Agriculture researchers honoured at Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) Innovation Dinner

Dr Angela van de Wouw (School of BioSciences) and Dr Shu Kee (Raymond) Lam (Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences) received the prestigious ICM Agrifood Award at the ATSE Innovation Dinner, recognising their contribution to the Australian agriculture and food sector.

Dr Angela Van de Wouw and Dr Shu Kee Lam receive ICM Agribusiness Award 2018

Dr Angela Van de Wouw (left) and Dr Shu Kee (Raymond) Lam (right) receive ICM Agribusiness Award 2018

Dr van de Wouw is a senior research fellow in the School of BioSciences and is internationally recognised as a leading expert on canola blackleg disease. Caused by a fungus, blackleg almost wiped out the Australian canola industry in the 1970s.

“Blackleg is one of the most severe canola diseases in Australia,” Dr Van de Wouw explained.

“We take a multidisciplinary approach to fighting this disease, considering genetic solutions whereby we identify resistant canola genes for breeding into improved crop varieties, and we have also developed molecular tests that can predict outbreaks.”

By taking a ‘genome to paddock’ approach, Dr van de Wouw has helped to prevent crop losses worth many millions of dollars every year in an industry worth $2.5 billion to Australia.

“We work closely with breeders, researchers and the broader industry to make sure growers are armed with effective management options to protect their canola crops,” she said.

“It is important that our research delivers new insights and practical solutions to help growers control this devastating disease.”

The impact of her innovative research has also been felt beyond Australia, playing a critical role in overcoming trade restrictions with China. After fears of blackleg contamination, Dr Van de Wouw’s research helped reopen the Chinese market to Australian canola imports in 2013.

“It is an honour to receive such a prestigious Award. To be recognised for my research, and the impact it is having on helping growers protect the value of this important Australian crop.”

Dr Lam is a Research Fellow at the School of Agriculture and Food in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences.

His work addresses how future climate conditions, with elevated carbon dioxide levels, will impact soil health and the key soil-plant processes that control nitrogen supply and crop utilisation. Dr Lam uses ‘big data’ to conduct meta-analysis of the effectiveness of various mitigation strategies for nitrogen loss and is working towards a sustainability index, which he hopes will provide policymakers with the tools to measure the sustainability of agricultural production.

“It is so pleasing to receive this ICM Agrifood Award; that an august body such as the Academy of Technological Sciences has recognised the value and impact of my research. It is gratifying to know that the insights it delivers can help improve farming practices and the efficient production of food in a changing climate.”

The ICM Agrifood Award, administered by ATSE, is awarded to the two most outstanding young Australian scientists or technologists for their contribution to, and achievement in, a field critical to the continued improvement of the overall Australian food sector. Winners each receive a cash prize of $5000, sponsored by ICM Agribusiness, one of Australia’s major agribusiness groups.