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Scientists recognised for controlling plant disease

Scientists recognised for controlling plant disease

28 September 2018

Two wins for Plant & Food Research at the Kudos Awards - Dr Philip Elmer, a senior scientist in plant pathology and biological control, has been presented with this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, while his team was awarded the Kudos Science Trust - Agriculture Science Award.

The University of Waikato Lifetime Achievement Award recognises a scientist in the Waikato region that has made a major contribution to science, regionally and nationally, and to the international profile of New Zealand science.

Dr Elmer has spent more than 30 years developing tools and technologies to manage key diseases that impact the New Zealand horticulture industry. He is a world leader in the development of biological control tools, particularly for botrytis in wine grapes, and was instrumental in the development of GrapeFutures, an integrated management system that optimises pest and disease control in wine grapes that delivers residue-free wine for export sale. This model was replicated for the summerfruit industry, delivering sustainable pest management practices and tools through the SummerGreen Futures programme. He currently leads the Zespri/KVH- funded GoldFutures project, with the aim of implementing best practice strategies to reduce Psa in Gold3 kiwifruit orchards. He is renowned for his ability to communicate his science and work with growers to understand their issues and develop robust, science-based solutions.

The Ruakura-based Integrated Disease Control Team, led by Dr Elmer, was named the winner of the Kudos Science Trust Agriculture Science Award for their contribution to the horticulture sector. The Team have developed a number of biological control products, including BOTRY-Zen®, ARMOUR-ZEN®, and MIDI-Zen® for season-long control of botrytis bunch rot in wine grapes. The team has also successfully commercialised a bio-bactericide for control of Fireblight in apples (Blossom Bless®) and developed a new bio-bactericide for control of Psa in kiwifruit (Aureo®Gold). The team was also critical in the response to the kiwifruit disease Psa, rapidly developing bioassays to screen plants in the breeding programme for resistance to the disease. Their invaluable contribution to the Psa incursion was also recognised by being part of the Plant & Food Research Psa Response Team awarded the Prime Ministers Science Prize for 2017.

The Kudos Awards are an annual event recognising scientists and scientific achievement in the Waikato region. A panel of experts, appointed by the Kudos Science Trust, judge entries into the awards to determine the annual winners, who are announced at the Kudos Awards Gala.

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