GRDC fostering the next crop of grains industry scientists

Author: Sharon Watt | Date: 18 Jun 2015

Katherine Linsell  Photo SARDI

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is taking pre-emptive action to avoid a deficit of personnel within the Australian grains industry workforce.

Having identified that there are more experienced people reaching retirement age than there are people entering the industry, the GRDC is investing in programs and activities to support the managed succession of the intellectual and skills capital in the grains industry.

“The Australian grains industry is a multi-billion dollar industry producing more than 40 million tonnes of grain for domestic and export markets each year,” says Kathleen Allan, GRDC Capacity Building Program Manager.

“To produce grain crops that continue to meet market demands in an ever-changing climate, Australia needs a highly skilled and motivated workforce, including growers, advisers, researchers and managers,” Ms Allan said.

“To address any potential shortfall of professional personnel, the GRDC funds numerous scholarship and training opportunities, including Grains Industry Research Scholarships and Grains Industry Undergraduate Honours Scholarships.

“The GDRC Grains Industry Research Scholarships have been established to encourage post-graduate training through a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) discipline that contributes to the research, development and extension priorities of the GRDC and the Australian grains industry.

“Projects can be in fundamental research areas such as molecular biology, pathology, biochemistry or more applied issues such as herbicide resistance, equipment design and agronomy.”

A new GRDC publication, In GRAINS – Investing in Young Scientists, illustrates the breadth of projects undertaken by students supported by the GRDC and also highlights the skills they have developed and the value they gained from their links to an industry body.

The publication has tracked the students’ progress into their current careers, with the majority remaining associated with the grains industry and playing a significant role in its ongoing success.

Katherine Linsell is representative of the new generation of researchers carving out a career in the grains industry.

The young South Australian scientist received GRDC support through a Grains Industry Research Scholarship for her PhD studies into understanding resistance to root lesion nematodes (RLN) in wheat.

Findings from the work by Dr Linsell, now a research officer with the SA Research and Development Institute (SARDI) which is a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), have provided fundamental understanding of the pathology of RLN and genetic information on plant resistance.

Her findings will assist commercial plant breeders in incorporating resistance to RLN in commercial wheat cultivars, which will represent an important development for many grain growers.

Dr Linsell’s research area has since expanded and she is now looking at beneficial nematodes as well as the harmful ones.

Also a recipient of a Grains Industry Honours Scholarship, she is currently working on two GRDC-funded projects – one of which is developing DNA tests to determine soil health and the effects of farming management practices on soil, and the other involves screening current cereal varieties for resistance and tolerance to RLN.

In these roles she has had the opportunity to undertake extension-based work and has enjoyed the interaction with growers.

“It is through these interactions that you really see the relevance of the research you do,” Dr Linsell said.

She has also continued her work looking at field-based screening for RLN and is now giving back to the research community through co-supervising a PhD student.

Dr Linsell is just one of many GRDC-supported researchers profiled in the In GRAINS – Investing in Young Scientists publication.

Media Interviews

Kathleen Allan, GRDC
02 6166 4500

Katherine Linsell, SARDI
08 8303 9459


Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
0409 675100

GRDC Project Code AGH00003, GRS142

Region South, North