Innovative orchardist wins science award

Posted by Josette Dunn on 6th October 2010

Yarra Valley apple orchardist Kevin Sanders has won the 2010 Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) $10,000 Hugh McKay Future Farming Award, one of four annual awards for excellence and innovation in agriculture science.

The award was in recognition of a unique approach to apple production, which has enabled trees to bear fruit within eight months of planting – a vast improvement on the five-year waiting period using traditional methods.

Victorian agriculture Minister Joe Helper last night presented trophies to the winners in the four categories.

“These awards recognise and pay tribute to the imagination, passion and dedication of farm businesses and scientists to boost agricultural productivity and profitability,” Mr Helper said.

“Research and development in the form of scientific discovery, adoption of new practices, innovative ideas or unique approaches to the way we farm is vital to ensure Victoria’s ongoing future farming success.”

This year’s DPI Science Awards attracted a record number of entries, including many from regional Victoria and highlighted innovative farming solutions.

Former University of Melbourne Emeritus Professor and La Trobe University Vice Chancellor Nancy Millis again this year participated in judging of the award which bears her name – the Nancy Millis Post Graduate Award.

This year’s winner of that award is plant pathologist Cassie Scoble from Woori Yallock. Her $21,000 prize will fund three years of PhD study, focusing on the impacts of integrated pest management techniques on soil with specific focus on the effects on the microbial population.

A team of DPI staff working in collaboration with scientists from the CSIRO have won this year’s Daniel McAlpine DPI Science Award, for their development of a rapid diagnostic test for Abalone Viral Ganglioneuritis.

The disease has hit farmed and wild abalone stocks in Victorian waters and more recently was detected in Tasmanian abalone. The new test will help authorities respond quickly to control the spread of the disease whilst it is in its early stages.

Hugh McKay Future Farming Award

Winner: The Sanders Family, H. and L.M. Sanders, Three Bridges, Yarra Valley

Finalists: •Tim & Judy Croagh, Western Plains Pork Mt Mercer,
                 •Perennial Pasture Systems, Ararat

Nancy Millis Post Graduate Award

Winner: Cassie Scoble, LaTrobe University

Finalists: •Joshua Dean, LaTrobe University, Bundoora

                 •Elizabeth Ross, LaTrobe University

                 •Megan Verdon, University of Melbourne

Daniel McAlpine DPI Science Award

Winner: Abalone Virus Research Project Team

Finalists: •Chemical ecology of horticultural pests, Tatura
                 •Mexican Feather grass Melbourne
                 •Victorian Climate Change Adaptation Program, Ellinbank

Samuel Wadham Practice Change Award

Winner: Helping Dairy Farmers Secure their Water Future

Finalists: •EverGraze, Rutherglen