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Published: 30 Sep 2020

Edna Chong in carrot field

Honours students from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) will present their final project findings to a live stream audience and the Ag Institute Australia (AIA) for judging of the state Student Award, with the winner to represent Tasmania at the National Student Awards.

“Support and encouragement of our future agriculturists is a prime objective of AIA and we look forward to these presentations each year. The presentations are always of a high calibre and this is increasing each year. The Tasmanian representatives are consistently strong contenders for the national award,” Les Baxter Tasmanian Division AIA Board Chair said.

The presentations are part of the student’s final assessment and provide a fantastic opportunity for industry engagement as students prepare to step into their professional careers.

Industry connections gained throughout their degree are vital to the success of student’s projects and development of their professional network.

“Most of the students’ projects have been achieved by working directly with industry partners, and the seminars are a great chance for industry to see the quality of work coming from our dedicated students,” Dr Beth Penrose, lecturer in pasture science said.

“The seminars also allow the students to show industry their skills and knowledge, which can often lead to job offers and networking opportunities. The Honours degrees at TIA really help to embed students into industry and be truly job-ready from the moment they graduate.”

Hannah Cummins at her Family Farm

Honours student, Hannah Cummins, has worked with industry to investigate the use of growth regulators on Tasmanian industrial hemp to help solve challenges facing some growers.

“Industrial hemp can grow really tall and ropey, so there is a lot of waste that can also cause damage to the machinery as it wraps around everything. If we can shorten the plant, we will have less of the fibrous stem bi product left afterwards,” Miss Cummins said.

“I really wanted my honours project to be an industry relevant project and help bridge that gap between the growers at the grass roots of production and the continued advances in science and technology.”

Miss Cummins wants to focus on agronomy and work as a consultant in the future whilst also continuing her family’s farm as the fourth generation.

William Coad

Honours Student, William Coad, is investigating the nodulation of white clover, a common legume used in pastures, in Tasmanian dairy farms and looking at soil characteristics that influence performance.

Mr Coad worked directly with industry, including 22 farms across the state, to develop his project which will have direct benefits to the way farmers manage their pastures.

“We’ll be giving the results back to the farmers that shows how their white clover is performing as well as soil characteristics. We’ll also provide some insight into which management techniques are influencing the productivity of their white clover,” Mr Coad said.

Mr Coad said he hopes to jump straight into his career after the completion of his Honours project with particular interest in agronomy.

“I’m pretty keen to get out there and get some hands-on experience across a range of fields so I get some knowledge and experience behind me as well,” he said.

Anna Mackintosh

Honours student, Anna Mackintosh, is researching the impact of powdery mildew disease on strawberries, which will provide vital information to industry by helping them understand how the fungus spreads and how it can be mitigated.

“Powdery mildew has a major impact on the quality and quantity of fruit. The findings from my research will give critical insight that will help industry to effectively manage strawberry powdery mildew and continue supply to a market that demands high quality produce,” Miss Mackintosh said.

Miss Mackintosh is passionate about science informing policy and strategy from governance and industry perspectives and is interested in opportunities to explore this at the end of her degree.

Hugh McShane

Honours student, Hugh McShane, is looking at the persistence of temperate perennial forage legumes such as pasture clovers, focusing on the low to mid rainfall areas across Tasmania’s midlands.

Midland farmers have seen issues with current varieties not being able to withstand the dry summer, so by finding the hardiest variety, Mr McShane will help farmers understand what variety of legumes to use in their pasture to ensure a consistent supply of feed for their livestock.

“If you can find good persistent perennial pastures it will help improve the quality of the pastures for a longer period, so farmers will have feed all year-round,” Mr McShane said.

Mr McShane hopes to become an agronomist after the completion of his Honours project and one day will use his knowledge on his family’s sheep farm in Oatlands.

Edna Chong in carrot field

Honours student, Edna Chong, is looking into using different insects such as flies to pollinate carrot seed crops, providing an alternative method for many growers.

“My project will provide growers with an alternative to grow their crops undercover and using flies as an alternative or together with honeybees,” Miss Chong said.

After the completion of her Honours project, Miss Chong hopes to secure a job as a research assistance or entomologist working with pollination and insects.

These are just some of the 12 projects that were presented at this year’s Agriculture Honours Seminars on Friday 9th October. If you'd like to replay the seminars, please visit our YouTube page TIA Seminar Series.

Please see below the students and topics that were presented:

Jessica Bell - Influence of biostimulants on plant growth and microbial associations of sunflower and strawberry

Taelyn Male - The use of anti-transpirants for mitigating the impacts of smoke exposure to wine grapes

William Coad - The contribution and performance of white clover (Trifolium repens L.) in Tasmanian dairy pastures

Jarrod Hamilton - The effect of biochar particle size on soil water retention and plant growth of sunflowers

Sing Wei Lim - The effect of charged biochar and compost tea on plant growth of sunflower

Hannah Cummins (AIA student award winner - equal 1st place) - The effect of single and split applications of plant growth regulators on industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.)

Anna Mackintosh (AIA student award winner - equal 1st place) - Epidemiology and management of powdery mildew (Podosphaera aphanis) on strawberry

Hui Jing (Edna) Chong (AIA student award winner - 4th place) - Pollinator performance of drone fly, European honey bee and brown blowfly in pollination tents of hybrid carrot seed crops

Ke Hong (Alexis) Tang - The functional properties of perennial wheat

Joshua Bailey - Change in sweet cherry quality with maturity

Hugh McShane - Persistence of temperate perennial forage legume species in a low-medium rainfall zone

Jack Woods - Detecting pregnancy in merino sheep using behaviour monitoring eartags

All students have completed their degree at TIA, which is a joint venture between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.