Another doctor for Grains Innovation Park

Grains Innovation Park has added another doctor to its staff list with Agriculture Victoria research scientist, Katherine Dunsford, officially gaining her PhD.

At a gathering held at the Horsham site today, Dr Dunsford’s achievement was acknowledged and celebrated by her colleagues.

Dr Dunsford’s PhD focus was Understanding the causes of poor grain yield responses of wheat to nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers.

Since 2014 she has been closely examining how and why nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers applied to crops do not always result in a yield benefit.

Through her research Dr Dunsford has estimated nitrogen mineralisation in south-east Australian cereal crops and identified several soil testing methods for predicting in-crop mineral nitrogen supply, which may be useful when formulating nitrogen budgets.

Dr Dunsford’s PhD supervisor, Professor Roger Armstrong, said the research undertaken as part of the PhD study had provided a new understanding of issues affecting the profitability of grain growers.

Firstly, why grain crops regularly fail to translate large vegative responses to phosphorus application, and secondly, how important nitrogen mineralisation is to the nitrogen economy of Victorian grain crops.

“The research showed the importance of soil phosphorus and water supply in explaining the decline in crop response to phosphorus fertiliser,” Professor Armstrong said.

Having spent just over five years working towards her PhD, Dr Dunsford said the experience had been both challenging and rewarding.

“Undertaking a PhD not only taught me about developing, conducting and writing up experiments, but I have also gained a range of personal skills, such as having confidence in my own judgement, prioritising and how to be more effective in my day to day activities,” she said.

“Being located here at Horsham was advantageous because I had access to a range of resources, equipment and people, but was also able to maintain a connection to the farming community.”

Professor Armstrong, who is a Senior Research Scientist with Agriculture Victoria, said Dr Dunsford’s strong personal desire for her research to benefit grain growers and rural communities, combined with good science, had helped her reach her goals.

“She is a highly dedicated young scientist and it has been a pleasure to see her grow from a young graduate to a highly valued member of the Agriculture Victoria soil science team and the broader southern Australian soil science network,” he said.

Dr Dunsford was awarded her PhD from the School of Life Sciences at La Trobe University. She is currently employed by Agriculture Victoria at Horsham and is working on a range of soils and crop nutrition research projects for Agriculture Victoria and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

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