Ag science: more than just farming

AUSTRALIA produces 60% of the world market demand of pyrethrum and Tasmania is the greatest contributor to that figure.
Nanjing Night Net

Spreyton’s Tamieka Pearce has proved that despite many Australians, and even some researchers, not knowing what pyrethrum is, her research into the disease crown rot is being noticed.

Miss Pearce came out on top of four students from across the nation to present her honours project, which focuses on crown rot, as part of the Agricultural Institute of Australia’s inaugural National Young Professionals in Agriculture Competition in Adelaide earlier this month.

“It was funny at the Ag Institute conference, they kept talking about poppies and how Tasmania produces more than 50% of the world’s demand, but no one thinks of pyrethrum and half the people at the conference didn’t even know what it was,” she said.

Miss Pearce’s honours project looked into the population genetics of crown rot in pyrethrum and focused on determining if a sexual cycle was present in the fungal pathogen that causes crown rot.

Miss Pearce said the win gave her the confidence that the research she is doing is was something people were interested in.

“The three other people that I was up against gave amazing presentations, so to be able to beat them made me feel really good and gave me confidence, but also made me realise that research is really where I want to go,” she said.

It was in the summer of 2010-11 that Miss Pearce completed a project for Botanical Resources Australia at the University of Tasmania Cradle Coast Campus that sparked her interest in fungal genetics and plant pathology.

This then led to her honours project.

Her honours presentation won first prize at the Ag Institute’s Tasmanian forum at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture Showcase, held in November last year.

She graduated with first-class honours and won the Ag Institute of Tasmania medallion for 2011.

As the winner of the Tasmanian forum, Miss Pearce was invited to represent Tasmania and competed against finalists from Western Australia, Queensland and NSW on August 2, which she won.

Miss Pearce admits that ag science was never an option when applying for university courses, with biotechnology her focus.

It was not until the second year of her degree that she lost interest in biotechnology – which had a focus on human medicine – and decided an ag science degree would enable her to study plant and animal genetics, as well as gain a broad understanding of agricultural science concepts.

“I guess I’d always thoughtthat ag science was for farmers, but it’s not and this is something I hope to convey with my research,” she said.

Miss Pearce started her PhD in March at the UTAS Cradle Coast campus and expects to finish mid 2015.

“I chose to complete it at the Cradle Coast campus instead of Hobart, as I wanted to be closer to my family and partner and the TIA division at the Cradle Coast is such a supportive and encouraging place to be undertaking research,” she said.

Miss Pearce’s PhD is a continuation of work into tan spot in pyrethrum.

“The incidence of this disease, caused by a fungal species called Microsphaeropsis tanaceti, has increased over the last decade and is now quite severe in a proportion of pyrethrum fields, leading to early crop termination,” she said.

The PhD project is jointly funded by BRA and TIA and Miss Pearce said the research would try to determine why it was increasing in frequency as well as learn more about the fungal species, including how it was being spread; the host range; and the interactions between the pathogen and plant that resulted in infection – all of which are important to allow farmers to monitor and control the disease in the field.

“We also want to look at why it has increased in frequency, if it has got some sort of resistance to a fungicide or it is more pathogenic than some of the other fungal species that are out there or whether the plants are more susceptible than they use to be,” Miss Pearce said.

“Hopefully, by my third year, I’d really like to start looking at the plant and fungi interaction, how they interact to cause the infection and see if we can find some ways to make the plant resistant.”We can’t rely on fungicides forever, so if we can find plants that are resistant then that will be a really good step.”

UTAS PHD student Tamieka Pearce was given the opportunity to present her honours project at a Young Professionals in Agriculture competition. Picture: Stuart Wilson.

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Local invests $6m in miner

LOCAL magnate Dale Elphinstone has swooped into the Tarkine mining debate, with a million lift for a start-up miner.
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Elphinstone Holdings plans to invest million in Tarkine mining hopeful Venture Minerals and will become a substantial shareholder.

Venture Minerals managing director Hamish Halliday said the capital raising left the company fully funded for the development and targeted commencement of its two planned iron ore projects.

“The remainder of 2012 and 2013 will be an exciting time for Venture as we move towards production at the DSO (direct shipping ore) iron ore projects and further progress the development of the Mt Lindsay project.”

Mining the flagship tin-tungsten deposit at Mt Lindsay could lead to up to 200 jobs, Venture has said.

“Under the terms of the ($15thmillion) placement, highly regarded Tasmanian-based Elphinstone Holdings has undertaken to invest $6 million in Venture,” Venture said.

“Post the capital raising, Elphinstone will emerge as a substantial shareholder in the company.”

Venture’s hopes of at least three mines in the Tarkine are meeting strong opposition from environmentalists, spearheaded by the Tarkine National Coalition.

Mr Elphinstone made his money in heavy mining equipment and astute investment.

Venture said it and Elphinstone Holdings had entered an agreement to explore ways Elphinstone could help Venture advance its projects in Tasmania.

“This involves Elphinstone providing strategic assistance with the ongoing advancement of Venture’s projects in Tasmania, being the preferred provider of mining equipment and services on a commercially competitive basis with respect to those projects and an ongoing relationship for mutual benefit.”

Tasmanian Minerals Council CEO Terry Long said there was clearly investor appetite, which was encouraging.

“I’m pleased to see Dale Elphinstone as a cornerstone investor.”

“That gives the project significant local content.”

Comment was being sought from Mr Elphinstone.

