THE HISTORY OF SCORESBY HORTICULTURAL RESEARCH STATION LATER KNOWN AS HORTICULTURAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE AND INSTITUTE FOR HORTICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT KNOXFIELD

BY DAVID BEARDSELLand JOHN FARAGHER

1.  Dr David Beardsell

Melbourne School of Forestry and Ecosciences The University of Melbourne

500 Yarra Boulevard Richmond 3121, Victoria, Australia

 

With contributions from ROBERT HOLMES, ANDREW HENDERSON, ROD JONES, RUSSELL GOODMAN, PETER MERRIMAN, PATRICK SHARKEY, GRAEME FRITH, JOHN RICHARDS, LIONEL JAGER, GEORGE TINDALE, BILL WASHINGTON, PETER RIDLAND and TONY ALLEN

 

2017

 

SUMMARY

The Scoresby Research Station, currently known as the Knoxfield site for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning was first proposed as a horticultural research facility by the cool storage scientist George Tindale in 1944. His enthusiasm and lobbying led to the Victorian Government purchasing a 110 acre (45 hectare) site near the corner of Scoresby Rd and Burwood Hwy in the present suburb of Knoxfield in 1945-7. The original land consisted of two sloping blocks of partly cleared land north and south of Burwood Hwy which was further developed by clearing and the building of a dam over the Blind Creek in 1946-1947. A small group of scientists and support staff were appointed commencing in 1948 and following clearing and ploughing using horses they set up vegetable and fruit tree trials. In early 1951, the first field day was well attended by fruit and vegetable growers, and these were held most years to provide industry with the latest advances in horticultural research.

 

In 1955, the Government built a research laboratory on the site. The laboratory focussed on cool storage research and was named after the local parliamentarian Sir George Knox whose name now graces the municipality. Some staff from the Government Cool Stores in Port Melbourne were transferred to the new facility and other scientists, mostly emigrants from post-war Europe, were appointed to do research on fruit tree and soil management, vegetables, berries and postharvest and cool storage of fruit.

 

For many years caretakers looked after the facility and lived on site in two Departmental houses. The site expanded by further land purchases in 1955, 1958 and 1972 and at its largest was 94 hectares in size.

 

 

The original main office at Scoresby in May 1948. It came from the Rowville Army Camp and survived until the 1970s.

 

Research and extension work completed at the Scoresby Research Station and its descendent institutes provides hundreds of millions of dollars to Victoria’s and

Australia’s economies every year. This is an extraordinary return on investment which, averaged out over the life of the Institute in today’s values, was at its maximum only approximately $10 million per year - about half of which came from industry. Some of the highlights include establishment of profitable strawberry, kiwifruit and blueberry industries in Australia,

development of the world’s best soilless potting media and related nutritional

programs for the Australian nursery industry (annual gross value of sales of potting media in Australia is approximately

$600 million), efficient production systems for fruit trees, world leading drip irrigation and other water saving techniques


for horticulture, cool storage technologies which allow year round supply of fresh pome fruit and packaging technologies for fruits, salads and other vegetables. In addition to these wonderful, often world leading technological developments, work at the Institute from 1993 until 2012 led to better pest and disease strategies for horticultural crops including adoption of integrated pest management and other programs resulting in reduced use of chemicals. The small Biosecurity group at the Institute managed the eradication of the world’s worst pest, fire ants, from the eastern suburbs in 2001 and a fire blight-like organism from the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne in 1998. In addition, this group managed several other serious pests including grapevine phylloxera and Queensland fruit flies.

The Institute also produced or introduced many new and improved cultivars of potatoes, strawberries, blueberries, cut flowers, fruit, vegetables and ornamental trees. In 2016, the pear industry decided to commercialise several pear hybrid cultivars bred at Knoxfield and Tatura in the mid-1990s.

 

Those who have worked at the Knoxfield site see its demise as a research facility regretful, as it has been a world class institute with an excellent record of improving market access, improving productivity, developing new products and protecting plant industries from pests and diseases.

 

 

The  original front gate on 6 April 1949 with the dog Shepp followed by Ron Mullett, Station Manager and Stan Grogan Farm Manager. This driveway was east of the current entrance and the George Knox Laboratory was later built behind where Ron Mullett is walking.

 

 

 

 

 

View looking south to Burwood Hwy from the roof of the stables in 1949.


PART 1. SCORESBY RESEARCH STATION 1944-1974 AND THE HORTICULTURAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE 1974-1990

The Superintendent of Horticulture (Frank Read) in a letter to the Director of Agriculture on 24 August 1944 outlined the need for a horticultural research station in the “metropolitan fruit area” to carry out fruit, vegetable and cool storage work. Land for the future Scoresby Research Station was purchased in 1946, 17 miles (27 km) east of Melbourne. The 58 acres (23 ha) on the north side of the Burwood Hwy was purchased from Lindley George Murray for £25 ($50) per acre ($20 per hectare) in March 1946. This land had been selected by Fawcett Dinsdale in 1867. The land on the south side of the highway was formerly owned by Mrs Ethel May Leggo who sold 52 acres (21 ha) to the State Government in November 1945 followed by a further 26 acres (10.5 ha) in 1955, and another 80 acres (32 ha) in June 1958.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An early field day on a bleak evening in 1952 with the north end of Mount Dandenong visible behind the old first shed.

 

 

 

 

 

View of the south block looking south east towards Lysterfield circa early1950s


According to former employee, the late Lionel Jager, during 1946-48 clearing was done on sections of both the north and south blocks using horses and gelignite. They used too much ‘geli’ on one occasion and sent a large stump flying across the Burwood Hwy which caused the farm manager Stan Grogan to “blow his fuse”. The Public Works Department built the dam on Blind Creek at the northern end of the Research Station in the summers of 1946 and 1947, and a temporary army hut from the Rowville Army Camp was re-erected to accommodate staff. This 15.5m x 18m hut survived until the late 1970s. Other buildings were pre-existing farm sheds and stables. One of these sheds was enlarged to make an implement shed which was located east of where the Sir George Knox Laboratory was built.  The staff at this stage were probably Ron Mullett (Manager), Bill Packer (Agricultural Officer), Peter Peterson (scientist and later soldier settler), Stan Grogan (Farm Manager), Kevin Tudor (farm hand), Clive Panton (mechanic), Clive Kent and possibly another scientist Mr KL Avent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A field day circa 1951. The first Station Manager, Ron Mullett is second from the right in back row (with lapel label).

 

 

 

 

The vegetable field day in April 1952 with the original shed in the background.


Sir George Knox second from the right with cigarette holder sharing a humorous moment in 1951.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During 1946-7, Himalayan cypress (Cupressus torulosa) windbreaks were planted by Bill Packer and electricity and mains water were provided.  A new front fence was constructed and an entrance road, north

from Burwood Hwy was built. A weather station was set up at the start of 1948. Its first location was north of where the Sir George Knox Laboratory was built then it was moved to next to the front driveway, then near the former headhouse complex and later it was moved again to just west of the later main entrance drive. Following automation, it was again relocated to near the dam from where daily outputs can be seen on news services as data from Scoresby even though this suburb is several kilometres south of the present station.

 

Sir George Knox (left), Hubert Mullett Director of Agriculture, Minister of Agriculture Mr GC Moss MLA, AE Ireland MLA and Superintendent of Agriculture FM Read near the main shed at a field day in 1951.


The great soil scientist Ken Skene from the State Chemistry Laboratory completed a soil survey at the site in 1946 that showed that soil profiles varied over the property, although the majority were heavy clay soils derived from Silurian

mudstones typical of much of Melbourne’s eastern region. Alluvial soils occurred near the Blind Creek and subsurface water was saline with up to 3000 ppm total soluble salts which meant that it was unusable for horticulture.

 

The first experimental work commenced with trials on tomato varieties on the slope south of the dam in the summer of 1946, followed by cabbage plantings in the winter of 1947.

 

The official opening by the Agriculture Minister, Mr William McKenzie took place on 18 February 1947 in front of 200 visitors who were mainly fruit and vegetable growers.  The results of tomato variety trials were presented.

Parliamentarian R.R. Rawson, Superintendent of Horticulture Colin Cole, an unknown person and an exhausted or bored Station Manager Ron Mullett on the right at the vegetable field day on a warm April day in 1952.

 

George Tindale, a world leader in post-harvest research who successfully agitated to get the Scoresby Research Station established and could be regarded as its ‘father’. Notes from George on the early history were used extensively in Part 1 of this history.


Station Managers and Directors

The first Manager of the Scoresby Research Station was Ron Mullett who was appointed in 1948. Ron and his wife Joan first lived at Olinda, then raised a family while living in the purpose built Manager’s Residence.  This brick cottage was built circa 1951 and was not demolished until the mid-1980s. Some of the trees planted by Joan still exist. Ron was a good person and his father, Hubert Mullett was Director of Agriculture in the 1940s and 1950s. Ron later became Manager of the Horticulture Division in the Department of Agriculture then the initial Manager of Plant Standards Branch.


The original Manager’s residence during construction and when completed in 1951/2. The cream brick house was on the south side of the highway slightly to the right of the main drive and was later used to house the Southern Districts Extension Service.

 

A field day in 1962. Immediately left of the young woman going to the left are Colin Little, Ian Peggie and George Tindale. These three scientists led the world in postharvest handling of apples and pears. Directly above her (two rows back in the dark coat and looking up) is the first Station Manager Ron Mullett who by this time was probably deputy Chief of the Horticulture Division.

 

 

 

Ray Brough became the Scoresby Research Station Manager from the late 1950s until he moved to the Horticulture Division head office. In the early 1970s, the Horticulture Division management was located next to Matildas bar at 131 Queens Street in Melbourne just south of Collins Street. Previously, senior horticulture staff were located in Treasury Place.



 

 

 

 

One of the Station’s draught horses on 20 August 1956.


 

 

 

 

An instructive Fergus Black circa 1960! Fergus was the senior scientist at Scoresby from the late 1950s and did innovative work on fruit tree and soil management and extremely important trickle irrigation technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Field day in the early 1950s with the ubiquitous loud speaker on the back of a ute.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dam under construction in the early 1950s.


 

 

 

 


The dam in the early 1950s looking towards The Basin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left and right, Ray Brough, Station Manager in the late 1950s and early 1960s.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegetable field day circa 1951 with One Tree Hill in the background.


Mr JDF (Fergus) Black was expected to be appointed Station Manager in 1969, however Dr Richard Rowe fresh from PhD studies in California was appointed. Richard was full of enthusiastic scientific ideas on fruit tree horticulture. He was also a very competent horticulture lecturer in the School of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne in 1970-72 and directed some innovative science at Scoresby in the early 1970s. He resigned in the late 1970s to become Professor of Horticulture at Lincoln University, Canterbury New Zealand. Two other Knoxfield scientists Dr John Considine and Dr David Chalmers became professors at New Zealand Universities.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fruit tree field day in the early 1950s with the weather station behind the line of cars on the main drive (pre Holden era!).


A field day in 1952 with the large machinery shed east of the original hut (on the left).


