The University of Western Australia’s Emeritus Professor Stephen Powles has received the rare and prestigious Seed of Gold award for his major contribution to improving the global problem of herbicide resistance.
The Seed of Gold is awarded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and recognises a lifetime of service to the grains and agricultural industry.
“Australian grain crops – which include wheat, barley, canola and grain legumes – are major exports and help feed the world, but herbicide resistance poses a threat and is a major economic issue for the industry."Emeritus Professor Stephen Powles
Emeritus Professor Powles, from UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment, said he was honoured to be the fourth person ever and the first Western Australian to receive the prestigious award.
“I receive this award on behalf of our research team at UWA, which included research collaborators and students who have been integral in our work and achievements,” Professor Powles said.
“Australian grain crops – which include wheat, barley, canola and grain legumes – are major exports and help feed the world, but herbicide resistance poses a threat and is a major economic issue for the industry.
“Herbicides help control crop infesting weeds and so the evolution of resistance threatens our grain productivity, just as antibiotic resistance threatens human health.”
Herbicide-resistant weeds first appeared in Australian crops in the early 1980s and Professor Powles was a pioneer in researching the issue. In the 1990s he became a founding director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weeds Management, based in Adelaide.
In 1998 Professor Powles was appointed to lead the then newly established WA Herbicide Resistance Initiative at UWA.
The WAHRI later became the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative, and Professor Powles was director of AHRI until he stepped down from the role in 2018.
The national initiative, which has helped to ensure widespread adoption of important developments such as harvest weed seed control technology, attracts more than $2 million in investment from GRDC annually, and focuses on resistance evolution, resistance mechanisms and resistance management, as well as communications.
Professor Powles has spent many years mentoring young researchers and students and has supervised dozens of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers.