Stories: On the Farm
Dr. Linda Smith - Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Brisbane, QLD

15 years of pathology research for the Australian Cotton Industry

Dr Linda Smith’s research and work at the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries over the last 15 years has had a significant impact on how diseases are managed within the cotton industry. Linda’s cotton pathology research has been of significant importance to the industry with her work focusing on disease causing organisms such as Fusarium and Verticillium wilts and Reniform nematode.

This work recently led Linda to receive the 2019 Australian Cotton Researcher of the Year Award.

Known for her professionalism and leadership, Linda currently leads a national cotton industry pathology project focused on protecting the cotton industry from the spread of new and existing diseases and developing management strategies to better deal with existing pathogen issues.

This is a challenging role that Linda has focused on for the past five years. She has shown great leadership in marshalling the time, skills and resources of various people, some of whom are employed with competing organisations, to bring them together around a series of objectives for the common good of the Australian cotton industry.

Linda’s disease diagnostic work has been critical in detecting emerging disease threats, as well as allowing growers to identify issues on farm and enact vital local management strategies. Linda goes well beyond just providing disease diagnostics, she will frequently follow up with the grower or advisor to discuss management of the problem that has been detected. More recently Linda has been involved in conducting research to develop solutions to the problems caused by Verticillium wilt, particularly in Northern NSW. This work is seeking to identify practical solutions that growers can put into place to limit the extent and spread of this disease which will buy valuable time until such time as more durable and complimentary tools, such as host plant resistance are developed.

When asked what area of her research she feels most proud of, Linda explained, ‘It would probably be the detection of reniform nematode in Central Queensland because of the time and effort we went to, to understand how widespread and serious the issue was. This also goes to the heart of why I have always been drawn to the cotton industry. The growers are wonderful to work with and the industry is very supportive of research. I feel the industry is like a family and they care about all involved and they are always eager to learn and invest in quality research,’ she said.

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