for the awards and to see agricultural research being recognised outside of the sector. Undertaking a PhD in molecular plant breeding through La Trobe University, Mr Badenhorst said he was aiming to create a commercial-ready perennial ryegrass that could store more sugar in its leaf blades. “This would mean dairy cattle could get more energy from the same amount of food as they eat now, leading to increased milk production,” Mr Badenhorst said. “Beyond this project, I’d like to become a world-leader in molecular forage breeding and inspire young people to find out more about the fantastic educational and career opportunities in agriculture.” Executive Director of Biosciences Research at DPI, Professor German Spangenberg, said biosciences had an enormous role to play in agricultural research and development. He said the young scientist’s work, which is a key project in the Dairy Futures Cooperative Research Centre, could transform the Australian dairy industry. “Perennial ryegrass is the most utilised pasture in the dairy industry and Pieter’s research could significantly increase the amount of energy content in dairy pastures,” Professor Spangenberg said. “In addition to providing dairy farmers with an expected productivity gain of $200 per hectare, there will also be spill-over benefits to the lamb and beef industries in southern Australia’s high rainfall zone.” The winners of the 2013 Victorian Young Achiever Awards will be announced on April 12 at a ceremony in Melbourne.