Herbicide Hero Wins Seed of Light Award

Posted by Josette Dunn on 3rd March 2010

An internationally recognised plant scientist who helped rescue many Australian farms from the brink of disaster has been awarded the 2010 Grains Research and Development Corporation Western Region Seed of Light award for his contribution to herbicide resistance research.

Automatic-steering system

The University of Western Australia’s Winthrop Professor Stephen Powles, Director of the WA Herbicide Resistance Initiative (WAHRI) in the UWA School of Plant Biology, received the award at the 2010 WA Agribusiness Crop Updates, an annual event organised by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA for researchers and agribusiness.

GRDC Western Panel Chairman and Kojonup grower Neil Young presented Professor Powles with his award and noted his significant contribution to herbicide resistance in agriculture, not only in Australia, but on a world scale.

Mr Young said the Seed of Light award was presented each year to someone who made a significant contribution to communicating the outcomes of research.

“Over the years, Steve has made sure knowledge is available and can be applied in a practical manner so farmers are able to live with herbicide-resistant weeds,” he said.

“It’s due to the work done at WAHRI, led by Steve, that WA farming systems have been led back from the brink of a disaster they were facing due to widespread herbicide resistant weeds overwhelming WA farming systems.”

Mr Young said Professor Powles was an international authority on all aspects of herbicide resistance, from a basic biochemical understanding of how plants evolve resistance through to practical on-farm management.

“He is now widely regarded as the world expert on herbicide resistance in plants in which he has published 150 research papers. He is one of the world’s most highly cited plant scientists.”

Professor Powles’ leadership talent is evident in the success of his large research team which is focused on herbicide resistance in weeds and crops. After nine years of GRDC funding, WAHRI continues to pioneer research into resistance in Australian cropping and is recognised globally as leading the way in predicting the long-term impact of herbicide resistance.

Professor Powles also has extensive knowledge of genetically modified crops, has widely published on glyphosate sustainability and is a frequent visitor to both North and South America to speak on GM crop issues.

He was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2003 and elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

Professor Powles was inaugural Chair of the Gene Technology Regulator expert committee (GTTAC) from 2002 to 2008 and remains an expert adviser to the committee. He is a Science Fellow at the national pesticide regulator Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.