Home' Grower : October 2009 Contents THE Science and Innovation Awards for Young
People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
reward the work of scientists and innovators who
work with rural industries and are aged 35 years
Midway through September, Federal
Agriculture Minister Tony Burke presented 15
awards, including the horticulture award
sponsored by Horticulture Australia Limited,
which was awarded to Tasmania's Cameron
Spurr, from Seedpurity, for his work with the
vegetable seed industry in the area of
Poor pollination is a major cause of yield
variability and can contribute to widespread
crop failures. It appears that honeybees prefer
the taste of some flowers over others, and
unfortunately are not partial to onion flowers.
This is bad news for onion seed producers
who depend on honeybees to pollinate their
crops, which are valued at $4 million to $6m
annually at the farmgate. Most of Australia's
onions are grown in South Australia and Tas.
Researchers have been trying to solve the
pollination problem, but success has been
Dr Spurr believes that supplementing natural
pollination with a mechanised system is the key
to improving the yield of onion seed crops.
"Mechanised pollination systems have been
shown to increase fruit and seed set in both
wind and insect pollinated crops," he said.
"Onion is an ideal candidate as its pollen can
be collected easily and retains viability for
relatively long periods.
"The value of seed is sufficient to justify the
cost of mechanical pollination."
Dr Spurr is using his $19,000 prize to test the
technical feasibility of a mechanical pollination
system for improving onion seed yields and to
develop pollen collection and delivery protocols.
If successful, the system could be used to
improve pollination in seasons with poor
weather conditions for insect activity and could
even create hybrid seed crops from parent lines
that flower at different times.
Mechanical pollination could add up to $1m
annually to the value of production and in years
of widespread crop failure it could add much
This project is an exciting test case for this
technology which could then be applied to other
high-value vegetable seed crops in the future.
Held annually, the awards are coordinated by
The South Australian Grower -- October 2009
unlocks pollination secrets
the Bureau of Rural Sciences. Applicants were
required to submit an innovative project
proposal that addressed a significant issue for
Australia's rural industries and could be
completed within 12 months.
Each application was assessed by a panel
against a range of criteria, including the level of
innovation and originality of the proposal, and
the potential to generate long-term benefits to
Australia's rural industries.
Dr Spurr is also working on a project funded
through HAL, called Improving the reliability of
vegetable seed yields. The additional work
funded through the grant will complement Dr
Spurr's existing research.
Details: HAL horticulture.com.au
Cameron Spurr believes that supplementing natural pollination with a mechanised system is the
key to improving the yield of onion seed crops.
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