The AEV Richardson Memorial National Student Award began in 2012 and is now an official AIA annual event. Undergraduate students who have completed an Honours research project as part of an agricultural science (or related) degree will be selected from each AIA Division of Australia. In order to compete, the selected students must provide a written piece on the background of their research topic and also present a 15 minute talk to a judging panel at the annual AIA event.
Professor Arnold Edwin Victor Richardson was the founding President of AIAS (now AIA) in 1935. He was born in Adelaide in 1883 and died in Melbourne in 1949. His impressive biography tells of his training at Agricultural College (Roseworthy) and Bachelor and Masters degrees at the University of Adelaide. The University of Melbourne conferred him with the degree of D.Sc. in 1924. While being an established researcher in cereal agronomy and wheat-breeding, Professor Richardson was a leader of many dimensions and levels. He was an advocate for agricultural education and agricultural policy. Read more on Professor AEV Richardson here.
Max’s research topic at the University of Tasmania was ‘The Spatial Variability of Soil Micronutrient Concentrations in King Island Production Systems’.
King Island is a highly productive region of Tasmania. Producers have observed micronutrient deficiencies in their livestock and believe it may be limiting production. In response to this, soil samples were collected across the island and analysed using ICP-OES to determine the soil concentrations of micronutrients. These concentrations were then mapped using GIS software to create soil micronutrient concentration maps for the island to assist with identifying areas that may require further investigation.
It was found that areas of King Island were deficient in copper, manganese and cobalt. It is possible that the soil micronutrient deficiencies that were mapped may be causing the observed deficiencies in livestock reported by producers. Further research is required to validate and increase the accuracy and reliability of these maps so they be used to assist farmer decision making.
Jefferson’s research topic at Curtin University was “Host-specific differential gene expression in the fungal necrotroph Sclerotinia sclerotiorum”.
Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is a fungal pathogen that infects commercially important broadleaf crop species such as Brassica napus (canola) and Glycine max (soybeans). A distinctive feature of S. sclerotiorum is its unusually broad host range, with hundreds of known host species. The driving factors behind this broad host range are not yet well understood. One possibility is that S. sclerotiorum expresses different pathogenicity genes to infect different hosts.
“RNA sequencing was used to analyse gene expression of S. sclerotiorum in the common wheatbelt crops B. napus and Lupinus angustifolius (narrow-leaved lupins). Overall, 53 genes were differentially expressed by S. sclerotiorum between the two plant hosts. Many of these genes appeared to play a role in the detoxification of plant-derived compounds associated with the hosts defence response.
The findings of this study may aid future efforts to improve the control of S. sclerotiorum through novel fungicide modes of action or RNA interference.
Stephanie’s research topic at the University of Sydney was “Entomology – Soldier flies for protein production and waste reduction”.
Soldier flies are becoming a popular source of protein for use in the animal feed industry as they efficiently convert organic waste into edible protein. However, recent research on other insect species has found low conversion efficiency and high mortality when insects are fed low protein foods such as food waste. Soldier fly larvae are frequently found in composters containing low protein plant waste and thus might be able to survive on lower quality wastes. This study investigated the protein conversion efficiency of black soldier flies (BSF), Hermetia illucens, and Australian native garden soldier flies (GSF), Exaireta spinigera, under laboratory and field conditions respectively. While BSF is commercially produced, virtually nothing is known about the ecology, behaviour or bioconversion abilities of GSF. Although I demonstrated benefits to protein conversion efficiency, content and yield when food waste was supplemented by a small amount of high-protein poultry feed, both BSF and GSF produced adequate protein when fed solely on low quality food waste.
Olwen’s research topic at the University of Queensland was “Recovery rates of disease suppressive soil microbes using different isolation techniques.”Panama disease, caused by the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc), undermines global banana production. Fungicides are not effective against the disease; however, a number of soil microorganisms have been shown to suppress the disease and may offer viable biocontrol on-farm. In this project I screened a range of bacteria and fungi isolated from soil for their ability to suppress the growth of Foc Sub-tropical Race 4 (SR4) in dual culture plate assays. I explored whether more suppressive taxa can be isolated from naturally suppressive soils and if the method of isolation influences the proportion of suppressive taxa isolated from soils. This work has identified several potential biocontrol agents for Foc SR4 and demonstrated that suppressive taxa can be collected from both conducive and suppressive soil using a range of isolation techniques.
Daniel’s research topic at the University of Adelaide was ‘Herbicide resistance in Sonchus oleraceus (common sowthistle) and its management in Lens culinaris (lentil)’. Control failures were investigated in seventeen populations of Sonchus oleraceus (common sowthistle) from fields in the intensive Lens culinaris (lentil) producing regions of South Australia by screening for resistance to acetolactate synthase (ALS) inhibitor, 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS) inhibitor and synthetic auxin herbicides. A high incidence of resistance was detected in these populations to the imidazolinone (64%) and sulfonylurea (86%) classes of ALS-inhibitor herbicides, while more than half of populations (64%) expressed cross-resistance. All populations were susceptible to the synthetic auxin and EPSPS-inhibitor herbicides. Dose-response studies revealed high levels of sulfonylurea resistance (>32-fold) and weak imidazolinone (1- to 7-fold) resistance compared to the susceptible population. A missense mutation was elucidated at the Pro197 residue in all S. oleraceus populations by sequencing the ALS gene. Amino acid substitutions at this residue are known to encode target-site resistance to ALS-inhibitor herbicides in other weed species. A whole-plant bioassay showed that viable seed production by S. oleraceus was completely inhibited (100%) by glyphosate, glyphosate + saflufenacil and paraquat applications at anthesis. These herbicides are applied when L. culinaris reach physiological maturity to alleviate post-maturation losses associated with non-uniform crop ripening. Reducing fresh seedbank inputs will improve the management of S. oleraceus, as the onset of resistance means that there are currently no selective post-emergent herbicides available to control this species in L. culinaris.