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Horticulture researcher receives top Minister’s award to help improve avocado production

Publication date: 9 March 2015

HORTICULTURE researcher Dr Alice Hayward received the highest recognition at the 2015 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry last week, taking home the Minister’s Award and the Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA) Award.

Dr Hayward, from A/Prof Neena Mitter’s research team at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation at the University of Queensland, was one of 11 recipients recognised for their contribution to progressing research across rural industries.

“I am incredibly grateful to HIA and the Department of Agriculture for supporting our invaluable research, and for the encouragement and guidance of A/Prof Neena Mitter,” Dr Hayward said.

“Using the Award prize money, I aim to produce a public draft genome of the Hass avocado variety, research that underpins the future of crop improvement.

"This work will significantly boost our current research into clonal avocado propagation and disease control in the Mitter lab, as well as avocado research globally. We will also apply the latest genomic technologies to fighting root-rot disease, which is a major disease threat to the Australian avocado industry.

“Finding genes that improve avocados’ resilience to diseases will potentially help save growers years in breeding new varieties. If we find genetic factors that improve things like disease or drought tolerance in avocado, we can look for them in other horticultural produce as well.”

HIA CEO John Lloyd said it was important that HIA and other Research and Development Corporations supported these awards to encourage Australia’s up and coming researchers and supported their commitment to improving productivity for our growers.

“I am immensely proud that a researcher from the horticulture sector has received the Minister’s Award,” Mr Lloyd said.

“Research plays a vital role in determining long term investments for the Australian horticulture sector and ensuring a sustainable and competitive industry into the future.

“Dr Hayward’s research into developing the world’s only publicly available draft genome for avocados is no exception. The lack of a publicly released genome is a major bottleneck for avocado research and industry, both in Australia and on a global scale.”

According to Dr Hayward, the awards she received have provided a platform to work towards an International Avocado Genome Sequencing Consortium.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce presented the Science Awards at gala dinner as part of Australia’s agricultural and economic forecasting event—Outlook 2015.

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