Scientific staff at Scoresby Research Station in December 1971. Back row L-R: Lionel Jager, David Jones, David Nichols, Graeme Frith, David Chalmers, Brian Taylor, Bill Thompson, David Beardsell, John Taylor, John Raff and Lou Brohier. Front row L-R: Colin Little, Ian Peggie, Richard Rowe (Director), Peter Mitchell, Bruno Popovic and Slobodan (Danny) Filipovich.

 

 

Administration staff Judy Trewin and Christine Franks, field worker Jimmy Tomkins, horticultural advisors Colin Begg (Geelong), Jack Collyer (vegetables) and Ted Wright (Pakenham) at the field day in February 1971.

 

 

 

The European/Australian mix

During the 1950s, a number of post war European scientists who had migrated from a war torn Europe were appointed to Scoresby. Several had worked on projects such as the Snowy River Scheme until their qualifications were recognised. They included George Kuhlmann from Bonn whose father was jailed in World War II because he opposed the Nazi regime, Willi Grasmanis and Nick Veinbrandts from Latvia, Karel Kroon from Holland, Slobodan (Danny) Filipovic and Bruno Popovic from Yugoslavia, and Paul Baxter (Bacharach) whose family was sponsored out of pre-war Germany by Albert Einstein. Paul

had sponsorship letters from Albert Einstein. Some of the Europeans had bad experiences from World War II including one former staff member who allegedly belonged to the notorious Nazi SS. These gentlemen however contributed to an enriched social and scientific outlook at Scoresby from the 1950s to late 1970s. Despite some of the Europeans being exposed to extreme right and left wing politics in the 1940s, they mixed well with the Australian scientists including Fergus Black, Peter Mitchell, Richard Rowe, Ian Peggie, Colin Little and George Tindale. In the Whitlam era, lunchtime discussions in the small lunchroom which actually was the library mostly concerned politics and were colourful to say the least.


 

Peter Mitchell in 1972, a clever and practical scientist who analysed the way fruit trees grew.

 

Culture and social life

From the 1970s to the 1990s the working atmosphere at the Institute was positive and inclusive and various groups of staff engaged in activities such as regular weekend wine bottlings and daily lunchtime volleyball matches. Volleyball and cricket matches included games against Toolangi, Burnley and Tatura staff. Some staff engaged in bush walking and snow trips. The annual Christmas party was a highlight for the Institute and throughout the 1970s and 1990s. Families were invited during the 1980s and 1990s, and this made the function a great social occasion. Most people had a strong work ethic and some even worked at weekends without extra pay.

 

The cleaning staff in the early to mid-1970s, Dawn Hammond, Doreen Evans, Sylvia Wilson (also librarian) and Pam Ball were significant contributors to the social framework of the Institute as they also made tea and coffee for all members of staff who lined up to be served in the tea room.

 

 

The Research Station farm management

The research station was run as a model farm throughout this period, and despite use of orchard best practices, suffered from the vagaries of the weather and seasons such as the 1962 drought. Harold Marshall, Orchard (Farm) Manager in the late 1950s and especially later on John Richards Farm Manager from 1963 ensured that the farm was well run. Fruit production per acre was near the highest in the state and all fruit was sold commercially with the revenue going into consolidated revenue (State Treasury). By 1972, when the last land purchase was made, the 18 acre (7 ha) McMahon Block (on the north-west corner of Burwood Hwy and Scoresby Rd), the Station was then 233 acres (94 ha) in size! The State paid $7000 per acre ($17,300 per ha) for the 28 acre McMahon, 10 acres (4 ha) of which went to the Education Department for the Fairhills High School and to the SEC for a substation.

South block entrance 6 April 1949 with a largely unquarried Lysterfield Hill in the distance.


Richard Rowe, Station Manager/Director from 1968-to circa 1978 discussing growth of peach trees in February 1972 in the peach block north of the George Knox Laboratory.


Aerial view in the mid-1950s with the south block on the left and the north block on the right. Burwood Hwy divides the two and Scoresby Rd is in the lower half of the picture and runs approximately north-south.. The main drive then led to the Sir George Knox Laboratory.  The present main drive is approximately 50 metres west of the original drive. The north west corner of the intersection of Burwood Hwy and Scoresby Rd was owned by orchardist P. McMahon. There was a farmhouse and small dam on this block. There is only one house on the west side of Scoresby Rd south of the Highway.


Caretakers

The Scoresby Research Station, at least from the 1950s (and possibly earlier on) had permanent caretakers on site. There were a number of residences on the Station including the Manager's brick residence on the South block opposite the main entrance which was built in 1950-51. The original caretaker’s house was an old farmhouse on the south block opposite the main entrance just east of the Manager’s residence. This was demolished in around 1960.  Another house was located on the north end of the north block with an entrance off Scoresby Road. It was where the Knox community garden and vineyard are currently located. Agriculture Officer Karel Kroon and his family lived in a brick and wooden cottage on the site until he retired in circa 1990.  He was one of several caretakers who took turns in locking up the Station each night and watering nursery stock and taking weather data readings at the weekends. Another less salubrious residence was the former Christie’s farmhouse on the west end of the old Christie’s Block, on the south side of Burwood Highway. The cypress lined entrance road to this property can still be seen on the west end of the housing estate built on the west side of Christie’s block in the 1990s. In the 1970s, Kevin Tudor and his family lived there until he retired due to ill health, and for several years Reg Skiller took over his role as a caretaker, living in the same old house.


View of the nursery and weather station on the north block on 13 June 1950 with Mount Dandenong behind prior to the addition of the TV

towers. Orchards and bushland dominate the landscape along Scoresby Rd towards Boronia.

 

A peaceful view of Mount Dandenong after a violent summer storm at Scoresby circa 1980 taken from the same location as the picture above.


 

Harold Marshall, Farm Manager circa 1960.                                       John Richards, Farm Manager 1963-1997.

 

 

Field staff

The Station had many long term field staff during the 1950s to 1970s and these included Kevin Tudor, Jimmy Tomkins, Charlie Hamley, Ern Chadderton, Neville Mills, Wally Phillips and Graeme Newman. The first Farm Manager was Stan Grogan who apparently had a short fuse, and was followed by Harold Marshall in the late 1950s and then John Richards from 1963-1997. The Station in the 1960s had a foreman, Cyril Gascott and a cool store and general mechanic, Ted Bienvenu (late 1960s-1975). Ted was later assisted by Andy Beech who came from Sunshine Harvesters in the early 1970s. In later years, field staff numbers were reduced and the highly versatile Alan Noon and Trevor Davy managed all outdoor and maintenance tasks.

 

 

Farm mechanic Ted Bienvenu, a former Doncaster orchardist who was a jack of all trades in the workshop.


Later Director of HRI, Graeme Frith (right) assisted by David Beardsell at the field day in February 1972.

 

Station, Farm and Laboratory Managers 1948-2013.

Era

Station Manager/Institute

Director

Orchard/Farm/Lab

Manager

Approximate

staff numbers

1948-circa 1955

Ron Mullett

Stan Grogan

4-12

Circa 1956-1968

Ray Brough

Harold Marshall

~15

1969-1978

Richard Rowe

John Richards

37 (in 1971)

1978-1992

Graeme Frith

John Richards

 

1993-1999

Dennis Richards

John Richards

~139-175

1999

Peter Merriman (acting)

Phil Ball

175

1999-2003

John Field-Dodgson

Phil Ball

 

2004-2013

Various- role downgraded

Janyce Truett

 

 

Changing technologies

Many technology changes occurred from the 1960s onwards. Hazardous or persistent chemicals such as mercury lactate, formalin and dieldrin which were used in the 1950s at the Station are now banned.

Horses were used for ploughing and other duties until 1961 and the Station had a dedicated horse paddock and stables which were located immediately east and north of the George Knox Laboratory (on the north side of Burwood Hwy). In the 1950s, Kevin Tudor managed all ploughing with just two horses! One of the horses died after being stung by a bee swarm and was buried in one of the paddocks. The last horse died in the early 1960s and the Station only used tractors from then on.

 

Administration

By the mid-1960s, the Station had a structured administration section led by the Englishman Syd Hayes. Up until around 1960, the telephone system was based on alpha-numeric designation with the Station having the two phone numbers BM9657 and BM9812, and the main switchboard in the 1960s-70s was a primitive plug-in type. By 1971, the phone number was 231 2233 and changed many times up until present. The switchboard over the years was run in turn by Glenda Tudor, Sue Gardem, Judy Trewin, Del Doran and Jenny (surname unknown), Judith van Vonno, Sue Hiras and Helen Charles who still does this job.


Marge Houghton, Val Crawford, Pauline Pape (Nichols), Pat Wilmot, Pearl Benn were some of the excellent 1970s administration staff. Mail was delivered to scientist’s desks by one of the administrative staff including Judy Trewin, Stephanie X, Pauline Pape, Pat Wilmot or Pearl Benn.

 

Administrative staff circa 1980. Pat Wilmott, Marge Houghton, Syd Hayes, Jenny x, June Stockley and Pauline Pape (Nichols).

 

 

All written work was done by a typing pool using manual typewriters until Pauline Pape was allocated an IBM electric

typewriter in 1973. Multiple copies were made with carbon sheets inserted between white paper sheets. Small errors were corrected with white out liquid and major editing required complete retyping! Most reports were done on foolscap sized paper, 216 mm x 343 mm compared with the current standard, A4. There were two calculators in use in 1973, and the following year six were used.

 

Safety

In the earlier eras, worker safety was also strongly emphasised. However there was one fatality in circa 1965 when the five year old daughter of one of the Station’s scientists was killed when a plough toppled over on her at the Station on a weekend. Tears streamed down my cheeks when I (DB) read the staff member’s harrowing published account. In the 1970s, the only serious accident was an outdoor worker who broke his neck outside the headhouse complex after falling from a tractor. Fortunately he was carefully managed and fully recovered. When David Beardsell told the switchboard operator to call an ambulance she thought he was joking until he started using four letter word expletives.  Another outdoor worker was hospitalised after exposure to the dangerous fumigant methyl bromide and another technician collapsed in a cool room where oxygen levels were low. The Farm Manager also had a government car written off after a collision at the front gate on Burwood Hwy.

 

Vehicles

The original vehicle in the early 1950s was a Chevrolet which the Station Manager used. In 1952, some unreliable Austin utilities were purchased for use by staff for trips. One member of staff, Lionel Jager, crashed one in Hawthorn when the brakes failed and was in trouble as he didn’t have a driver’s licence at the time. To minimise trouble Lionel paid for the repairs himself. Prior to this, staff relied on trains and other forms of public transport to get them to field sites or farm visits. By the early 1970s vehicles were mostly Holden or Ford sedans and station wagons with the occasional Dodge ute (e.g. MZA 022 which was capable of bringing back hundreds of bottles of wine to fill staff orders from the north east after completion of trial experiments in the Ovens Valley at Wandiligong and at Tatura- luckily accident free otherwise the Melbourne press would have had a field day).


 

A field day in 1952 with one of the Station’s unreliable Austin utilities.

 

 

The regional changes

Up until the mid-1970s, the Station was surrounded by orchards. These covered much of the land to at least Springvale Rd. Peach orchards were the dominant part of the landscape in Wantirna, and in the spring, land on both sides of Burwood Hwy was a picture of pink peach blossom.

