Young innovators win agri-science awards

Jodi McLean, of Narrabri, New South Wales, is developing a brochure to help growers of durum wheat to improve its grading.

By Kay Ansell

A scientist and a machinery manufacturer – both young innovators working to improve the work of grain growers – have won science awards sponsored by the GRDC.

Jodi McLean (left), of Narrabri, New South Wales, is developing a brochure to help growers of durum wheat to improve its grading, while Dale Foster, of Narromine, NSW, has developed a tillage machine for incorporating stubble.

They were among 18 winners of the 2003 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture in September.

Ms McLean is regarded as a world leader in the assessment of durum quality in the field. She has been investigating non-vitreous kernels (NVK), a defect that has resulted in the rejection of many shiploads of grain from domestic and international buyers.

The vitreous (hard) quality of durum wheat is an essential quality trait for pasta and couscous, so the incidence of mottled, NVK grains has reduced confidence among both buyers and growers of Australia durum wheat.

She says the use of visual techniques for grading grains at the silo is subjective and variable. “My research has focussed on the potential for improving the accuracy of grading by introducing new, objective measurement methods.”

The brochure would help growers to learn more about NVK, reduce its incidence and guide them in choosing the most NVK-resistant cultivars. It would also inform growers about new technology options available, so that they can decide where to deliver their grain based on the accuracy of the silo’s assessment methods.

“The industry overall could benefit by improving the consistent quality of grain received and strengthening Australia’s reputation as a producer,” she says.

Dale Foster with his "Trash Inverter".Mr Foster has developed a tillage machine, dubbed the ‘Trash Inverter’ (right) , which is used for undoing compaction, pupae busting and incorporating stubble in one pass.

Suitable for all crops, and particularly for maize, it leaves furrows relatively free of trash and creates a rich, earthy seedbed, providing an excellent start for the next crop, he says.

Mr Foster says the machine helps to reduce disease and improves soil health and crop yield. It has shown that retaining and incorporating stubble can be an economical and sustainable process when the appropriate machine is used.

Photo: Dale Foster with his "Trash Inverter".

For more information:
Dale Foster, 0429 649 040,
Jodi McLean, 0427 926 301