Dale Elphinstone

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Public service could do with a trim 

FOR all the controversy about state public service cutbacks, our public service remains massive and much too expensive.
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Sean Ford

With 945 full-time equivalent jobs gone between June 2011 and June 2012, the “total general government sector” still employed 24,507 FTEs.

That is more than the entire population of Central Coast and a touch less than the entire population of Devonport.

It does not count employees of various government business enterprises.

It also does not count federal public servants based in Tasmania, nor does it count the massive local government sector.

The breakdown was:

Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts, 423 FTEs;

Education, 8725;

Health and Human Services, 9298;

Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, 472;

Justice, 1044;

Ministerial and parliamentary support, 141;

Police and Emergency Management, 1540;

Premier and Cabinet, 294;

Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, 1248;

Tasmania Fire Service, 443;

Tasmanian Skills Institute, 289;

Treasury and Finance, 283;

Parliamentary and statutory offices, 309.

For a state with slightly more than 500,000 people, the size of the service is grossly excessive.

At a packed budget media conference a few years back, at least a couple of journos were gobsmacked when then-treasurer Michael Aird acknowledged there were no measures in place to gauge public service productivity.

The state service had been growing like Topsy for years and nobody had even bothered to measure its effectiveness.

More recently, an independent review has been done covering state service governance, structural arrangements and appeal and review mechanisms relating to employment.

According to the State Treasury, options were identified for alternative governance models “that adhere to good governance principles”, including efficiency and effectiveness, accountability, fairness and merit.

Treasury says the report had gone to “key stakeholders” for comment.

“Subject to feedback and government endorsement, implementation is expected to occur in 2013…”.

Let’s hope it’s a robust report and that they don’t manage to water it down and “Sir Humphrey” it.

A lean, mean state service with not a dollar wasted, focusing only on things that matter, should be the goal.

The glaring political weakness in what has happened so far with state service cutbacks is the cuts to frontline staff, particularly in health and police.

Health, particularly, must get more efficient.

We see frontline police decreasing and officers still sitting in the courts in Burnie and Launceston.

This reform process should be as much about what people do as about anything else.

Get the functions and the efficiencies right and savings will be easy and relatively painless.

For all the controversy about cutbacks, cutbacks are needed.

And the process needs to continue.

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Chamley returns to sportin blaze of glory

CHAMPION powerlifter Christina Chamley says training for a completely different sport has helped her bring home a national title.
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Christina competed at the Australian Powerlifting Championships held in Newcastle last month, winning her third consecutive Australian title.

She won her division, and for the first time took out the competition’s Best Female Bench Presser.

She had the perfect lifting day, successfully bench pressing all three of her attempts: 77.5, 82.5 and finally 85kgs.

It was a prolapsed disc in her back in April 2011 that saw her take up outrigger canoeing, a sport which would eventually help to reignite her passion for powerlifting.

“I went away from the sport for about six months (after the injury).” Chamley said.

“During that time I took up training with the Cradle Coast Outrigger Canoe Club, and even competed at the National Marathon Championships in May this year.

“When I returned I felt ready to go back to the gym, and then realised I was still competitive in the bench press, so I made the snap decision to compete.”

Chamley has now qualified to compete at the World Masters Bench Press Championships to be held in Prague in April 2013, where she expects to do well.

“If I improve before then, and lift well on the day, I know I will be competitive.”

The accomplishment marks a rapid improvement for the 42-year-old Burnie mother.

“Two years ago at my first Nationals, I bench pressed 52.5kgs and I have added 32.5kgs to my bench press since then.

“It just goes to prove everything improves with practice and training. I encourage everyone one, but especially women, to find a sport that they enjoy, pursue it and reap the benefits of training.”

Christina Chamley trains at Wynyard’s Powerstation Gym after returning from the Australian Powerlifting Championships where she won her third consecutive Australian title. Picture: Tony Cross.

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Anti-abuse campaigner happy to spread word

STEVE Fisher has been campaigning against sexual abuse for years, and now he wants to spread the word about respect.
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The Devonport-based Beyond Abuse spokesman is hugely enthusiastic about The Advocate’s Show Some Respect campaign.

He aims to get the word out to his large network of contacts and hopes they will get their contacts involved as well.

“It’s one of those things I can’t support enough,” Mr Fisher said yesterday.

The campaign, which has received national exposure, grew from concern about abuse and assaults of teachers, police, hospital workers and emergency services personnel.

“I think no matter what happens in people’s lives, there’s no reason, especially for emergency services personnel, to be assaulted and so forth,” Mr Fisher said.

“I think it comes back to the way people are brought up and the values of society today.

“It’s something that needs looking at and changing.”

He said a public initiative like Show Some Respect was fantastic and would hopefully become a nationwide movement.

“It’s something that’s needed.

“I hope by doing this we can start to change community attitudes.

“I plan on letting everybody I come into contact with know what we’re trying to do and know what it’s all about, then encouraging them to use their networks and spread the word even further.”

The Show Some Respect pledge can be signed at The Advocate’s Devonport and Burnie offices, via the Show Some Respect Facebook page or via www.theadvocate南京夜网.au

Show Some Respect supports –

Greater empowerment of police to better deal with public order issues;

tougher sentencing, especially for serious assaults on emergency service workers; and

more funding for parenting and family programs to help deal with intergenerational issues.

Steve Fisher, from Beyond Abuse, signs the Show Some Respect pledge. Picture: Jason Hollister.

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