 

The Burwood Hwy was a two lane road until around the middle of 1971 when it was duplicated from Stud Rd to Ferntree Gully. A large swamp of Melaleuca ericifolia and possibly Melaleuca squarrosa trees covered the land where Knox City now stands until around 1974. Prior to the drainage of the creek and drainage basin construction, 2-3 feet (up to 1 m) of water occasionally cut Burwood Hwy near the Stud Rd intersection after heavy rain and access to the Station was then only via Scoresby Rd.

 

In February 1966, decimalisation of currency and measurement occurred. Prior to this, reports used Fahrenheit temperature, pounds weight, gallons volume, acre land size, inches, feet, yards and miles length etc.

 

 

Fruit tree horticulture and rootstocks

From 1950-1956 the major work on the Station was the planting of apricot, apple, peach, cherry and pear tree blocks to provide experimental material for scientists working on production and postharvest technologies. The Station also imported germplasm including Malling and Malling Merton rootstocks for apples. These rootstocks were tested for vigour management on apple varieties under southern Victorian conditions.


 

 

 

George Kuhlmann (left) and Fergus Black with a vase-shaped trained apple tree circa 1960.

 

 

From the mid-1950s until the mid-1970s, Station staff pioneered work in Australia on rootstocks for apples, pears, peaches, apricots and plums.  These were long term trials (10 years plus). Research programs at Scoresby also improved orchard management with better soil management combined with permanent grass sod under trees (including clover) and reduced cultivation, the use of weedicides around tree butts and additional fertilisation.

Because of the heavy nature of the region’s soils, work on hilling-up the tree rows to provide drainage was an important development. Similarly the establishment of Northern Spy as the standard rootstock for apples and D6 for pears improved production of these crops. Much of the present cultural methods in pome, stone fruit and berry production are directly the result of work done at Scoresby by Fergus Black, Peter Mitchell, Karel Kroon, Lionel Jager, George Kuhlmann, David Challen, John Richards and Richard Rowe in the 1950s and 1970s.  The Station also

introduced new cultivars to Australia through quarantine of rootstocks, stone fruit cultivars, berry fruit cultivars including much improved strawberry and raspberry varieties and the first blueberry and kiwifruit cultivars.

 

 

Tree canopy management and production methods

Much work was done by Fergus Black, George Kuhlmann, Lionel Jager and Peter Mitchell on tree canopy pruning and the modified central leader system developed by them is still widely used by industry. While David Chalmers and Bas van den Ende at Tatura developed the Tatura trellis in the mid to late 1970s, the close planting method of production using dwarfed trees was initiated at Scoresby from 1965 until the early 1970s and the trellised rows of peach trees near the main drive into the Station were the highest yielding peach trees in the State.

 

From the mid-1950s, Fergus Black, a clever and confident man who liked science and statistics in particular, had implemented a program of quantifying production parameters of trees. Each year, butt circumference (which provided an accurate measure of overall vigour of trees), and yield measurements were made on all trees in the fruit trials.

Fergus promoted publication of scientific results in refereed journals and thus helped raise the academic standards at Scoresby.

 

Nursery and stool (not poop) beds

A nursery was set up in the late 1940s on the Station to assist returned soldiers to gain horticultural skills. This also

serviced the Station’s needs for rootstock planting material and to propagate new cultivars. The nursery was located on the northern block, south of a row of pine trees which ran east west across the property, near where the current fence line for the Fairhills High School lies. This had rowed up lands stacked with mounded soil over young stool beds which produced rooted fruit trees. This field nursery was managed by Bill Packer, an ex-American serviceman who had started in 1948 and was assisted by Jimmy (James Henry) Tomkins who was a Rat of Tobruk and a former prisoner of war in Germany. Most of the grafting was done by George Kuhlmann, an amazing plant propagator.


 

 

 

Vegetable trials

 

The Station conducted many vegetable trials from the late 1940s until the 1960s when the Vegetable Research Station was opened on Ballarto Road, Frankston, because the industry had moved from the heavy soils of Wantirna to the sandy loam soils of the Mornington Peninsula and Cranbourne districts. Most of the work done at Scoresby was on cabbages on the north sloping paddocks immediately south of the large dam.

 

 

Opening of the Sir George Knox Laboratory on 16 March 1956.

 

 

 

Light snow at Scoresby and heavy snow on Mount Dandenong 8 August 1951.

 

 

Postharvest technologies 1956-1974

The Cool Storage Branch was moved to the newly built Sir George Knox Laboratory at Scoresby from the Government Cool Stores in Port Melbourne in 1957, and pioneered world leading postharvest technologies for fruit. In particular, controlled atmosphere (CA) storage treatments (ultra-low oxygen, high carbon dioxide and low temperature programming) which now ensure year-round availability of quality pome fruit and

commercial storage and shipping of other fruit and vegetables were pioneered at Scoresby by George Tindale, Ian Peggie, Colin Little, David Minnis and John Taylor between the years 1957-1974. Granny

Smith apples and Packham's Triumph pears were not grown in other countries that did cool storage research and the work at Scoresby was critical for the local industry. The cool-rooms built in 1957 for this work were in operation until 2012.

 

 

 

 

Brussels sprouts trials south of the dam on 4 April 1949 looking south towards the horse paddock and farm sheds.

 

 

Trickle or drip irrigation

From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, Fergus Black and Peter Mitchell were, along with some Israeli scientists, the world leaders in the development of trickle or drip irrigation methods and published many refereed papers on soil management and irrigation in journals such as the Journal of Experimental Agriculture and


Animal Husbandry. Fergus published the definitive two part review on trickle irrigation in Horticultural Abstracts in the mid-1970s. Dennis West, a plant physiologist, joined this group in the late 1960s to further extend its scientific strength, and he specialised in apple tree water relations and later worked on salinity with Jim Taylor. Modern sustainable irrigation techniques including deficit irrigation and other water supply scheduling could not have been developed without the pioneering irrigation work of Fergus Black and Peter Mitchell at Scoresby.

 

Fergus Black with Peter Mitchell standing in the background. These scientists led the world in fruit tree irrigation using micro-tube drip lines such as those in the roll next to Fergus.

Horticultural extension

In the 1950s and 60s Victoria’s fruit and vegetable growers received advice from orchard inspectors and district advisors. There were advisors in all fruit growing regions including Blackburn (Dick Clay)/Doncaster/Templestowe (John Sell), Pakenham (Ted Wright), Lilydale and the Dandenong Ranges (Harold Marshall), Mornington Peninsula, Geelong (Colin Begg) and Bendigo (Syd Smith??), and the vegetable advisor was Jack Collyer. These advisors worked one on one with growers during orchard visits. Growers also were kept up to date with new developments at field days. Scoresby Research Station had an annual field day in February each year until the mid-1970s.  The first known field days were held in early 1951 and 1952 and were well attended and held in a marquee tent near where the Sir George Knox Laboratory was later


built. Growers were also supported by quarterly publications including the Victorian Horticultural Digest, the Mallee Horticultural Digest (Sunraysia) and the Vegetable Growers Digest. The monthly Victorian Journal of Agriculture also provided regular articles on horticultural topics.

 

In the late 1960s, the Southern Districts Extension Service was set up under Fergus Black possibly as a result of Richard Rowe’s appointment as Station Manager.  Under Fergus’ able leadership, a team of extension specialists served the growers. They were Brian Newman (next in charge), Wendell Flentje, a genial young man who dealt with general horticulture, Owen Rich (also general horticulture) and Peter Newgreen who was an irrigation specialist.  Peter was replaced by Bob Cahill as irrigation expert. The Extension Service also had a small applied research group. They were led by the very clever, kind and slightly eccentric Paul Baxter who was assisted by John (Jack) Washbourne and Tony Allen. Paul did work on a range of fruit tree management projects including investigating apple and peach replanting problems. In 2006, late in his life, Paul published an interesting and philosophical book called “Power versus Love-a Brief Guide to Wisdom”. This research group also included Nick Veinbrandts assisted by Jim Hutchinson who worked strictly on manipulation of tree growth and flower thinning using chemicals such as the now banned Alar which was later found to possess carcinogenic properties. After Fergus retired, the Southern Districts Extension Service continued under the leadership of Keith Higgins and later Russell Soderlund. Extension of postharvest R&D was done by the research workers (Ian Peggie, Colin Little, David Minnis) and by fruit packaging inspectors (including Gordon Martin). The postharvest

“shed night” at Scoresby was held before each harvest season and was an effective extension method. John Kenez from Head Office was also a regular contributor to extension activities at Scoresby.

 

 

Flora and fauna

In 1971, David Jones and David Beardsell surveyed the bush land remnants on the Station and prepared lists of endemic and naturalised plants.  The endemic plant list is attached as an appendix.

 

The original vegetation classes on the Station were yellow box woodland with narrow leaved peppermint on the hill north of the dam, Swamp gum woodland near the dam, messmate stringybark/silver leaf stringybark/narrow leaved peppermint woodland near Burwood Hwy and to the south.

 

David Beardsell kept informal notes on fauna at the Station from the 1970s until the end of 2011. A bird list is also provided in the appendices. The most significant birds were the resident Blue Wrens in the gardens around the Knox laboratories and Diamond Firetails in the grassland in the South Block.  Feral cats unfortunately eliminated the Blue Wrens.  Willy Wagtails were the dominant bird on the Station until their decline and replacement by Magpies in the 1990s as has also happened across greater Melbourne.  The skies over Scoresby prior to summer thunderstorms always saw White Throated Needle Tails (swifts) soaring on thermals over the Station in January and February. On one thundery evening in the early 1990s thousands of Fork Tail (Pacific) Swifts skimmed around the Institute even down to ground level. Sadly however, swifts began to decline in the droughts of the mid 1990s as happened over all of Victoria. Some notable bird visitors over the years have included Spotted Pardalotes and one Golden Whistler in the late 1970s. With the planting of banksias, hakeas and grevilleas from the mid-1970s, New Holland Honeyeaters took up residence on the Station and evicted White Plumed Honeyeaters and Wattle Birds.  In recent years the New Holland Honeyeaters moved on. Crested Pigeons were a pleasant new arrival in around 2010. These delightful birds have colonised southern Victoria as a result of the droughts of the early 21st century. The droughts also saw large flocks of Long-billed and Little Corellas

moving through the Institute’s grounds digging for onion grass bulbs and kikuyu rhizomes. In the mid 2000s, Rainbow Lorikeets, Musk Lorikeets and Little Lorikeets started visiting flowering eucalypts on the Institute. Eastern Rosellas have always been present, and Crimson Rosellas visit occasionally in summer.  Eastern Spinebills have always been present when correas and fuschias flowered. On occasions, Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos stripped cones from the old pine trees and she-oak groves planted by David Beardsell and Galahs and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have been regular visitors since the 1970s.

 

It was unusual that green grocer cicadas which are common in Melbourne’s east were not present on the Station until the late 1970s.


The worst feral animals on the Institute have been foxes and mangy, abandoned or escaped cats and their litters. Following decimation of Superb Blue Wrens on the Station in the 1980s, Lionel Jager and I (DB) humanely put to sleep a number of feral cats trapped near the glasshouse complex. The stench from foxes which died under the Sir George Knox Laboratory was unbearable at times.

