New DPIRD challenge for frost researcher

Shannon Beattie
By Shannon Beattie
December 1 2021 - 10:00pm
DPIRD chief primary industries scientist Ben Biddulph.

A SEASONED researcher from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has stepped into a new role with a focus on more collaborative research and development (R&D).

Ben Biddulph, well-known in Western Australian agriculture circles for his ground-breaking research on frost, has been appointed the chief primary industries scientist at DPIRD.

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The new role involves working across the different directorates within DPIRD - including grains, livestock, horticulture and aquaculture - to set new research directions and collaborations, both internally and externally with CSIRO, universities and industry partners.

"The biggest push for this role is to help improve the collaboration and co-ordination of research and development across the whole of agriculture in WA," Dr Biddulph said.

"I've always been very supportive of collaboration which gives me a good background to understand how we can design programs of work that meet multiple users' benefits.

"That includes benefits for universities in terms of postgraduate student supervision and making sure that they are working in areas that are field relevant, as well as making sure industry is getting return on investment for the R&D that is done."

Dr Biddulph has been at DPIRD for his entire professional career, having started in his third year of university, more than 20 years ago, as part of a summer scholarship program.

He went on to complete his honours at The University of Western Australia (UWA) which included supervisors from DPIRD, before taking a graduate research position at the department upon graduation.

Having worked for two years, Dr Biddulph took study leave to complete a PhD at UWA and the University of Adelaide, in collaboration with CSIRO.

That looked into pre-harvest sprouting tolerance in cereals, as well as the affect of different grain maturation conditions and how that changes dormancy and expression of pre-harvest sprouting.

"Since then I have worked on a whole range of stressors, the most notable of which is frost which he has spent the past eight to 10 years researching by looking at different genetic, agronomic and farming system approaches to help manage it," Dr Biddulph said.

"Most of those projects have been collaborative and involved students from the university sector, CSIRO, other primary industry departments across Australia and growers groups from WA, South Australia, Victoria and southern New South Wales.

"With that in mind, I have a lot of background experience in working across different institutions and universities, which I believe will be integral to this new role."

As it is a new position, Dr Biddulph has the ability to mould and adapt as he goes.

He is looking forward to trying to understand the strengths and opportunities of the different R&D systems for the different directorates and production zones.

"The sectors are all quite similar in terms of how they operate with their funding models," he said.

"Livestock was involved in some of the work I have done in the past, so I haven't been entirely independent.

"However when it comes to horticulture and aquaculture I've got a lot to learn and I'm looking forward to the challenge."

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