HORTICULTURE research and innovation has been boosted at the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development (DPIRD) with the appointment of two high-calibre lead scientists.
Well-known local horticultural researcher Neil Lantzke will lead the Vegetable and Horticulture Systems section, while experienced fruit physiologist Dario Stefanelli will head the Fruit and Perennial Crops section.
DPIRD's Primary Industries Development managing director Mark Sweetingham said the appointees were part of endeavours to reinvigorate the department's horticulture research capacity.
Dr Sweetingham said new positions would strengthen DPIRD's new Primary Industries Development pillar and efforts to harness expertise across the department in a more co-ordinated, whole of value chain approach to address priority initiatives.
"The new recruits will work alongside department scientists and with industry stakeholders and collaborators to enhance sustainable horticulture production and capture opportunities throughout the state," Mr Sweetingham said.
"WA has a unique horticulture sector that spans nearly 3500 kilometres from Kununurra to Albany, with vastly different production environments, crops and pest and disease management challenges.
"These recruits are uniquely qualified, with a combination of scientific expertise and leadership experience, which will enhance the department's capacity to drive growth and opportunity in the state's diverse fruit, vegetable and perennial crop industries."
Mr Lantzke brings a wealth of agronomic and business knowledge to the Vegetable and Horticulture Systems section, including a 20-year career previously with DPIRD, researching vegetable crops and wine grapes.
Since then, he has managed a large orchard and run a horticultural consultancy business.
Dr Stefanelli, who started his career in Italy, has spent the past 12 years with Agriculture Victoria Research, where his work has focused on bridging pre and post-harvest research.
This included examining the effect of orchard management, environmental inputs, post-harvest handling and supply chain inputs on a range of fruit and vegetables.
Dr Stefanelli will be based at DPIRD's Manjimup Research Facility, while Mr Lantzke will have an office in South Perth, although both men will travel extensively throughout WA.
Other recent investments in horticulture research, development and innovation include upgrading the Carnarvon Research Facility, attracting external trials to the Kununurra Research Facility and entomology and tropical crops development appointments.