 

-

Aerial view of the Station in 1969 with the then two lane Burwood Highway dividing the south block on the left and north block including the Sir George Knox Laboratory and the dam on the right. Note housing development along Scoresby Rd which runs approximately north-south in the lower third of the picture. Note the woodland east of Lewis Rd where factories are now located. McMahon’s house, garden (an old Pinus radiata and Grevillea robusta) and dam are on the north west corner of the intersection of Burwood Hwy and Scoresby Rd. The original north heading drive leading to the Sir George Knox Laboratory still existed at this time.

 

Nitrogen and phosphorus nutrition of fruit trees

In the 1960s, Willi Grasmanis, a scientist from Latvia, led laboratory and glasshouse work on nitrogen nutrition. His interest was the role ammonium versus nitrate in apple tree nutrition. Willi Grasmanis worked on nitrate reductase at the University of Adelaide, and Graeme Frith worked with him doing the nitrate reductase work at Knoxfield. David Jones, David Nichols and Graeme Frith published work on splitting the radical to develop a split root system in the journal Plant and Soil.  Graeme Frith did all the work on the uptake of nitrogen in split root apple seedlings. He did all the 15N analysis in at the State Chemistry Laboratory with an old eastern-European analyser. Graeme noted that it was very difficult to get the vials containing the 15N to actually fluoresce without getting radiation burns on his fingers, and possibly radiation all


over his body. However he survived and hopefully will have no long-term effects. Graeme Frith relocated to the University of Melbourne to do PhD work with Michael Dalling. Graeme was ably assisted by David Nichols who had the complex task of making up specialised nutrient solutions for trials. David did this on Sundays so that new solutions were changed over on Mondays. Glasshouse trials were maintained by Betty Stirton and Gwen West and later on by Karen Collins.

 

Brian Taylor joined the Station in 1970 and, assisted by Fouad Goubran and Annette Hallpike, conducted similar fertiliser trials with a focus on phosphorus nutrition. Brian became the Director of the Horticultural Research Station, Irymple.

 

Saving the strawberry industry and starting the blueberry industry

In the 1950s, the strawberry industry in Victoria was in severe decline due to chronic virus loads in crops, poor cultural methods and old fashioned cultivars which yielded poorly and had poor quality. The yields were as low as ¼ ton per acre (0.6 t/ha). Today, the yields are around 30 tons per acre (74 t/ha) because of virus elimination done at Burnley Plant Research Institute, new cultivars and better cultural methods pioneered at Scoresby and its field station at Toolangi. The “berry group” led by Karel Kroon with assistance from Ralph Proctor up until the mid-1970s and later on by Bob Pocket and Graeme Barthold, continued to oversee strawberry runner certification from Scoresby until it was handed over to industry in the 1990s. Colin Little and others did research on manipulating flowering and crop load by holding runners in cold storage.

 

Ridley Bell (right), the father of Australia’s blueberry industry with David Beardsell circa 1980.

 

The now thriving Australian blueberry industry was started at Scoresby by Karel Kroon in 1958 with the introduction of several cultivars through quarantine. Virologist Lionel Stubbs from the Plant Research Institute at Burnley had a role in the early days as it was very difficult to import varieties that could be guaranteed to be free of viruses. A decision was made

to import open pollinated blueberry seed from USA that should have been virus free. Since blueberries liked alluvial soils in the USA, seedlings were produced and grown down near Blind Creek under a wire netting cover. John Richards and his staff looked after the plants until they started fruiting. David Jones and his technical assistant Cheryl Finger did the early yield measurements and taste tests. However it was not until the 1970s that the industry really commenced, when the young scientist Ridley Bell under guidance from David Jones commenced a full time program of introducing and breeding new cultivars and working with industry to determine the best sites for planting and the best cultural practices. Ridley left in 1979 and went on to be the world leader in blueberry horticulture and breeding and was the key person in establishing

the industry in both NSW and other states. One of Ridley’s early varieties, Denise Blue is still grown in Victoria. Early blueberry grower Margaret Tucker and Ridley must be given the credit for getting the industry off the ground in Victoria as it involved the drafting of new propagators, and the enthusiasm of both of them was responsible for actually getting people to grow them for fruit production as neither tree fruit growers or berry growers were interested. Margaret Tucker was a driving force in getting American blueberry expert Dr Paul Eck to Knoxfield as a visiting scientist, and he was the first person that Jack Meagher, Chief of the Plant Science Division allowed Director Graeme Frith to use the salary of a vacant position to pay him as a visiting scientist.


 

 

 

Paul Miller who played a key role in development of both the Victorian Pink Lady® apple and olive oil industries, Lawrie Dooley and Joan Mullett at a Christmas function circa 1980.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The search for the flowering hormone

Several groups around the world in the early 1970s were seeking the ‘hormone’ responsible for initiating flowering in plants. For several seasons Bill Thompson attempted to unlock the complex nature of flowering in apple trees.  If he

had of succeeded it would have been a significant world class breakthrough.

 

Agriculture Minister Ian Smith opening the two storey laboratory block in 1974 with the then Director Dr Richard Rowe on the left and Dr Jack Meagher Chief of Plant Research on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original hut and stables looking towards Mt Dandenong after a rare snowfall on 8 August 1951.


Horticultural Research Institute 1974-1990

Scoresby Research Station was renamed the Horticultural Research Institute in 1974 at the time of the opening of the two storey laboratory complex by Minister Ian Smith. The new laboratories were much appreciated by staff and incorporated high tech microscopy and tissue culture facilities. Richard Rowe continued as Director until around 1978 when he resigned to take up a professorial role in New Zealand. He was replaced as Director by Graeme Frith.

 

Fruit tree research

John Raff examined the pollination system in cherry trees, supervised by Professors Adrienne Clarke and Bruce Knox at the University of Melbourne. The mechanisms of calcium uptake and transport in apple trees were studied by Russell Soderlund circa 1978 because low calcium levels caused bitter pit during storage. Graeme Frith and Brian Hanger supervised Russell’s project.

 

Waterlogging of fruit trees

Death and decline of peach trees from waterlogging in heavy soils caused great losses to growers in southern Victoria from the 1950s onwards.  Danny Filipovich in the Station’s 1957-58 Annual Report suggested that the waterlogging caused break down of amygdalin (prunasin) a cyanogenic glycoside which naturally occurs in root and other tissue of stone fruit trees. This work was followed up by Richard Rowe who completed a Masters and PhD on this at the University of California at Davis.  David Beardsell continued this work by searching for rootstocks for peaches which had lower levels of prunasin and which might be tolerant of waterlogging. This led to the publication of the much quoted review on waterlogging of fruit trees in Horticultural Abstracts.

 

Role of roots in plant growth

Dennis Richards moved to Scoresby from Tatura in 1973 to work on manipulating roots systems (root restriction) to examine the role of roots in controlling top growth of plants. The Director of Scoresby, Dr Richard Rowe, was also interested in this topic and they jointly published two much quoted papers in the prestigious journal Annals of Botany in 1977. Dennis, Fouad Goubran and collaborators from the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation developed a machine to measure the length of roots. For many years this machine was the highest royalty earner for the Department. Dennis’s work also showed that by restricting root growth flowering and fruit number could be increased.

 

Chilling requirements, budburst and flowering

In the mid 1970s, Bill Thompson, David Jones and David Nichols investigated the complex winter chilling hour requirements of both stone and pome fruit to ensure spring bud burst and flowering. They determined the most effective temperatures and times required and published this work in the Australian Journal of Agricultural Research in 1976.

 

Development of world’s most advanced nursery and home garden potting media

Following a request from the nursery industry to the Minister of Agriculture in 1974, a small group led by David Jones and consisting of David Nichols, David Beardsell and Annette Hallpike commenced a research program to develop potting media without peat moss and soil. In just over five years, the team developed the world’s most advanced soilless potting media and associated nutritional programs (Beardsell 2008).  This led to establishment of a $600 million a year potting mix

industry in Australia using composted pine bark, a waste product of the paper industry. The outcomes from the work included an efficient production of plants in Australian nurseries, elimination of pine bark waste from landfill and boiler firing, international recognition from publication of 20 refereed papers in international scientific journals, development of world’s first low phosphorus nutrition programs and several new slow release fertilisers.

 

View of the Sir George Knox Laboratory from the south side of Burwood Hwy in May 1957 with Mount Dandenong in background.


Plants for cut flowers and landscaping.

In the mid 1970s, an Ornamental Horticulture section was established under the brilliant botanist and horticulturalist David L. Jones and was later led by Dennis Richards.

 

Under leadership of David Jones and later on David Beardsell some small projects were completed on the horticultural development of native plants.  One of the first commercial successes was the grafting of Western Australian Hakea spp. (H. francisiana, H. bucculenta and H. coriacea) onto the hardy NSW species, Hakea salicifolia. This work was published in 1982 and it was not until the mid-1990s that local government started using these drought hardy small trees.  In the last few years hundreds of these outstanding combinations have been planted in Melbourne and elsewhere. The first trial plantings were at the Knoxfield site.

 

In 1983, David Beardsell commenced selecting and propagating the best available clones of Thryptomene calycina from the Grampians and Black Range for cut flower production. Several clones were commercialised and helped turn a cottage industry into a multimillion dollar per year production. He was awarded the Royal Society of Victoria Research Medal for this work in 1993.

 

 

 

Opening of the Sir George Knox Laboratory on 16 March 1956.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wendell Flentje and Peter Newgreen at the Wandin field day circa 1971. Knoxfield extension staff played an important role for the Department of Agriculture at this annual event.

 

 

 

Minister for Agriculture, Sir Gilbert Chandler at Scoresby in 1962. He came from a plant nursery family in The Basin and was a long term supporter of Scoresby Research Station until he retired in 1973.


Sir George Knox Laboratory circa 1958. The fruit receiving room, the small extension on the right hand side was also used as the main tea room in the early 1970s.

 

Karel Kroon who led the strawberry runner propagation program at Scoresby and Toolangi from the mid 1950s until the mid-1980s. Karel’s team together with the virology group at the Plant Research Institute at Burnley saved Victoria’s now multi-million dollar strawberry industry. Karel was also a caretaker who raised his family in an old residence on the Station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postharvest research 1974-1992

Ian Peggie led other research that was important on a national scale including, the use of bulk bins for transport; packaging in fibreboard cartons; shipping in containers; disinfestation treatments to kill codling moth and fruit fly in fruit; and development of regulations for fruit maturity, postharvest treatments, packaging and shipping (with Bruce Cumming)..

Another major project done by Colin Little was reduction of superficial scald and bitter pit in cold stored apples by dipping with diphenylalanine (DPA), fungicides and calcium chloride (with John Taylor and Bill Washington). Other staff worked on harvest maturity, storage disorders and crop losses of apples and pears (David Minnis, Robert Holmes and John Faragher).


Colin Little, Ian Peggie, Lawrie Dooley, Bruce Tomkins and Phil Moyle worked on methods to enable sea transport of fresh fruit and vegetables to export markets, to reduce the cost of freight. Broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and blueberries were some of the crops included. The research showed the major effect of genotype or cultivar on cold storage life and the need for either modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) or controlled atmosphere (CA) to extend storage life. New packaging systems were developed for shipping plants by sea to export markets, including trial shipments (Ian Peggie, John Faragher, Dennis Richards and Bruce Cumming).

