Dr Dinesh Kafle, an agricultural scientist at Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, was last night announced as the CRDC-supported ABARES Science and Innovation Award winner for 2020.
Dinesh was presented with his award at the ABARES Outlook Conference dinner in Canberra last night, attended by CRDC's Executive Director Ian Taylor and Board Director Jeremy Burdon.
Dinesh's innovative research project will investigate whether cotton plants can be primed with silicon to boost their defences against fusarium wilt and reniform nematode. His project will germinate cotton seeds in soil with added silicon, before infecting them with the diseases.
Dinesh says that while silica is present naturally in the soil, it is difficult for crops to absorb. He plans to examine if there is any priming effect when plants are given soluble silicon as seedlings. Dinesh says very little work has been done on silicon in the past.
“It’s a novel approach,” he says. “So, if successful, it’s going to be really a great tool… for growers to consider while managing the disease.”
The study will trial cotton seeds grown in both seedling trays and pots, to test whether transplanting silicon-primed seedlings provides better defence than direct sowing. Dinesh says the concept of priming itself is also relatively new, having been studied mostly in ecological settings.
“I’m trying to see if the priming has any implications in agriculture, so it’s really exciting,” he says.
Dinesh grew up in a small village in Nepal, living next to an agricultural research station whose field trials would inspire him for life. He trained in Germany and Israel, before turning his attention to Australia cotton in 2018. Dinesh says it’s been amazing to work in such as large, profitable and interesting industry.
“It’s a lot of opportunities,” he says. “I’m still learning so many things, and it’s an exciting field of agriculture.”
As the recipient of this year's award, Dinesh will receive a CRDC grant to undertake this novel research.