The brightest and best of Australian science hit the red carpet last night for the annual Eureka Awards. As one winner said, everyone there is a winner, and the finalists are all equally deserving of the prizes. It’s all good quality, high level science that’s good for our country. However, they have now announced the winners of each prize, so here’s a rundown of a few of particular interest to this blog, in the landcare/agriculture arena.
The main prize of interest is of course the agriculture one, new this year. I posted about the finalists a few weeks ago. The prize last night went to the Future Farm Industries CRC Enrich Project Team, who’ve done ground-breaking research (pardon the pun, it’s not mine but I had to include it) on using native perennial shrubs to feed livestock in dry parts of southern Australia. They found that grazing native shrubs rather than introduced grasses could improve profitability by up to 24 percent in low-to-medium rainfall areas, as well as decrease greenhouse gas emissions and erosion. The shrubs can increase health of livestock and improve the condition of the land at the same time. And not just a one-size-fits-all recipe, they’ve looked at a number of combinations of local natives that apply from the Riverina through South Australia into the arid east of Western Australia. The Enrich project’s ideas for sustainable grazing systems are now being adopted at a number of sites across four states.
The two other finalists for the prize were chosen for research into breeding carbon efficiency into cattle – feed efficiency and methane production turn out to be inherited qualities – and studies that examine transformational change in Australian agriculture and how to do it / approach it.
Other results of interest
2013 Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research
Successfully infecting mosquitoes with a bacteria that stops them transmitting dengue fever – to each other, to us, to farm animals.
2013 NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research
Reintroducing dingoes as the top predator in native ecosystems improves vegetation, increases the number and diversity of native animals and decreases ferals.
2013 Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Young Researcher
Spending our conservation dollars effectively. Targeted spending provides more bang for the buck when it comes to protecting threatened species, according to new guidelines developed by the University of Queensland’s Dr Kerrie Wilson. Previous approaches to tight conservation budgets have tried to simply spread the dollars as widely as possible, but Dr Wilson has shown that smart, targeted spending can have a greater impact.