 

Knoxfield staff organised and hosted the Australian Postharvest Horticulture Workshop at Sherbrooke in 1984.

 

Fruit ripening

Markets required apples with good red pigmentation. The old variety Jonathan in particular did not colour up well in warm autumn weather, especially if night temperatures remained high.  In the early 1970s, David Chalmers, John Raff and later on John Faragher and Lou Brohier investigated the roles of light, maturity and temperature on apple fruit colour.

 

First woman scientist

Joan Mullett, who worked on seed physiology and viability with Ian Wilkinson, was the first woman scientist at Knoxfield, arriving in 1978 from the Seed Testing facility at Burnley. This was a great change in the culture as Joan was a strong feminist (founding member of Women’s Electoral Lobby) and the Institute had a strongly blokey, even male chauvinist, culture which was unfair and out of date. The first time Joan came to after work drinks the men were struck speechless.

Joan was a kind, generous and intelligent person, and was a wonderful mentor, friend and collaborator.

 

 

 


Joan Mullett and her technician Helen circa 1980.


 

Ralph Proctor was the field officer who managed the operations of the strawberry runner program. He was a pilot in World War II who towed gliders on the famous D day invasion. On returning safely to base on one occasion, he successfully crash landed his bomber with over 40 shrapnel and bullet holes one of which took out his landing gear. He was a thorough gentleman and retired in 1972. At the age of 90 he published a highly readable autobiography - “Aim Higher- Proc’s Story”.


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Graeme Frith, Director of the Horticultural Research Institute, then Director of the Institute of Plant Sciences and later a Regional Manager.  Graeme resigned from the Department when doing agricultural aid work for the World Bank in the northwest frontier of Pakistan.

 

 

Visiting scientists 1975 to 1992

Visiting scientists made important, stimulating contributions to the work of the Research Station and HRI. The Institute had an international reputation which attracted international experts.

 

In 1975, Professor Lou Edgerton of Cornell University came to work with Nick Veinbrandts and James Hutchinson on flower and fruit thinning and controlling growth of apple trees.

Around the same time a professor from the University of North or South Carolina worked on peach trees with Richard Rowe.

In 1982, Graeme Frith and Graeme McGregor hosted Hugh Daubeney, Vancouver, Canada, to help establish a raspberry breeding program.

In 1987, Dr. Yoram Mor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem worked on the production and postharvest handling of cut flowers with John Faragher, Fiona Johnson and Dennis Richards.

Also in 1987, Professor Dave Blanpied, Cornell, came to work with Colin Little on controlled atmosphere and low ethylene fruit storage technologies. Dr Margareta Welander from the University of Upsala in Sweden worked with Gowrie Maheswaran on tissue culture propagation of apples which was a difficult project.

In the late 80s, Dave Ferree from the USA worked with Dr Kevin Clayton-Greene on apple tree training systems

 


 

Scoresby HRS/HRI staff travelling overseas


 

Many staff travelled overseas to conferences, to learn, study and collaborate. Graeme McGregor visited Hugh Daubeney in British Columbia, Canada, and Derek Jennings in Scotland and attended international Rubus-Ribes symposia. Graeme Frith also participated in international berry symposia. John Faragher completed PhD in Israel on postharvest physiology and horticulture from 1981-1984. A number of staff attended the International Horticultural Congress which was run every four years, eg 1974 in Poland, Hamburg in 1982 and Davis California in 1986.

 

Knoxfield staff organised and hosted the Australian Postharvest Horticulture Workshop at Sherbrooke in 1984, Graeme McGregor organised the 1998 ISHS Rubus- Ribes the symposium in Australia and New Zealand, IHD staff organised the 1995 Australasian Postharvest Horticulture Conference, the Fourth Australian Horticulture Conference 1998 and the fifth Australian Wildflower Conference 1999.

 

 

Director of the Horticultural Research Institute, Graeme Frith (left) and Karel Kroon at the latter’s retirement ceremony circa 1990.


PART 2. INSTITUTE OF PLANT SCIENCES (IPS) 1990-1993, THE INSTITUTE FOR HORTICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT (IHD) 1993-2003 AND THE KNOXFIELD CENTRE OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES RESEARCH VICTORIA 2003-2013.

 

A merger of the Burnley, Knoxfield and Toolangi campuses to form the Institute of Plant Sciences occurred around 1990 under the excellent directorship of Graeme Frith.  Work at Knoxfield and Burnley had become better aligned under

Graeme’s leadership. Several Burnley staff transferred to Knoxfield in the early 1990s. These included Dolf de Boer, Jan (Tab) McKechnie, Bill Washington and Shan Shanmuganathan.

 

In 1993, the Kennett Government announced that it would create a new Institute for Horticultural Development (IHD). The Department’s Secretary Michael Taylor announced this to a combined audience of 212 people at a combined staff meeting in the main hall of Burnley College on 7 April 1993. IHD was to include the existing work at Knoxfield, Burley and Toolangi, the work at the Vegetable Research Station in Bullarto Rd Frankston and the work at the Ovens Research Station at Myrtleford. The Department’s Burnley and Frankston sites were to be closed and all staff relocated to Knoxfield (most), Horsham (agronomy pathology) and Latrobe University (molecular science group). Dennis Richards from Knoxfield was appointed as Director. Many Burnley staff were bitterly disappointed at the loss of their highly regarded Institute.

 

The amalgamation and moves caused difficulties for some people. However the changes brought new scientists and science to Knoxfield and in time good working relationships, collaborations and friendships developed.

 

The management structure was based on Function Managers: Product Development, Martin Barlass, Plant Health, Peter Merriman, Industry Development, Russell Sully, and Administrative Services, Franklin Trouw and later Paul Kennedy. Industry Managers were: vegetables, Wendy Morgan, potatoes Russell Sully, ornamentals David Beardsell; and fruit David Williams.

 

Some industry organisations were also located at Knoxfield including Flowers Victoria and the Australian Horticultural Exporters Association.

 

In 1995, thanks to the vision and initiative of Director Dennis Richards and the work of Franklin Trouw several excellent new buildings and facilities were established. These included the main administrative, conference and industry block

(“The Palace”), a sophisticated postharvest centre, a library and several high technology glasshouses. The total cost was $6 million.  The complex was opened by Premier Jeff Kennett.

 

Dennis Richards was Director from 1993-1999. Peter Merriman was acting Director in 1999 and John Field-Dodgson was Director from 1999 to 2003.

 

Around 2003, the Department became known as the Department of Primary Industries, the Institutes were closed and the sites retained as Centres of Primary Industries Research Victoria. There were state-wide platforms e.g. Plant Production Sciences, Plant Health and Biotechnology.  The Plant Production Sciences Platform included staff at Knoxfield, particularly the postharvest group, and people at Tatura, Mildura and Horsham.  Bruce Tomkins was state-wide leader of the Plant Physiology and Postharvest sub-platform. The Plant Health Platform had a similar spread of staff across the state and Jane Moran of Knoxfield was state-wide leader.

 

Administration and management of IHD

Franklin Trouw and later Paul Kennedy were Managers of Institute Services, Jill McColm and later Jenny Beaumont were the Director’s Personal Assistant, Finance Manager was the resourceful John McMahon, followed by Neil Summerton and Kerryn Bell. Personnel/Human Resources was managed by Ron van Hoof assisted by Rosemarie Jayetileke, Nicole Locarnini and Kieran Keating, Farm Manager until 1999 was John Richards, Facility Manager was Phil Ball, then Janyce Truett and Pam Rogers. Communications Manager was Tony Allen who did an excellent job and was later assisted by Joanne Bates, Andrew Henderson and Reinhard Ittner. IT at the Institute was very ably led by Phil Moyle and assisted by Warwick Turnbull.

 

In 1993-1994 the total staff number was 139, with 64 scientists, 56 technicians and 19 administration staff. The operating budget was $9.2 million with external funding of $4.6 million from Rural Industry R&D Corporations, industry, contract research and consulting..


The 1999-2000 report showed that the Institute had 110 science staff , 50 technical Staff , 15 administrative staff (Note: some would argue that the number of science staff and technical staff should be approximately the same). The budget consisted of $5 million State recurrent funding and $4 million other funding, including Rural Industry Research Funds and fee for services and contracts.

                    

John Field-Dodgson, IHD Director from 1999-2003.             John McMahon as Finance Manager used innovative strategies to gain funding.

 

Industry and Federal Government funding

The research at this time was directed by invaluable industry funding through the research funding agencies including the Horticultural R&D Corporation later named Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) and the Rural Industries R&D Corporation (RIRDC), Grape and Wine R&D Corporation (GWRDC) and the Australian Centre for Agricultural Research (ACIAR). These used industry and Commonwealth funding to assist horticulture and new and emerging industries. In addition, there was a considerable amount of contract work and consulting for rural and allied industries.  This funded half of the work at IHD from 1993-2013. In addition, there was significant funding from collaborations with the Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) and from contract research and consulting for rural and allied industries.

 

Tony Allen, a former extension officer developed an excellent communications program at IHD.

 

Principal Scientists were appointed in late 1999 and at Knoxfield Russell Sully was Manager for Industry Development and Wendy Morgan Manager for Product Development. However, these were more administrative and management jobs than science jobs.

Some important management challenges identified by one section leader were:

The Department charged externally funded projects high costs which made project proposals less attractive to externally funders;

 

The work in the ten year life of IHD was summarised in a booklet “Making a Difference”, and the key achievements are described later.


Unlike previous eras, there was little scope for long term strategic research, and scientists spent too much time applying for funds and reporting to the funding agencies.

 

A very successful open day for the local community was held in March 1996 when 650 people came to see the work of the Institute.

 

Plant breeding

Strawberry varieties Mindarie and Coogee bred by Bruce Morrison and Karen Spencer) and new raspberry varieties Dinkum and Bogong bred by Graeme McGregor were released in the 1990s. Coconut improvement was done as an aid project by Roger Ashburner. Transgenic Roal Gala and Pink Lady ® were created by Gowri Maheswaran. Breeding programs for pears and potatoes were established as national, long-term projects funded by HRDC and the State.

 

Culture

The culture following the formation of IHD was very cooperative. Unlike the earlier male dominated era up until the end of the 1970s, more women scientists were employed leading to a greatly enriched work atmosphere and superior work outcomes. The only downside of the later era was ever increasing pressure on staff to meet diminishing budgets and resources. Lunchtime sport (volleyball and swimming) continued. The Friday night wine tasting/HTP club was an excellent opportunity for informal discussions.

 

Early recognition of effects of global warming on horticulture

Kevin Clayton-Greene was one of the first horticulturalists in Australia to critically think about the potential effects of global warming on deciduous fruit trees and published a review on the topic in 1995: “Greenhouse warming and vernalisation of high-chill fruit in southern Australia.”

 

Postharvest developments

In IHD, the postharvest group was within the product development section which was led by Bill Thompson, Wendy Morgan and then Bruce Tomkins. The postharvest section was led by John Faragher then Bruce Tomkins and Robert Premier. In the 2003 DPI structure the postharvest group was in the Plant Production Sciences platform.

 

The search for alternative to diphenylamine to control superficial scald in stored apples and pears continued (Jenny Chellew with Kevin Clayton-Green).

