Science the spice in Curry's life

Science the spice in Curry's life

News
Aa

Having always had a passion for science and wanting to work in research, it just so happened that this 25-year-old stumbled across the role as a research officer with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Aa
Driven by a fascination for science and learning, 25-year-old Jeremy Curry moved from Perth to Esperance about four years ago to work as a research officer with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. He is part of a team doing rigorous research to help grain growers make informed management decisions to improve their crops.

Driven by a fascination for science and learning, 25-year-old Jeremy Curry moved from Perth to Esperance about four years ago to work as a research officer with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. He is part of a team doing rigorous research to help grain growers make informed management decisions to improve their crops.

SCIENCE has led Jeremy Curry down a path in the agriculture industry he would never have expected.

Having always had a passion for science and wanting to work in research, it just so happened that the 25-year-old stumbled across the role as a research officer with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).

Jeremy studied science at the University of WA, majoring in genetics and zoology and graduated in 2013.

After embracing the opportunities that have come his way that included moving from Perth, where he grew up to Esperance, Jeremy has seen just how vast the agriculture industry is.

"Growing up in the city, I never considered agriculture as a career path, mainly because I never thought of it as an option," Jeremy said.

"I knew nothing about it and didn't realise the numerous potential career paths available, particularly in science for which jobs can be scarce, especially for graduates.

"As soon as I entered the industry, I could then see how many opportunities there were and what a thriving industry it is."

Jeremy started his job with DPIRD at the beginning of 2015 and for the past four seasons has spent half his time working in wheat agronomy and the other half in barley agronomy.

Both projects are co-investments between DPIRD and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

Jeremy's role, along with his colleagues, is to design and implement research trials across the State, with Jeremy focussing on the Esperance port zone.

"During this time the research has focussed on key management decisions made by growers, such as which wheat or barley variety to grow, based on strengths and weaknesses of the varieties," he said.

"And then how do you manage them; what is the optimum time to sow them and how the sowing date influences the variety or even species choice; seeding density; and the timing and rates of nitrogen that should be applied?

"I then report on these results at field days and conferences and so on."

Through his work Jeremy has focussed on issues that are particularly prevalent on the South Coast but are also relevant to many other grain growing regions.

"Cool and wet harvest periods often delay the harvest of mature crops which can result in reductions in yield and quality," he said.

"Pre-harvest sprouting is a particular issue for wheat and, besides harvesting as soon as possible, there are few management options available.

"However, wheat varieties differ in their susceptibility to pre-harvest sprouting, and so we run trials each season to try and understand which new varieties are robust for sprouting and that growers can feel comfortable to adopt, versus those that may have a greater risk of being delivered with low falling numbers should rain at harvest occur.

"For barley, head loss is a major concern for growers once their crop is mature and so I try and understand which varieties are of higher or lower risk.

"Also, other qualities that may preclude a variety from reaching malt grade include screenings, brightness and staining."

The research that Jeremy does contributes to recommendations of varieties to suit different areas that will perform with yield while maintaining quality despite specific environmental conditions.

This then enables growers to manage the crop in season to maximise yield and quality.

"I am very lucky to have a job that allows me to conduct research and allows me to always learn more," he said.

Jeremy's drive comes from a willingness to learn - for growers and the industry but also for himself.

"I love the fact that I get to do research for a job, as that is often the key reason people study or are interested in science, which was certainly the case for me," he said.

"You see at field days how much research and development is being done everywhere, whether it is in a formal nature or just someone trying something new to see if it will work."

One of Jeremy's favourite aspects of his job is working on issues that are current for growers.

This has enabled him to build strong relationships with farmers, grower groups and other industry personnel, all within four short years.

Jeremy said for now he wanted to continue his work and learn more in crop research and for the long term, undertaking a PhD might be in sight.

After working in agriculture for more than four years, Jeremy said the biggest challenge was starting out in an industry that he had no prior knowledge or experience in.

"There are still so many areas that I know so little about but I always enjoy learning about them," he said.

"Everyone is pretty supportive of young people coming into the industry - I think they see it as a positive that someone with no ag experience wants to get into the industry and learn more.

"The local grower group, SEPWA, has been particularly important in its support."

Working in agriculture or even in the country is something that Jeremy had never really considered, but being open to opportunities and embracing change provided a kickstart to his career that many other young people don't get.

"Hopefully more people with no ag background consider it as a viable career path," he said.

"I think for many it would fit with their passions, interests and lifestyle but growing up in the city, people might not think of it or know enough about it to give it a go.

"I would definitely encourage agriculture for young people as it is such a vast industry with many pathways and rewarding careers.

"Just give it a go and you will no doubt have various opportunities down the line.

"It also helps to embrace living outside of the city - work is only one part of your life, and the lifestyle and opportunities of living outside of the city can be a real positive thing."

As a rather fresh face in the industry who has quickly acquired in-depth knowledge in crops and agronomy, Jeremy offered an interesting perspective as to what the future of agriculture might look like.

"At the moment, some big challenges appear to be around increasing awareness - whether it be proven or not - to certain health, welfare or environmental impacts of agriculture," he said.

"For example, genetic modification, live export, health impacts of herbicides and so on.

"Hopefully any changes that result from this are driven by evidence and science, rather than emotion or speculation.

"There will also be automation of some roles, such as self-driving or remote controlled machinery, which will probably make some changes but also open up new opportunities in the tech space."

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by