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Protecting hardwood plantations wins in science and innovation awards

James Kondilios

Fourteen winning projects were part of the Government’s Science and Innovation Awards one of these was James Kondilios’ project on geonomically adjusted seed provenancing to protect hardwood eucalyptus plantations in the face of imminent climate change. He won the Forest & Wood Products Australia’s accolade. Source: Timberbiz

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud said the winners would receive grants of up to $22,000 to further develop their ideas and boost Australia’s agriculture sector.

“These innovators are the ones who’ll keep Australian agriculture at the cutting edge,” Minister Littleproud said. “These are innovative and practical ideas that will make farm businesses more efficient and provide greater protection against biosecurity threats.

“All projects have big potential and we want to see them reach their goals.

“One project will also win the Minister’s Award with another $22,000 to help deliver the project.”

Mr Kondilios’ project hopes to advise plantation managers on Eucalyptus variants that will thrive in a future warmer, drier climate.

“Part of this project will be contacting plantation managers… and trying to get them on board while we’re doing this study” he said.

Mr Kondilios is studying Eucalyptus globulus, a species that represents 51% of commercially planted hardwood in Australia.

“We actually want to have a major industry impact.”

He wants to figure out which genetic variants of Eucalyptus globulus should be planted now in preparation for the climate conditions of 2030 and 2050.

Mr Kondilios is completing an undergraduate degree at the Australian National University in genetics but a knack for coding and statistical analysis has seen him gain a data scientist role at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.

The research uses a “fancy modelling platform” that combines climate data with genetic information to work out the genetic variants that will be pre-adapted to the future climate.

He is excited to be working on a project that will have a long-term impact and benefits for everyone.

Mr Kondilios says it is important to him to collaborate on the project with the hardwood industry, which could suffer losses as a result of climate change.

“There will be a lot of jobs in this industry that are going to be lost if climate change reduces the yield” he said.

ABARES predicts an 11% decrease in hardwood productivity, resulting in an estimated $123 million a year in loss for the industry by 2030.

These Awards started in 2001 and have supported 250 innovators with $4 million in grants.

The Coalition Government invests $1.1 billion a year in rural R&D corporations, Cooperatives, the CSIRO, universities, tax Incentives and other programs.

The Science Awards will be presented at a gala dinner as part of ABARES Outlook conference 2019 from March 5-6 in Canberra.