Where are they now? Publication profiles young scientists
By GRDC western regional panel member Susan Hall
A new publication highlights the diverse opportunities available in the Australian grains industry by following the career paths of young scientists employed in the multi-billion dollar industry.
In GRAINS Investing in Young Scientists illustrates projects undertaken by students with support from Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) training and development awards.
The GRDC publication shows the skills the young scientists have developed, the value they have gained from their links to industry bodies and the breadth of scientific knowledge they have contributed to the grains industry.
One of the scientists featured is Hayden Sprigg, from Mukinbudin in Western Australia’s eastern grainbelt, whose GRDC-supported research at Curtin University looked at the usefulness of wider crop rows for increasing water use efficiency in a changing rainfall and climatic environment.
Dr Sprigg looked at the implications of a change in annual rainfall distribution on wheat production in WA’s eastern grainbelt. Generally, there has been a shift from winter dominant rainfall to a pattern where a higher proportion of rain falls in summer.
His results confirmed that yields following out-of-season rainfall can match those from growing season rainfall, provided the out-of-season rainfall is effectively stored and available to the crop later in the season.
Widening row spacing reduced crop water use but resulted in increased evaporation and generally lower yields, even when grown primarily on stored water.
On completing his PhD study, Dr Sprigg returned to the family farm at Mukinbudin.
“My farm is the last farm before the bush in a marginal cropping region,” he said.
“This drives my interest in research areas that will benefit my community.
“If we can resolve challenges in marginal cropping areas, they can have application elsewhere in the Wheatbelt, particularly if the predicted decline in rainfall eventuates.”
Dr Sprigg intends to continue conducting research that will benefit his community and has been involved with local grower groups.
“A highlight (of my research) was meeting experts in my field of research and being able to establish networks which I now utilise in a very practical way,” he said.
“I have certainly gained skills that enable me to think critically about information that I use on my farm and the PhD level studies have given me an in-depth understanding of production issues of crops.”
The GRDC supports a range of activities to build skills and capacity in the Australian grains industry, including training and development awards which provide opportunities for new and experienced participants in the grains industry.
In 2013-14, the GRDC supported 22 Grains Industry Research Scholarships which were awarded to PhD scholars; 18 Undergraduate Honours Scholarships; four Nuffield Farming Scholarships; and two participants in the Australian Rural Leadership Program.
In addition, young people were supported through the Horizon Scholarship program, ART4 Agriculture Young Farming Champions Program, National Youth Science Forum, the CSIRO Plant Industry Summer Student program and the ABARES Science and Innovation Awards.
Susan Hall, GRDC western panel
0400 889 036
0429 355 100
Natalie Lee, Senior Consultant, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827
GRDC Project Code AGH00003