 

Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) was an area of R&D which expanded and included work for industry with HRDC/HAL funding and contract research and consulting. Bruce Tomkins, Doris Bläsing, Kevin Clayton-Greene and others worked on MAP for blueberries and (pallet wraps) which enabled the first international ship transport.  MAP carton liners for broccoli enabled substantial sea exports to Hong Kong (funded by HAL). MAP and the accompanying postharvest handling protocols were developed for ICI films (later LifeSpan within Amcor Flexibles) and ANL Shipping. The work with Lifespan was exceptionally successful and rewarding, because it was led by the clever staff of the commercial company and the packaging technology and products were commercialised and sold around the world, to the point where LifeSpan now claim to "lead the world in bulk modified atmosphere packaging." These packaging films are widely used and reduce losses of fruit, vegetables, stir fry and salad products. The staff who worked on these projects were Bruce Tomkins, Doris Bläsing, Julia Behrsing, Gael Reid, Anita Chennell, Sonya Winkler, Ian Wilkinson, Christine Frisina, Megan Edwards (Mildura) and John Faragher.

 

French scientist, Christian Chervin from CSIRO worked at Knoxfield for three years on pear and tomato ripening, including flavour development and molecular biology. His team, including Janyce Truett, and Andrew Hamilton also researched the effectiveness of CA for disinfestation of apple fruit (funded by HRDC).

 

Graeme Thomson and John Lopresti investigated where bruising was a likely to occur during postharvest handling of potatoes, apples, pears and tomatoes and how the handling chain could be changed to reduce bruising. Trish Grant, Bruce Cumming and Peter Franz researched aspects of pear ripening, harvest maturity and storage.

 

Pink Lady ® apples are one of world’s best apples however this Australian bred cultivar needs to be harvested in a narrow time frame in April. Ian Wilkinson and Christine Frisina completed research which defined the optimum storage conditions which has led to reduced losses in the local markets and exports (HRDC).

 

The newly available inhibitor of ethylene action which causes ripening and senescence in plants, 1-MCP (1- methylcyclopropene), later marketed as SmartFresh™ and EthylBloc™ , was shown to maintain firmness of apples and pears in storage, to inhibit superficial scald in apples and pears and to extend the vase life of some flowers. This work was done by Ian Wilkinson, Christine Frisina, Robert Holmes, Simone Kreidl and Rod Jones.  Methods for CA shipping of fruit and vegetables in shipping containers, using hollow fibre CA generators, were developed in collaboration with BHP


(Colin Little, Paul Dalgliesh, Jenny Chellew, Laurie Barrand and Philip Moyle. Ian Wilkinson and Bill Thompson worked with Mitsubishi Australia and Queensland Horticulture Institute to make their CA shipping technology MAΧtend® operate successfully. MAΧtend® has since become a major force in international shipping of perishables.

 

In 2000, Colin Little and Robert Holmes published their comprehensive reference book: Apple and Pear Storage in Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruce Tomkins, Premier Jeff Kennett, Minister Bill McGrath, local member Steve McCarthur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asian vegetables

During the 1990s, there was a focus on research on Asian vegetables led by Wendy Morgan assisted by, Mandy Chew, Slobodan Vuyovic and Graeme Thomson. At the time there were 75 different Asian vegetable types in the market place many of which were poorly described. The work at IHD led to product description manuals, increased quality in the market chain and increased exports. Staff contributed to the national Asian Vegetable Newsletter and extension supported non-English-speaking vegetable growers, especially in the Werribee production area. A project on the effects of irrigation and nutrition on the postharvest life of bok choy was done by Trish Grant.

 

Functional Foods and Vital Vegetables®

Research on various aspects of "functional foods" started at the Knoxfield and Ovens campuses in around 2000. The aims were to identify agricultural products that had health benefits for humans, to determine what the active ingredients were, to determine how the health benefits were derived and how to produce products with high levels of these beneficial compounds. The project staff were Robert Sward, David Eagling, Bruce Tomkins, Rod Jones, Fred Bienvenu and Audrey Gerber. The crops they focused on were broccoli, garlic, green tea and onions. From 2002, Bruce Tomkins, Rod Jones, John Faragher, Sonya Winkler, Robert Premier, Christine Frisina, Michael Imsic and Graeme Thomson extended this project under the vitalvegetables® project.

 

The vitalvegetables® project was a big, 10 year, collaborative program which had the aim of developing and commercialising high-value vegetable products that provide high health benefits to consumers. The collaboration was between DPI Knoxfield (postharvest group) and the state department, Crop and Food Research (later Plant and Food Research) New Zealand, Horticulture Australia Limited and the vegetable industries in Australia and New Zealand. The Knoxfield participation was initiated and led by Bruce Tomkins and Rod Jones.

 

Ground-breaking research was carried out on the analysis, biochemistry, physiology and agronomy of health-giving nutrients in vegetables during production, handling, marketing and cooking. This information was used to develop protocols to optimise nutrient levels in vegetable products.

 

Packaged vegetable mixes with high nutrient levels, good taste and long shelf life were selected, developed and characterised ready for commercialisation. The products were designed to deliver guaranteed minimum contents of the signature nutrient that exceeded the industry standard for each product. A range of eight products included Booster® fresh broccoli florets and vitalimmunity®, vitalheart®, vitalsight® salad and vegetable mixes. Booster® broccoli was


successfully tested marketed in Australia in August 2009 and farm gate price was three times that of standard broccoli. Five packaged vegetable mixes were launched commercially in New Zealand in late 2012 and some were launched later in Australia.

 

Cost competitive horticulture

This project was part of the department’s Agriculture and Food Initiative in the late 1990s. There were several vegetable projects including measurement of waste during production and postharvest handling, and a review of the prospects for mechanical harvesting , particularly of asparagus (Ralph Cadman, Wendy Morgan and Russell Sully).

 

The High Value Horticulture Initiative

This special stat funded initiative which ran from 1996-2000 to assist Victoria’s horticulture industries to increase exports. There were four, major, state wide, four-year projects. The CQ (Competitive Quality) potato program supported increases in potato quality and exports and was led by Russell Sully. The 7 Veg project was led by Wendy Morgan. The World Class Apples (Pink Lady®) project was led by David Williams at Tatura. The Flowers 2000 project focussed on development of Australian native flowers for export. There was extensive collaboration with the horticultural industries, HRDC, RIRDC, CRCs and expert consultants. These projects employed between 2 and 10 FTE staff per year for 4 years. When the Initiative finished many staff were left and funded and some lost their jobs.

 

7Veg project

As an example of these projects an outline of the 7 Veg/Flowers 2000 project follows.

 

The aim of the 7 Veg project was to assist growers, processors and exporters to increase vegetable exports. In 1996 Victoria exported $33 m pa (FOB) of fresh vegetables and $11 m of processed vegetables. Economic analysis identified that major challenges for industry were to improve quality and lower costs. Export opportunities were identified for high- value vegetables including value-added products. The seven vegetables that the project initially focused on were: asparagus, brassicas, carrots, celery, lettuce, sweet corn and tomatoes.

 

Information was provided on ways to maximise quality and value. Improved production, pest and disease control, postharvest handling and QA practices were developed and adopted. Costs and gross margins were calculated for 70 growers and the greatest costs identified as labour for harvesting and packaging, packaging, costs of selling and the cost of assets. Improved methods for sea transport, which is cheaper than air freight, were researched and implemented. To assist processors and exporters of value-added products staff conducted research and provided advice on product development, sourcing vegetables, processing, QA, food safety and packaging. This was accompanied by a four-fold growth in the Australian market, a very large increase in juice exports and exports of new products including broccoli florets and semi- dried tomatoes. Several projects focused on facilitating exports: producing an export information book “Before You Start” and best practice export protocols; assisting growers to visit markets and importers to visit growers; advising exporters on sourcing vegetables, postharvest handling and transport; and assisting the asparagus industry to diversify their markets and increase exports. New exports of sweet corn, tomatoes and minimally processed vegetables and increased exports of asparagus followed.

 

Project staff included: at Knoxfield, Wendy Morgan (project leader), Martin Barlass (strategic planning), Sarah Barry, Ralph Cadman, Tony Allen, Bruce Tomkins, David O’Donnell, Mandy Chew, Reinhard Ittner, Ian Porter, John Faragher; at Tatura, Bill Ashcroft; at Bairnsdale, Rob Dimsey, in Sunraysia, Sally-Ann Henderson; in Geelong, Stephen Moore; and the department’s Agribusiness staff.

 

Flowers 2000 project

The aim of the Flowers 2000 project was to assist the industry to double exports of flowers from $5million in 1995-96. These flowers were predominantly Australian native and protea family flowers. The project focused on: improving availability of market information; high-value crops; developing new crops; improving quality management; providing technical advice on production and exporting; and assisting promotion in export markets.

 

A list of “best-bets”, of high-value flowers that would meet future market requirements was developed with exporters. This was made widely available and advice on growing these crops was provided through publications, one-on-one advice and workshops. Twenty hectares of these crops were planted in the following year. One of the best-bet crops was calla lily so two articles about their production and marketing were published. Research projects to develop new crops including Acacia, Baeckea, Eriostemon and Leptospermum were established with RIRDC and the department’s Specialised Rural

Industries Program. Information sessions about QA were held for growers and members of the National Flower Centre’s Australian Quality Assured Flowers scheme. Wildflower workshops, with the Australian Flora and Protea Growers Association, attracted 480 people and 700 copies of handbooks on wildflower production were sold. These provided information on economics, production, pests and diseases, postharvest handling, quality management, packaging, disinfestation and export. The Flower Export Council of Australia made a very successful promotion of Australian flowers at the Aalsmeer International Flower Show with assistance from the project.


Project staff included: David Beardsell and John Faragher (project leaders), Tony Slater, Ann Cass, Michelle Bankier, Mary-Anne Blakemore, Bret Henderson, Francha Horlock, Andrea van der Linden, Virginia Williamson, Ralph Cadman, Megan Hill, Gordon Berg, Peter Williams, Tony Allen. Significant contributions were made by Denise Millar and Andrew Patterson and by growers, exporters and industry leaders.

 

Food safety

The safety of horticultural products has become increasingly important. Research was carried out to identify dangerous organisms on vegetables (e.g. E. coli) and the effectiveness of postharvest sanitation chemicals. Risks of using reclaimed water and animal manures were assessed. Guides to safe production of vegetables and native plant foods were produced and training courses were conducted for industry members. Producing the guide for vegetables and conducting the subsequent training were in collaboration with the CRC for International Food Manufacture and Packaging Science.

Imported vegetables were sampled for chemical and microbial contaminants and the results reported to government and industry. The project team was Robert Premier, Bruce Tomkins, Julia Behrsing, Dean Harapas, Janet Tregenza Martin Barlass, Janene Jaeger, Michelle Parsons and John Faragher.

 

 

Natural fungicides

Natural fungicides, of plant origin, were identified by Robert Holmes and Fouad Goubran, and their efficacy demonstrated, particularly as postharvest fungicides for fruit. However, it proved too difficult to commercialize these due to residue issues (e.g. garlic oil).

 

Dennis Richards, leader of the ornamentals research and later Director of IHD.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

manual "Wildflowers the Beginning" was published.


