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Young cotton researcher wins two prestigious award (5 March 2014)

Dr Alison McCarthy, 28, has been selected as the recipient of two prestigious national awards in recognition of her research into cotton water use efficiency.

Alison, a research engineer based at the National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture at the University of Southern Queensland, was awarded the CRDC-sponsored Science and Innovation Award by the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, at the ABARES Outlook conference in Canberra in March.

Alison was then selected by the Minister from a field of 11 outstanding young researchers to receive the Minister for Agriculture’s Award for her work in developing an integrated image sensing system for soil-water and nitrogen in cotton.

Alison envisions a not-too-distance future where Australian cotton growers will have automated irrigation systems that switch on only when and where they are needed, in a bid to improve water use efficiency.

Real-time monitoring of soil water content is the first step and Alison is developing a computer program that analyses photos of cotton plants taken with a camera or smartphone and calculates the plants’ water needs. She aims to create a low-cost sensing system for growers that can be mounted on a tractor or spray boom to estimate soil-water in real time.

The annual Science and Innovation Awards, supported by the Research and Development Corporations, including CRDC, provide recipients with grants of up to $22,000 to undertake a project exploring an emerging scientific issue or innovation over a 12 month period. In addition, Alison receives an additional $22,000 for the Minister for Agriculture’s Award to pursue her research.