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The Hart Field-Site Group’s annual regional internship program offers graduates the chance to build skills and experience in trial and experiment design, data collection and statistical analysis. There is also a strong focus on effective communication with growers and industry, identifying issues and sharing research findings.

This project (H115) has successfully trained two graduates in the basic skills associated with applied RD&E, ready for the next stage of their careers.

Programs like this are essential to the long-term succession of graduates into the industry and SA’s ongoing grains research capacity.

BACKGROUND

Hart Field-Site Group is a collective of farmers and industry professionals that manages a premier agronomic field trial site in South Australia’s mid north.

As part of its commitment to supporting innovative, relevant agronomic research in the region, Hart’s annual regional internship program is designed to better connect agricultural science graduates with the day-to-day realities and opportunities of applied crop research.

The opportunity helps interns move from university to the next stage of their career by demonstrating the range of options available to them, helping them develop personal networks within the industry, and teaching a range of practical skills.

This project supported two interns through research trial design, implementation, analysis and extension activities during the 2016 and 2017 growing seasons.

Start:

March 1, 2016

Finish:

February 28, 2019

Project participants

Hart Field Site Group: Sarah Noack, Sandy Kimber.
Agronomy Solutions: Sean Mason.
SARDI: Kathy Ophel-Keller, Jenny Davidson, Kenton Porker.
Interns: Rochelle Wheaton, Dylan Bruce.

The problem

It can be difficult to attract skilled graduates to a career in applied grains research, development and extension (RD&E).

The research

This annual regional internship offers graduate a year’s training in applied grains RD&E with the Hart Field-Site Group based in the Clare region.

More information

Dr Sarah Noack
Hart Field-Site Group
T: 0420 218 420
E: [email protected]

Research aims

The core objectives of the project were to :

  • Encourage leading agricultural science students to pursue careers in applied research through a regionally based internship.
  • Give students with an interest in applied RD&E an overview of the fundamental skills required, with particular relevance to the grains industry.

In the field

Hart has successfully delivered two regional agricultural RD&E internships under this project, with the support of the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and SAGIT.

In 2016, University of Adelaide Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (BSc.Ag) graduate Rochelle Wheaton was selected for the program. She participated in research into nutrient stratification from chicken litter applications, working with Sean Mason from Agronomy Solutions; and fungicide management for blackspot in field peas, working with Jenny Davidson from SARDI.

These projects involved paddock sampling, analysis of soils in the lab, field trial management and a glasshouse experiment.

In 2017 the program attracted Dylan Bruce, a BSc.Ag graduate with first class honours from the University of Adelaide’s durum breeding group.

Dylan brought a particular interest in cereal variety evaluation to his internship and his main research project aligned with Hart’s long-season wheats research with Dr Kenton Porker from SARDI.

At Waite, Dylan took part in a small chamber growth experiment and dissections of wheat plants growth stems (apical meristems) collected in Hart field trials.

Both interns gained exposure to skills including background research and protocol development, identification of suitable trial sites, trial design and set up, spray applications, soil sampling and plant assessments.

Results

The interns had many opportunities to network with growers, advisers and researchers including participation in GRDC Updates, various field days and forums, a septoria workshop and PIRSA women in leadership course.

They were also involved in Hart’s full program of events including the Hart Field Day where they introduced speakers, presented key findings from their own research programs and facilitated question-and-answer sessions

Before completing her internship, Rochelle Wheaton was contacted by a number of organisations regarding employment. She worked with SARDI Minnipa and on the family farm before undertaking international travel and considering her future role in the grains industry. She is currently working back on her family’s farm near Streaky Bay.

Dylan Bruce pursued further employment opportunities toward the end of his internship and gained a position as a Technical Officer with SARDI in Clare. He has since progressed to Research Officer and has a strong interest in remaining in the Mid North to further his skills as a researcher then, longer term, as a project manager.

Following the success of this project, Hart gained further support from SAGIT to continue the regional internship program and train one graduate per year until at least 2023. Project H117 supported Hart interns Emma Pearse from March 2018, Jade Rose from March 2019 and Brianna Guidera from March 2020. The program has since been extended through SAGIT Project H120, which will fund an additional two-year internship from March 2021.

Value for growers

The work and activities of the interns has raised the profile of the internship program and, by extension, RD&E careers in the South Australian grains industry. Along with their grassroots industry and community engagement, the success of this regional internship program has been promoted through newspapers, social media and direct communications to the Hart membership.

This has a positive impact in attracting young people to careers in the industry, helping ensure the long-term resilience of South Australian grains research and production.