Ornamental plant research

Tony Slater continued work on developing Australian plants for cut flowers funded by RIRDC. He provided selections of Baeckea spp., Leptospermum spp and Eriostemon spp. to industry. Rod Jones, Francha Horlock and John Faragher, funded by RIRDC assessed the potential of several Acacia species as cut flowers and examined best postharvest treatments

 

New cultivars of gerberas for cut flowers were selected, propagated using tissue culture and grown in hydroponics were evaluated and released to industry (Brian Hanger, Ian Wilkinson,, Denise Fontana, Dale Tomlinson and Jim Hutchinson).

 

Led by Ann Cass, state-wide seminars for the wildflower industry were conducted and the


 

John Faragher, Tony Slater, Daryl Joyce and Virginia Williamson completed a practical manual on all aspects of postharvest handling of Australian flowers was produced to assist the industry to maintain product quality and increased exports.

 

Virginia Williamson also worked on the causes of poor water uptake in Australia wildflowers. When plant stems are used as cut flowers, a substance, possibly suberin, forms at the base of stems. Some treatments that might remove the blockage at the end of cut stems, include recutting stems, keeping stems in deep water and washing, These treatments have improved vase life.


The ‘Blue Rose Project’

This was started with an Australian company, Calgene Pacific, an offshoot of the Californian company Calgene Pacific in the late 1980s. Knoxfield staff developed genetic transformation and regeneration methods. Calgene Pacific/Florigene scientists went on to do outstanding research and development of a bluish rose and ‘Moonglo’ carnation which are sold internationally. Dennis Richards led this work with, Jim Hutchinson, Vijay Kaul, Gowri Maheswaran, and Robyn Miller.

 

Street and park tree research

In 1992, David Beardsell, Michelle Bankier, Fran Richardson and Francha Horlock commenced developing native trees for parks and gardens. Grafted clones of Brachychiton acerifolius, Corymbia citriodora, Eucalyptus leucoxylon and Eucalyptus sideroxylon were released to the City of Melbourne and other councils. Flinders Street east in the City has been recently planted with a clone of Corymbia citriodora selected in this project. Eucalyptus leucoxylon subspecies megalocarpa, the main tree planted in Federation Square in the City is also a wonderful legacy from this research program.

 

National nursery and flower industry water recycling

David Beardsell, Elizabeth James, Martin Mebalds and Michelle Bankier from 1993-1997 completed the successful development and rapid and complete adoption by industry of water recycling in Australian plant nurseries and flower farms. This involved managing nutrient levels, salinity and plant pathogens. This not only drought proofed nurseries but also led to great savings in water and fertiliser costs and excellent environmental outcomes from reduced nutrient and pathogen laden runoff.

 

Poor growth of trees along the Yarra near the CBD

A project led by David Beardsell and Peter Yau from the City of Melbourne showed that salinity and high water tables were the cause of death and lack of vigour of trees along the Yarra from Richmond to the CBD. In addition, declining oriental plane trees along Southbank were found to be infected with fungus-like pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi.

 

Quality assurance programs

Sue Godfrey and Kevin Clayton Greene, in collaboration with Keith Leamon in Mildura worked on quality assurance programs (QA) including Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), for blueberries, flowers, strawberries and vegetables. Sarah Barry and others trained 74 East Gippsland vegetable growers in QA and HACCP and 60 of these achieved certification by SQF 2000 or Woolworths Vendor Quality Management System. Quality assurance programs were widely adopted by industry with financial and other benefits.

 

Wine grape quality

A training workshop for wine grape quality management was developed, a manual produced and 36 workshops presented by Erika Winter and colleagues. A berry sensory analysis manual and training package were produced to assist grape growers and winemakers to identify and describe crucial berry attributes (Erika Winter, John Whiting and colleagues with funding from the Cooperative Research Centre for Viticulture and GWRCD).

 

 

Plant health projects: IHD and the Knoxfield Centre of Primary Industries Research Victoria 1993-2013 by Robert Holmes and Peter Merriman

In 1993, a significant number of plant pathologists, virologists and entomologists moved to the Knoxfield campus after the closure of Burnley. The formation of IHD created a national resource for plant health research and development, integrated pest management (IPM) and the associated diagnostic work and services. The Plant Health group was led by Peter Merriman and later by Jane Moran.

 

IPM is a broad-based strategy incorporating chemical and nonchemical treatments that aims to suppress pest, pathogen and weed populations below the economic injury level. It is considered to pose the least risk to industry, the community and the environment while maximising benefits and reducing costs.

 

IPM was chosen as the basis for the structure of the Institute’s plant health sections. The following sections operated: IPM fruit; IPM vegetables and potatoes; IPM ornamentals; Postharvest pathology and disinfestation; Diagnostics R&D; and Crop Health Services (CHS), the plant pest and disease diagnostic service.


Crop Health team L-R:Brendan Rodoni, Cheryl Skyllas, Con Skyllas, Geoff Kelly, Fiona Constable, Karina De la Cruz, Mirko Milinkovic, Mai Hlaing Loh,  Chris Bottcher, Joanne Luck circa 2005.

 

In 2003 a new structure of State-wide “Platforms” was imposed. The Plant Health Platform had staff and activities across the state and Jane Moran of Knoxfield was the State-wide Leader.

 

Some key outcomes from applied research, development and extension were:

 

All Knoxfield plant health work was relocated to the new laboratories in the Centre for Agribiosciences (AgriBio) at La Trobe University in 2013.

 

IPM fruit

Section leaders: DeAnne Glenn, Daryl Joyce, Jacky Edwards

 

Cropwatch, a program to assist fruit growers to monitor and control insect pests using a minimum of pesticides, was established by David Williams at Burnley. The program developed over many years and was based on the work of the department’s fruit entomologists at Burnley and Tatura. Such programs are an important, integral part of IPM, to enable efficient fruit production and marketing in an era where consumers demand clean produce grown in an environmentally responsible manner. The work included developing strategies to monitor the presence of pest and beneficial insects in fruit crops by establishing practical trapping and sampling methods. This enabled field scouts to monitor and report on insect numbers. Action thresholds were developed to allow growers to apply treatments at optimal times to avoid overuse of pesticides. Initial and on-going training of scouts to carry out monitoring was a significant part of the program. Initially the program concentrated on insect pests and their management. More recently, apple and pear scab infection periods were monitored (based on leaf wetness and temperature records), and tree growth stages, bud development and crop prediction became part of the program. This information enabled growers to more efficiently and effectively control pests and diseases with minimal use of pesticide sprays. The overall benefits to growers were reduced insect damage to crops,


reduced pesticide use and less impact on the environment. More recently the Cropwatch program was led by David Williams at Tatura, and Peter Cole and later Bill Washington at Knoxfield. It was then privatised and conducted by industry groups (e.g. Fruit Growers Victoria Limited) and by commercial companies.

 

Grapevine trunk diseases were found to be limiting the viability of newly established vineyards by causing the decline and at times the death of vines as they matured. The project “Managing grapevine trunk diseases” led by Ian Pascoe and Jacky Edwards established the causal organisms and studied their biology to formulate comprehensive management strategies for two of the problematic diseases, Black goo decline and esca. Strategies for vineyard hygiene and production of disease free propagating material were two key outcomes.

 

The national project “Participatory on-farm trials for sustainable viticulture” was coordinated by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Viticulture and started in 1999. This brought together researchers from different disciplines and viticulturists to address the key aspects of viticultural management – irrigation, nutrition, canopy management and pest and disease management in on-farm demonstration trials. Many staff from the IPM fruit team contributed to this project. The project was expanded in 2004 and was later known as “VITICARE on farm trials”. This theme was continued in a project initiated by Daryl Joyce in collaboration with the CRC for Microtechnology. This included work on rapid diagnostics for plant diseases and the use of microsensors and sensing networks to measure climate and microclimate variables associated with the risk of botrytis fungus on grapes (with Erika Winter and others).

 

Bill Washington with Oscar Villalta conducted a series of projects to develop new management options for the control of apple and pear scab. Painstaking recording of ascospore discharge enabled the development and validation of weather based, predictive models to assist growers determine the critical timing for fungicide application. A sampling procedure was developed that predicted the quantity of overwintering disease and this was validated at over 30 sites. This risk assessment could then be used to determine the potential benefit of sanitation practices including pre- and post-leaf-fall nitrogenous sprays, leaf sweeping and mulching. A 40 page manual was published that summarised the findings and the current world knowledge of scab management.

 

Jacky Edwards led a project that used predictive modelling to demonstrate the potential distribution of the exotic apple disease European canker. It was shown it could potentially establish over many parts of Australia, particularly the southern and eastern coastal regions and cause disease on a range of forest, nut and garden species in addition to apple.

 

The state’s Chemical Standards Branch in collaboration with the State Chemistry Laboratory conducted seasonal surveys of pesticide residues in selected horticultural products. Over a number of successive surveys, residues of postharvest dipping chemicals, diphenylamine and fungicides, in pome fruit were a standout issue.  Bill Washington and Robert Holmes, in collaboration with the Chemical Standards Branch, measured fruit residues and recorded the associated dipping practices at several packers to identify practices linked with high and low residues. Best practice dipping guidelines were prepared and extended to industry through workshops nationally, individual consultations and a published manual. This project greatly assisted the industry to minimise residues and thereby maintain access to increasingly discriminating market places nationally and overseas.

 

Phomopsis rots can damage chestnuts during marketing and storage. Bill Washington researched methods to reduce the incidence of rots including variety selection, postharvest hot water treatment and several postharvest and cold storage practices.

 

Staff: DeAnne Glenn, Ian Pascoe, Bill Washington, Robert Holmes, David Williams Fouad Goubran, Erika Winter, Natalie Laukart, Martin Mebalds, David Shearer, Kevin Wilkinson, Peter Cole, Jacqueline Edwards, Jane Fisher, Karen Green, Narelle Kita, David Riches, Michelle Warren, Tonya Wiechel, Violeta Traicevski, Oscar Villalta, Rachel Powney (Mann), Vanessa Hood, Natalia Tostovrsnik.

 

IPM vegetables and potatoes, subsequently Soil-borne Pathology

Section leader: Ian Porter

 

An invaluable part of IPM is to use biocontrol organisms to control pests. Paul Horne led projects that identified the specific attributes of using egg and adult parasites for biocontrol, particularly the issue of the compatibility with commonly used chemical insecticides. Paul later resigned from IHD and established a commercial biocontrol business.

 

Ian Porter led the internationally significant program on replacement of the ozone layer depleting methyl bromide as a field fumigant. The methyl bromide research team was officially recognised by the Australian Government in 2012 for “outstanding work in evaluating alternatives and supporting Australia’s efforts to phase out methyl bromide”.

 

Research continued on the integrated control of diamondback moth on crucifer vegetables led by Nancy Endersby. A pest and disease guide and IPM manual were produced, spray application workshops were conducted and IPM crop scouts


were trained. Integrated strategies to prevent and control the spread of clubroot in brassicas were developed by Caroline Donald and team. A project on IPM control of earworm (Helicoverpa) in sweet corn was conducted by Peter Ridland with Rob Dimsey and W. Siva-Subramaniam (Bairnsdale). Recommendations for new control strategies, spray methods and new chemicals were made to industry and they were adopted.

