Cotton researchers win CSIROs top award

By October 12th, 2011

The team of researchers responsible for developing a new variety of cotton which now constitutes 80 per cent of Australia's total annual cotton crop was today presented with CSIRO's highest award for excellence – the Chairman’s Medal for Research Achievement.

Based in Narrabri, NSW, CSIRO Plant Industry’s Cotton Breeding and Biotechnology Team spent years developing the new more environmentally friendly, disease-resistant, high-yield variety – Sicot 71BRF.

CSIRO Chairman, Simon McKeon, said the team’s success in producing a variety which now – just two years after its commercial release – dominates the industry landscape, highlights CSIRO’s continuing ability to deliver the advancements required to maintain the Australian industry’s competitiveness.

“In providing a highly desirable package of advantages over other cotton varieties, the team has delivered significant economic, social and environmental benefits to growers throughout Australia,” Mr McKeon said.

“In 2010–11 the industry’s high adoption rate of Sicot 71BRF benefited the industry and the regional communities dependent on cotton production (gross value $1.7b; marginal value $61m), and the flow-on is helping many rural communities recover from a period of decline brought on by prolonged drought.

“The team’s research also shows more yield is being obtained with the same water inputs – so, Sicot 71BRF is contributing to a better environmental profile for cotton.”

Sicot 71BRF also contains traits that make it resistant to Helicoverpa pests thereby reducing the need to use insecticides by 80 per cent.

“In providing a highly desirable package of advantages over other cotton varieties, the team has delivered significant economic, social and environmental benefits to growers throughout Australia,”

said Mr Simon McKeon, CSIRO Chairman.

Other CSIRO Award winners included:

  • Dr Bruce Webber from CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences won the John Philip Award for the Promotion of Excellence in Young Scientists for his exceptional research into managing invasive species in a rapidly changing climate. His work has significant implications for the development of adaptation strategies designed to protect biodiversity in Australia and the rest of the world.
  • CSIRO’s Amyloid Structure Team received the Research Achievement Medal for determining one of the first known structures of amyloid beta – a toxic protein that forms damaging plaques in the brain which are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Dr Trevor Bird won the CSIRO Medal for Lifetime Achievement for his inspirational leadership and outstanding technical contributions to the international satellite industry and radio astronomy – particularly design techniques and innovations for multibeam antennas now employed in both applications worldwide.

For their outstanding long-term contributions to leading-edge research in science or engineering the following three scientists were appointed as CSIRO Fellows:

  • CSIRO Plant Industry’s Dr Richard Richards for pioneering an integrated approach to crop improvement based on sound scientific principles that have delivered new varieties of wheat to Australian industry. Dr Richards’ work provides the only global example to date of a new scientific discovery that has lead directly to the delivery of new crop varieties.
  • Professor Michael McLaughlin, for his outstanding contribution to our understanding of the behaviour of nutrients and contaminants in the environment. A joint appointee between CSIRO Land & Water and The University of Adelaide, Professor McLaughlin’s work has provided a new scientific basis for the regulation of contaminants in the environment globally and the development of new fertilisers.
  • CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research scientist Dr John Finnigan for his contributions to the measurement and modelling of atmospheric flow over complex terrain. Dr Finnigan’s work has had a profound influence on the way the exchange of trace gases, energy and momentum between the atmosphere and land surfaces is modelled and measured. More recently he led the establishment of complex systems science and global integrated assessment modelling in CSIRO and Australia, which provides the capability to model and analyse problems associated with global climate change.

Media are invited to attend the 2011 CSIRO Awards ceremony:

When: From 11.30am until 2 pm, Wednesday 12 October, 2011

Where: Park Hyatt Melbourne, 1 Parliament Square (off Parliament Place), Melbourne, Victoria.

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