BRENDON CANT brendon at iinet.net.au
Thu Mar 25 02:14:38 CET 2010

March 25, 2010


In the past 10 years 38 agricultural science graduates have successfully
completed fourth year honours research projects with The University of
Western Australia (UWA) based Western Australian Herbicide Resistance
Initiative (WAHRI).

To celebrate the achievement, a reunion of former honours students was held
at UWA’s Institute of Agriculture last week.

In 1997 the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) decided a new
research team was needed to respond to herbicide resistance problems
emerging in WA cropping systems and WAHRI was the result.

Funded by GRDC, Australian Research Council (ARC) and UWA, it is located in
the School of Plant Biology, Faculty of Natural & Agricultural Sciences, at
UWA’s Crawley campus.

WAHRI founding Director, Winthrop Professor Stephen Powles, is an
international authority on all aspects of herbicide resistance, from basic
biochemical understanding of how plants evolve resistance, through to
practical on-farm management.

A passionate advocate of using crop and chemical rotations to delay the
onset of herbicide resistance, he is well known for his catch-phrase of
“When on a good thing, don’t stick to it”.

One of the world’s most highly cited plant scientists, Professor Powles was
this year awarded the GRDC ‘Seed of Light’ award, recognising his
contribution to agriculture and science.

“As inaugural and current Director, I’m honoured and proud to be here
celebrating 10 years of WAHRI achievements, especially with our fine output
of talented honours graduates and I acknowledge that it couldn’t have been
done without the outstanding commitment and contribution of former and
current students and staff,” he said.

WAHRI’s successful fourth year research/honours students have since gone on
to work nationally and internationally in diverse fields, such as agronomy,
consulting and farming in various private and government roles, including
with DAFWA, CSIRO, Elders, and Landmark.

Some, like Jason Ellerton who completed his fourth year research project on
mechanical seed destruction at harvest as an effective method for
controlling weeds, have pursued further studies.

Having completed a Masters in Environmental Engineering at Melbourne
University, he is now completing a PhD at Monash University on a plant-based
system to filter storm water for re-use.

According to Mr Ellerton, his fourth year research project at WAHRI was a
fabulous experience.

“The challenge of doing my project was matched by the guidance and
mentorship of Stephen Powles, who gave me the confidence to successfully
complete it. I collaborated with outstanding people on the project and made
some good friends from the experience,” he said.

Charlie Boyle, another fourth year honours student, who completed his
research project on multiple resistance in ryegrass populations of WA, now
works on his family farm at York and admits to giving his project
supervisors a run for their money during his final year.

“As one of the first fourth year projects, I broke Mike Walsh and Stephen in
as supervisors and for that reason fourth year was a blast,” he joked.

A number of fourth year students now farm, including Emma Wilson and Kent
Stone of Quairading, Tim Cusack of Narembeen and Tracy Lefroy of Walebing.

Other fourth year students include James Eyres of ConsultAg, Northam, who
completed his project on resistance evolution creep in ryegrass populations
following recurrent field selection with glyphosate and Wade Longmuir of
ConsultAG, Wagin, whose project was on using a competitive barley variety to
suppress weed growth .

Former WAHRI agronomist and dedicated fourth year student supervisor, Dr
Michael Walsh, who returns to WAHRI in June after a stint with the Birchip
Cropping Group in Victoria, addressed the reunion on what he learned as a
fourth year project supervisor.

“The most important lesson, from my experience as a supervisor of fourth
year agricultural science students, was that agriculture in WA is in good
hands,” Dr Walsh said.

WAHRI has also produced several successful PhD Scholars, including Dr Marta
Monjardino, Future Farm Industries CRC, Adelaide; Dr Martin Vila-Aiub,
University of Buenos Aires, Argentina; Dr Rick Llewellyn, CSIRO Sustainable
Ecosystems; Dr Chris Loo, Kings Park Botanic Gardens; Dr Pippa Michael,
Muresk, Curtin University; Dr David Ferris, DAFWA, Northam; Dr Catherine
Borger, DAFWA, Merredin; Dr David Minkey, WANTFA Executive Director and Dr
Shane Friesen, now  a grain grower in Canada.

Presenting the opening address at the WAHRI alumni function, Winthrop
Professor Kadambot Siddique, Director of UWA’s Institute of Agriculture,
said WAHRI had a proud record of achievement with its honours and PhD
students, especially in the area of applied science.

“UWA, its Institute of Agriculture and WAHRI are about doing and then
translating high quality research into the appropriate community, in this
case the broadacre farmers of WA,” he said.


Authorised by ‘Institute of Agriculture – UWA’ and issued on its behalf by
Brendon Cant & Associates (+61) 8 9384 1122
Winthrop Professor Stephen Powles (+61) 0418 927 181

Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique (+61) 0411 155 396

WHY WAHRI.doc/PowlesSiddique240310

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