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Published: 26 Aug 2020

Dr Beth Penrose

An agricultural scientist at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) has been named as one of the 2020 Young Tall Poppy recipients in Tasmania for her work increasing the amount of minerals in plants.

Dr Beth Penrose is one of three outstanding early-to-mid career researchers from Tasmania that will be recognised with the prestigious Young Tall Poppy Science Awards on the 21st of October.

“It is an honour to receive this award and to be recognised alongside the other excellent recipients,” Dr Penrose said.

Dr Penrose’s research focuses on ways of increasing the amount of nutrients in plants - either for human consumption or for livestock feed.

“Many people and animals in the world are suffering from a lack of minerals in their diets. These mineral deficiencies can affect how their bodies function, including their growth, brain function, nervous system and immune system,” Dr Penrose said.

Dr Penrose has recently worked on increasing magnesium concentrations in grasses to improve cow and sheep health.

“Our research looked at whether different varieties of grass naturally have higher amounts of magnesium, and we found that some varieties have up to 70% more magnesium than others,” Dr Penrose said.

“We also discovered that we can spray magnesium onto the plants to increase their magnesium concentration and that is true for both the low-magnesium and high-magnesium grasses.

“We are still trying to work out what controls magnesium uptake in these grasses. Once we’ve cracked that, we can start to breed for high magnesium varieties.”

Beth is also an outstanding teacher and coordinates the Agricultural Science, Microbiology and Food Safety Honours programs and supervisors several Honours, Masters and PhD candidates.

The other 2020 Young Tall Poppy recipients in Tasmania are: Dr Dawn Aitken (Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania) and Dr Andrew Flies (Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania).

At the Tasmanian ceremony on the 21st of October, one of the Tall Poppies will be announced as the 2020 TAS Young Tall Poppy of the Year.

The Young Tall Poppy Science Awards are run by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS) to honour up-and-coming scientists who combine world-class research with a passionate commitment to communicating science.

The awards are held on a state by state basis to celebrate researchers across science, engineering and mathematics.

AIPS Chair Professor Maria Kavallaris OAM said: “A more scientifically engaged society is something every scientist should aspire to and the reason that Tall Poppy winners are so important.”

“These Tall Poppies are excellent examples of the cutting-edge research being undertaken here in Tasmania.”

“They also become role models by working with the education and community sectors to encourage greater engagement in science.”