The winner of the 2014 Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) western region Seed of Light award is Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) research officer Ben Biddulph.
The presentation of the award – made annually to someone who makes a significant contribution to communicating the outcomes of grains research – took place today at Perth’s Agribusiness Crop Updates, supported by the GRDC and DAFWA.
Making the presentation, GRDC western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts described Dr Biddulph as a leading researcher and communicator of research into key grain production issues such as frost and drought.
“Ben is originally from a farm at Ravensthorpe and his agricultural background means he has an enhanced understanding of Western Australian farming systems and can communicate very effectively with growers,” Mr Roberts said.
“He is respected by growers and grower groups for his ability to distil often complex information, making it easy to understand.
“Ben is equally skilled at communicating research results to the media and his fellow scientists.
“The GRDC relies heavily on scientists such as Ben to conduct and communicate the research in which it invests. This research is guided by direct grower input and using funding from the grower levy and the Australian Government.”
Despite his relatively young age, Dr Biddulph has achieved important results in his role as research officer responsible for DAFWA research into abiotic (climate and soil) crop stresses including frost, drought and pre-harvest sprouting, as well as phenological adaptation of wheat.
“Frost is the GRDC western regional panel’s number one research priority and is increasingly an issue in other cropping regions of Australia,” Mr Roberts said.
“It is estimated to cost the national grains industry more than $360 million each year.
“Ben helped develop crucial ‘frost phenotyping’ methodology, which allows researchers to accurately measure and quantify the effect of frost on varieties in the field, regardless of environmental conditions.
“Breaking through this research ‘brick wall’ has allowed the GRDC to lift its investment in frost research to more than $3 million annually and to increase its focus on other areas of frost research such as farming systems.”
Dr Biddulph is co-leading the Australian National Frost Program (ANFP) which is developing sensitivity ratings for wheat and barley varieties and identifying frost-tolerant barley and wheat germplasm for use in breeding programs.
“Ben also coordinates research at Merredin’s Managed Environment Facility, focusing on stresses such as drought and heat,” Mr Roberts said.
“The drought trials are assisting researchers and breeders to better understand drought tolerance traits to help them develop more consistent yielding, better quality crops for variable rainfall areas.”
Previous GRDC western region Seed of Light winners include Jeremy Lemon, Owen Grieve, Geoff Fosbery, Stephen Powles, Bill Bowden, Peter Newman, Peter Mangano, Bill Crabtree, Cameron Weeks, Peter Nelson, Ros Jettner, Vanessa Stewart, Rob Loughman and Fran Hoyle.
Details of GRDC Seed of Light winners can be found at www.grdc.com.au/seedoflight
Photo Caption: GRDC western regional panel chairman Peter Roberts, left, congratulates GRDC western region Seed of Light award winner Ben Biddulph.