Straight shooter wins recognition

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Contributions to agriculture’s development and three generations of its scientists’ professional development have helped a Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) researcher win the 2009 GRDC Western Region Seed of Light award.

[Photo (left) by Brendon Cant: Dr Bill Bowden (right) receives his Seed of Light award from Western Panel chairman Neil Young.]

The award, honouring excellence in communication, was presented to Dr Bill Bowden at the GRDC-supported 2009 WA Agribusiness Crop Updates by GRDC Western Panel chairman and Kojonup grower Neil Young.

Mr Young said Dr Bowden always challenges existing dogma and simplistic solutions. “He has never accepted simple packages or slogans that ignore the wide range of farming situations and has sought to instil the same level of critical thinking in the students and young scientists he mentors,” Mr Young said. “A tangible legacy of Bill’s career are the well-known modelling tools he developed, which extended the results of his research beyond the site, season and management practices under which they were collected.”

Dr Bowden began his career as a DAFWA cadet in 1961 and today is a key contributor to four major national, inter-institutional GRDC research initiatives: Subsoil Constraints, Precision Agriculture, Nutrient Management and Soil Biology. Mr Young said many growers would know Dr Bowden as the straight-talking soil commentator standing in a pit wearing his trademark blue crocheted hat at grower group field days.

US praise for GRDC

Leading US wheat-grower organisations have praised the GRDC as a model for effective and efficient grains research management and delivery.

Chief executive of the National Association of Wheat Growers, Darren Coppock, and US Wheat Associates president Alan Tracy were both recently reported in Farm Weekly newspaper in Western Australia as describing the GRDC as providing well-organised and focused research. “In our research we don’t have the same focus,” Mr Coppock said.

Both US grains leaders admired the GRDC’s focus on national, collaborative research that minimises duplication.

Mr Tracy said Australia might be lagging behind in wheat marketing, but was far ahead in wheat R&D: “We have had a lot of duplication of research effort and a lack of sharing, so I think your system is far superior to ours.”

The men’s comments follow their visit to Australia and the GRDC in 2007.

Grower survey targets research gaps

Grain growers are being urged to fill in a farming practices survey. Sent out by the GRDC, the survey will help determine where to invest grain levies and matching government funds.

The GRDC’s manager of validation and integration Stuart Kearns says that of the $110 million invested by the GRDC annually, $35 million is invested in farming practices research.

“This survey will, among other things, allow the GRDC to evaluate the success of former and existing projects, and identify gaps where investments are most likely to benefit growers,” Mr Kearns said.

“Growers who provide data will receive, in return, a personalised report about how their farming system compares with others, and have the chance of winning $1500 worth of herbicide from Nufarm.”

Growers who have not received information about the survey can access the Farming Practices Data Gathering and Reporting System at

GRDC Research Code URS00001

More information: Australian Sustainable Farming Practices,

Algae project wins award

A project investigating the effect of fertiliser on the growth of algae in fresh water has won the GRDC award at the 2009 BHP Billiton Science Awards. The awards recognise school students who undertake practical research demonstrating innovative scientific investigation.

[Photo (left): (From left) GRDC award winners at the 2009 BHP Billiton Science Awards Luke Fletcher and Hannah Younger with the GRDC’s managing director Peter Reading.]

Year 11 students Hannah Younger and Luke Fletcher from Marist Regional College in Burnie, Tasmania, grew the single-celled alga, Chlorella protothecoides, in water containing a range of concentrations of different types of fertiliser and measured the dry mass to calculate growth rate. Their investigation sought to determine which fertiliser most accelerates algal growth and to show that increasing nitrogen concentrations can increase oxygen levels in daylight and reduce them at night. Although the results did not support their hypotheses, their research raised many questions about the effects of fertilisers on algal growth.

Hannah said the pair chose the project because of their interest in the environment. “We are both passionate about preserving the ecosystem. We have a reserve with a creek running through it here in Burnie, surrounded by farms, so although algal blooms aren’t a problem they could be.” Both Hannah and Luke hope to pursue science careers.

The $1000 GRDC award is given to the students whose project best communicates original research on sustainable plant agriculture. The awards are a partnership between BHP Billiton, CSIRO and the Australian Science Teachers Association.

GRDC Research Code CSD00004

More information: Dorothy Dhaeze,

Region National, North, South, West