A PhD student, whose research on plant viruses has resulted in advances in the potato industry, has been named Researcher of the Year by one of Australia's peak grower industry bodies.

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Brenda Coutts, from The University of Western Australia's School of Plant Biology and Institute of Agriculture, was recognised for her contribution toward long-term benefits in the potato industry at the 2014 AUSVEG National Awards for Excellence.

Brenda's research has identified a number of potato industry risks associated with the potential spread of geographically isolated strains of Potato Virus Y Australia-wide.  This research is relevant internationally and has helped advance the reputation of Australian science internationally.

The prestigious Researcher of the Year Award also recognises researchers who have actively communicated their research outcomes and encouraged uptake on-farm.

Brenda, who is also a plant virologist from the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA), has engaged with industry members at potato research and development workshops across the country in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia where she presented the practical outcomes of her work.

"It is important for us to share the knowledge with growers so they can understand how the virus is transmitted and how it survives between growing seasons for example, so we can improve current practices" Brenda said.

"These awards celebrate those who lead by example in the Australian horticulture industry," AUSVEG CEO Richard Mulcahy said.  "They are the heroes whose passions are too often unrecognised by those outside the Australian vegetable growing community".

AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia's 9000 vegetable and potato growers making the award a significant one for the industry.

Brenda's PhD is supervised by Professor Roger Jones from DAFWA and UWA.

This component of Brenda's project was funded by Agricultural Produce Commission - Potato Producers Committee (APC-PPC) and the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia.

Media references

Brenda Coutts (School of Plant Biology, UWA Institute of Agriculture and DAFWA)  (+61 8) 9368 3266
David Stacey (UWA Media Manager)  (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716

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