Juggling work commitments and study has paid off for three University of Western Australia (UWA) post-graduate students who recently completed their theses with the Western Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (WAHRI).
David Minkey, Catherine Borger and David Ferris were granted study leave from the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) to complete their PhDs with WAHRI.
Based at the UWA School of Plant Biology, they will soon be awarded doctorates for their research.
WAHRI Director, Professor Stephen Powles is very impressed with the graduates’ dedication and commitment, acknowledging their research training would help graingrowers.
“The three projects were quite diverse, examining regional differences in ryegrass adaptation, identifying new roly poly grass species and assessing ants as potential weed control agents,” he said.
David Ferris examined ryegrass biology throughout the WA grainbelt, comparing different regions and adaptation rates.
“He crossed diploid ryegrass from the WA wheatbelt with tetrapoid ryegrass and showed it produced a sterile tetrapoid,” Professor Powles said.
“This will ultimately assist growers by removing resistance genetically. A number of growers have planted tetrapoid ryegrass as pasture and won’t be disappointed since it’s a vigorous grower,” he said.
Catherine Borger studied the biology and management of roly poly, or tumbleweed and found that the major WA species, thought to be an immigrant from the USA, was actually native to Australia. She renamed this species Salsola australis.
Her Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) supported PhD discovered the US tumbleweed species was more competitive than S. australis in cropping.
“So, quarantine should attempt to prevent it entering Australia,” Professor Powles said.
Mr Ferris and Ms Borger have returned to DAFWA and are based at Northam and Merredin.
David Minkey received a WAHRI and GRDC scholarship for his PhD on weed management in
no-tillage systems, focusing on weed seed predation by ants.
According to Mr Minkey, ants have a significant role as weed control agents because they remove large numbers of seeds.
“This helps regulate weed populations so they don’t blow out,” he said.
“No-till systems have greater ant predation and subsequent seed loss and combining predation and decay is more important for seed loss than germination alone.”
As WAHRI extension officer, Mr Minkey runs integrated weed management courses as part of a Weed CRC initiative, organises farmer groups and addresses eastern states grower groups visiting WAHRI.
He encouraged graduates with research aspirations in agricultural and natural resource management to become involved with UWA’s post-graduate program at the Institute of Agriculture.
“Research students receive financial support, ready access to all facilities and the independence to explore ideas with support from world class scientists dedicated to cultivating students’ research endeavours,” Mr Minkey said.
“UWA’s strong fundamental research track record and links with industry, farmer groups and national and international organisations means research is applied directly in the field to help better Australian agriculture.”
Professor Powles congratulated DAFWA on providing study leave for the three young scientists to realise their ambitions of completing a PhD.
“The capacity building partnership between DAFWA and UWA continues to strengthen,” he said.
“I believe all three graduates will make major contributions to WA agriculture.”
Professor Kadambot Siddique, Telephone (+61 8) 6488 7012, Mobile 0411 155 396
Professor Stephen Powles, Telephone (+61 8) 6488 7833
David Minkey, Telephone (+61 8) 6488 7872
David Ferris, Telephone (+61 8) 9690 2117
Catherine Borger, Telephone (+61 8) 9081 3149