Grains research award win for Horsham scientist

Horsham-based scientist Dr Joe Panozzo has been awarded a prestigious medal acknowledging his long-term commitment to grains research in Victoria.

Every three years the Australasian Grain Science Association (AGSA) awards the FB Guthrie Medal to honour cereal chemist Frederick Guthrie’s contribution to wheat research in Australia, who in the late 1890s together with wheat breeder William Farrer, was responsible for developing wheat varieties adaptable to Australian conditions.

At the 2021 annual AGSA conference, the awards committee presented the Guthrie Medal to two recipients, Dr Joe Panozzo, based at Agriculture Victoria’s Grains Innovation Park in Horsham and University of Sydney emeritus professor Les Copeland.

Dr Panozzo draws some parallels of his research in grains science to the relationship between Guthrie and Farrer.

He began his research career at the Victorian Wheat Research Institute in Horsham, now Grains Innovation Park, as a wheat scientist working with the breeding program and quickly developed an interest in creating high throughput tests to determine quality traits in wheat.

“Initial research into the field of near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy was very basic compared to current technologies.

“I realised that by applying non-destructive testing, such as NIR, plant breeding efficiencies could be achieved, and we could test thousands of samples per week instead of hundreds.”

He later applied these techniques to test malting barley, oilseeds and pulses.

It is an interest that Dr Panozzo has maintained, leading to the application of multi-spectral image analysis research and more recently NIR-hyperspectral imaging.

“The development of image analysis and advancements in machine-learning languages has resulted in the ability to rapidly tests seed for quality traits as well as defects.

“Agriculture Victoria is leading in the development and application of sensor technologies with research being undertaken to measure seed-trait characteristics at every stage of the grain-value chain,” he said.

Research being undertaken within Dr Panozzo’s laboratory and by others at Horsham, is applying sensors to measure crop-health and grain quality in field, within grain-auger and storage systems.

“We now have a team of talented scientists, technicians and PhD students all working in this field.

“What was once a rudimentary instrument sitting on a bench in the lab is now a portable device that can be used in the field by scientists and growers.

“The application of sensor technologies will determine how we carry out business as it will assist with food traceability, which means consumers will know more about their food,” he said.

The Guthrie award complements Dr Panozzo receiving the William Farrer Memorial Medal in 2015 for his contribution to the Australian wheat industry.

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