New re­cruits ex­pand re­search

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

Agriculture Vic­to­ria’s na­tional lead­er­ship in pulse re­search has had a boost, with four new sci­en­tists join­ing the re­search and in­no­va­tion team at Hor­sham’s Grains In­no­va­tion Park.

Agriculture Vic­to­ria re­search sci­en­tist Dr Josh Fan­ning has taken on the role of pulse pathol­o­gist; Dr Arun Shun­mugam has joined a molec­u­lar plant-breed­ing team as a lentil breeder; plant molec­u­lar vi­rol­o­gist Dr Solomon Maina’s work will in­clude up­grad­ing ex­otic virus screen­ing pro­cesses; and WKH IRFXV IRU $EE\ *ULI¿Q ZLOO EH SXOVH agron­omy.

5HVHDUFK GLUHFWRU 7UDFL *ULI¿Q VDLG the new mem­bers brought skills and ex­pe­ri­ence that, col­lec­tively, would im­prove out­comes for pulse grow­ers and Vic­to­ria’s bur­geon­ing pulse in­dus­try.

³-RVK DQG $EE\ DUH ¿OOLQJ H[FLWLQJ new po­si­tions, cre­ated to meet grow­ing de­mand for pulse pathol­ogy and agronRP\ UHVHDUFK ZKLOH $UXQ KDV ¿OOHG D re­cently va­cated role,” she said.

“Solomon will be work­ing within the mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy team, which is tasked with en­sur­ing biose­cu­rity pro­ce­dures fa­cil­i­tate the safe move­ment of pulse germplasm in and out of Aus­tralia.”

Dr Fan­ning, spe­cial­is­ing in soil­borne dis­eases for the past four years, said he was ex­cited to ex­pand his role into pulse pathol­ogy.

Since start­ing in the role, Dr Fan­ning has fo­cused on pulse-dis­ease sur­veil­lance to en­sure dis­ease rat­ings were up-to-date, which would en­able pulse breed­ers to de­velop and re­lease more re­sis­tant va­ri­eties.

$PRQJ SHRSOH ZKR ZLOO EHQH¿W IURP the re­sults of Dr Fan­ning’s re­search will be new lentil breeder Dr Shun­mugam.

Dr Shun­mugam’s pas­sion for lentils has taken him across the globe, re­lo­cat­ing to Hor­sham from Saskatchewan in Canada and, be­fore that, from his home­land in In­dia.

He ad­mit­ted the move to Hor­sham was a big leap, hav­ing pre­vi­ously only lived in large cities. But he said he and his young fam­ily looked for­ward to the change.

“I wanted to come here for two rea­sons. Firstly, be­cause I re­ally love lentils, one of the im­por­tant diet sta­ples in In­dia, and se­condly be­cause plant breed­ers at Grains In­no­va­tion Park prac­tise phys­i­o­log­i­cal plant breed­ing, as op­posed to con­ven­tional breed­ing, which is what I was do­ing in my pre­vi­ous roles,” he said.

“This means we look at the whole plant or crop, rather than just fo­cus­ing on one trait, and can con­sider real-time is­sues such as heat and drought.”

Dr Maina has also moved to Hor­sham to take up his new role.

He ar­rived in Hor­sham last month from Perth, and be­fore that was in Nairobi, Kenya.

Dr Maina’s new role in­volves sup­port­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of seed that is free of dis­eases to the Aus­tralian Grains Genebank at Hor­sham.

Plant breed­ers then use this seed to de­velop new and im­proved va­ri­eties for farm­ers.

“The aim is to up­grade cur­rent ex­otic virus screen­ing pro­cesses to make it PRUH HI¿FLHQW WR LGHQWLI\ VHHG ERUQH viruses and pre­vent their in­tro­duc­tion into Aus­tralia,” Dr Maina said.

)RU QHZ VFLHQWLVW $EE\ *ULI¿Q WKH move to Hor­sham from Queens­land to take on a pulse agron­omy role was less daunt­ing.

0V *ULI¿Q JUHZ XS LQ +RUVKDP EH fore re­lo­cat­ing to Bris­bane, where Grain­corp em­ployed her as a qual­ity su­per­vi­sor for their Bris­bane port ter­mi­nals.

Her new role will in­clude over­see­ing ¿HOG WULDOV IRU WKH 6RXWKHUQ 3XOVH 9DO ida­tion pro­gram to build on re­search ¿QGLQJV IURP WKH 6RXWKHUQ 3XOVH Agron­omy pro­gram led by Dr Ja­son Brand.

“We are look­ing at many re­search ques­tions within the ar­eas of her­bi­cide tol­er­ance, dis­ease man­age­ment and canopy man­age­ment, and are reDOO\ SDVVLRQDWH DERXW ¿QGLQJ LPSURYH ments that can be in­cor­po­rated into cur­rent farm­ing sys­tems,” she said.

“It’s good to be back home in the Wim­mera and con­tribut­ing to im­prov­ing a crop that is so im­por­tant to farm­ers and the re­gional economy.”

Grains Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion in­vest­ments, in part­ner­ship with Agriculture Vic­to­ria, have led to the new pulse re­search po­si­tions.

TEAM BOOST: New re­search team mem­bers, from left, Solomon Maina, -RVK )DQQLQJ $EE\ *ULI¿Q DQG $UXQ 6KXQPXJDP

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