HORSHAM’S Dr Angela van de Wouw recently received the prestigious ICM Agrifood Award, recognising her contribution to the Australian agriculture and food sector.
Dr van de Wouw is a senior research fellow at Melbourne University’s 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,” she said.
“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 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. She said it was an honour to have received 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,” she said.
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. This year’s pother winner was soil health expert Dr Shu Kee (Raymond) Lam.