 

Following the incursion of a new pathotype of white blister affecting a range of brassicas, a project team led by Liz Minchinton was engaged by Horticulture Australia (HAL) to develop disease management strategies to effectively manage any future white blister incursions. Recommended strategies developed following extensive field trials included: the use of resistant cultivars which enable the sustainable management of disease with less fungicide and appropriate timing of irrigations. Trials showed that crops irrigated around dawn had the lowest incidence of white blister. A microclimate based disease predictive model Brassicaspot™ from UK was adjusted and validated for local conditions. Using the model to time fungicides reduced the number of fungicides required to prevent disease compared with conventional grower practice.

 

A national workshop was conducted to devise ways to overcome the difficulties associated with a lack of effective pesticides registered for use on vegetables. The workshop achieved national consensus on a framework for off-label approvals for agricultural chemical use on vegetables. This work was conducted by Gordon Berg and Peter Merriman, as part of the 7 Veg export project and with HRDC funding.

 

Ian Porter with the Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee (VIAC) led a series of national workshops, attended by growers, researchers and agricultural consultants, to scope key areas for funding from 2007 to 2010. The areas identified included: chemical resistance management; IPM compatible pesticides; best practice IPM programs for foliar, soil-borne and viral diseases; a technology transfer program to deliver best practice IPM packages for outdoor and greenhouse vegetables; and an innovation program that investigated new DNA technologies that could improve the use of IPM on farms. The VIAC subsequently endorsed the program and allocated funds to 12 research projects led by a range of government and private stakeholders across Australia.

 

A project led by Kevin Wilkinson, with Emily Tee and Barry Dignam, focussed on the conversion of organic green waste into high quality compost. They investigated composting processes to kill, and stop the spread of, pests and diseases. This work has been successfully transferred to industry resulting in the environmental benefits of waste reduction and recycling and productivity benefits to horticulture including water and herbicide savings in orchards and vineyards. The five year research project culminated in the publication “Guide to best practice – Composting green organics”.

 

Potato projects were led by Dolf de Boer and included Nigel Crump and others. Successive projects investigated the control of soilborne diseases responsible for crop losses, defects and postharvest diseases. The main diseases researched included Rhizoctonia canker which reduces yield and quality of the produce and both common and powdery scab which affect tuber quality. To address these diseases Victorian researchers collaborated with South Australian, Tasmanian, New Zealand and Canadian colleagues in a number of sub-programs focused on the development of DNA tests for quantification of Streptomyces (common scab) in soil, the impact of cropping systems on disease and productivity, and on understanding and managing the soil environment for disease control. This research demonstrated that manipulating the species composition of pasture before planting reduced losses caused by Rhizoctonia.

 

Other projects included: best management practices for lettuce; a survey of cavity spot (Pythium) in carrots was carried out and strategies to control the disease were developed with growers; a new celery mosaic virus was discovered and a method of control which dramatically reduced virus levels in plants was introduced; and control of bacterial canker in tomatoes in collaboration with Bill Ashcroft of Tatura ISIA.

 

The IPM vegetables and potatoes team consisted of: Paul Horne, Peter Ridland, Mark Smith, Dolf de Boer, Liz Minchinton, Martin Mebalds, Gary D’Arcy, Scott Mattner, Vittorio Bianco, Nigel Crump, Leigh Curtis, Helen Donohoe, Nancy Endersby, Cathy Mansfield, Paula Nicholson, Ross Mann, Tonya Wiechel, Kevin Wilkinson, Robyn Brett, Alan Shanks, Natalie Tostovrsnik, Emily Tee, Caroline Donald, Rajendra Gounder, Leanne Trinder, Josie Lawrence, Bin Lu, Richard Mapson, Fran Richardson, Joanna Petkowski, Mark Whattam, Patricia Maher, Jamie Nichols, Jingye Zhang, Craig Murdoch, David O’Donnell, Teagan Rennick, Rob Faggian, Stefan Smith, Debra Partington, Slobodan Vujovic, Vanessa Hood, Murray Hannah, Violeta Traicevski, Daniel Isenegger, James Hutchinson, Jane Moran and Ian Porter.

 

IPM Ornamentals

Section leader: Gordon Berg

 

The IPM ornamentals team was short lived due to the industry not supporting the Federal and State governments’ co- funding requirements. Nevertheless several projects of great value to the industry were conducted between 1993 and 1999 including: management of Western flower thrips on cut flowers; steam-air treatment for the control of seedborne pathogens in ornamentals seeds; and control of Elsinoe spot on proteas.


Other staff: Peter Williams, Martin Mebalds, Jo Rae, Angelika Ziehrl, Ian Porter.

 

Postharvest pathology and disinfestation, subsequently airborne pathology

Section leader: Robert Holmes

 

Dipping pome and stone fruit in fungicides for the control of postharvest rots was regarded by industry as a practice which could be replaced by non-chemical methods. A project was initiated by N. Shanmuganathan to develop biocontrols for postharvest fruit diseases. Laboratory and commercial scale experiments demonstrated the efficacy of selected yeasts for the control of Penicillium, Botrytis, Mucor and Rhizopus. Four years of trials established that immersion and spray applications of specialised, cold adapted yeasts provided levels of control equal to or better than conventional chemicals during long-term refrigerated and CA storage. Patents were filed for the application of yeasts for the biocontrol of postharvest diseases and a commercialisation partner was engaged.

 

A project team led by Robert Holmes with Fouad Goubran isolated and characterised several fungicidal compounds naturally occurring in plants and investigated their exploitation as postharvest fungicides for horticultural applications. A substantial project was undertaken in partnership with the CRC for International Food Manufacture and Packaging Science to develop highly efficacious fractions to replace SO2 fumigation which was the industry standard practice for the protection of table grapes from bunch rots after harvest. The novel fungicides when incorporated into a controlled release packaging system effectively prevented postharvest rot over 8 weeks storage. Commercialisation was not achieved within the timeframe of the CRC however the invention was shown to have great potential.

 

“Pre-storage treatment for disinfestation of apples and pears” was a collaborative project with HRDC and scientists from CSIRO (Christian Chervin, based at Knoxfield), NSW Agriculture and Department of Agriculture WA that targeted the quarantine pests codling moth, light brown apple moth, Queensland fruit fly and Mediterranean fruit fly. Treatments evaluated were low temperature, low oxygen stress, heat and the fumigant phosphine. Cold showed good efficacy against all pests except codling moth without injury to the fruit. Phosphine, which is not facing restrictions like methyl bromide and does not leave harmful residues, was effective against all pests without injuring fruit. Both treatments showed potential for replacing methyl bromide depending on the pests of concern.

 

Peter Williams who had worked on grain disinfestation at Burnley turned his hand to horticultural products demonstrating the effective disinfestation of citrus and cut flowers with a newly developed, bottled gas formulation of phosphine (in the late 1990s). Phosphine was considered to be a potential replacement for methyl bromide which was to become unavailable in the near future. Peter's research with M. Murugappan (Victoria University) and Bob Ryan (Cytec Industries) led to the registration of ECO2FUME® for the disinfestation of cut flowers for export in 1999. The most significant challenge of this work was to develop suitable protocols to assure complete disinfestation from a range of pests and passenger species with minimal impact on the postharvest life of important cut flower species. Peter also provided advice to flower growers and exporters on pest control and disinfestation.

 

Two of the team’s senior scientists developed partnership projects through the Australia Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Dolf de Boer led the five year project “Management of potato late blight in Papua New Guinea” that developed and implemented safe and cost effective, integrated, late blight management strategies for existing and new potato cultivars. A key strategy was the introduction, multiplication, evaluation and deployment of late blight resistant potato varieties into PNG. In addition, the project analysed the genetic diversity of the late blight pathogen in PNG to assist Australia to prepare for possible incursions of new and difficult to control strains. The CRC for Tropical Plant Protection Australia, the International Potato Center Peru, the National Agricultural Research Institute PNG, the Fresh Produce Development Company Ltd PNG and the Papua New Guinea Cocoa and Coconut Institute, were partners

in the project. A project “Reducing spoilage and contamination risks of fresh vegetables in China and Australia” was led by Robert Holmes. The scientists analysed vegetable production and handling systems to determine risk factors leading to spoilage and contamination. Efficient strategies for decontaminating wash-water and introducing hygienic postharvest washing systems for vegetables and improved monitoring of human pathogen contamination risks during fresh vegetable handling and marketing were developed and introduced through workshops and lectures in China and grower workshops in Australia. The project was delivered in partnership with Food Science Australia, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science Institute of Vegetables and Flowers, China Agricultural University and the China National Green Food Industry Company.

 

Other staff: SriKanthi deAlwis, Glenn Hale, Simone Kreidl, Paul Harrop, Bret Henderson, Steven Whitmore, Vanessa Hood, Catriona Moors, Soheir Salib, Martin Mebalds, Andrew Hamilton, Oscar Villalta, Bill Washington, Des Auer, David Riches, Andrew Hamilton.

 

Diagnostics R&D, subsequently Biosecurity Science

This section was led by Jane Moran, Brendan Rodoni and Jo Luck


The Diagnostics R&D and Biosecurity Science groups conducted the research to underpin quarantine and biosecurity policy development and preparedness for potential outbreaks, concentrating on developing a capability to identify and diagnose exotic pest and disease outbreaks.

 

The most significant assessments were: the potential threat to Australian viticulture of Pierce’s Disease and its vector the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter on behalf of GWRDC; identifying gaps in Australia’s biosecurity; the first nationally-ratified contingency plan for an exotic disease (fire blight); post-entry quarantine diagnostic procedures for apples; and virus

testing for solanaceous vegetable seeds. National diagnostic protocols for Pierce’s disease, plum pox virus and fire blight were written and validated and accepted by Plant Health Australia as the first national diagnostic standards for plant diseases in Australia.

 

Mundulla Yellows is a chlorosis disorder of eucalypts on South Australian roadsides. Similar disorders occur in eucalyptus and other native plants elsewhere. The potential causes, including pests, diseases and soil nutrition were investigated by Jane Moran, Joanna Petkowski, Barbara Czerniakowski, Jo Luck and Rosa Crnov. They concluded that the chlorosis was caused by the alkaline soils which cause iron deficiency.

 

An important role of this group was to provide diagnostic methods and advice to the Crop Health Services diagnostics business.

 

Other staff: Fiona Constable, Gordon Berg, Bonnie Van Rijswijk, Mai Hliang Loh, David Williams, Cheryl Skyllas, Con Skyllas, Geoff Kelly, Karina De la Cruz, Mirko Milinkovic, Chris Bottcher, Gary D’Arcy.

 

Crop Health Services

Crop Health Services (CHS) provided a world-class pest and disease diagnostics service for all plant industries and parks and gardens management authorities on a fee-for-service basis. It was managed in turn by Cheryle Copes, Frank Greenhalgh, Barry Moignard, Rod Clarke, Ian Pascoe, Gordon Berg and Robert Holmes. Rod in particular facilitated the commercialisation of the services and grew the business through a determined marketing effort. James Wong and later Chin Gouk managed the business aspects in addition to the delivery of scientific investigations. Robert managed the transition of the business to the new laboratories in the Centre for Agribiosciences (AgriBio) at La Trobe University in 2013 where the business continued to grow. The annual number of diagnoses grew from about 600 in 1993 to more than 11,500 in 2013. An increasing number of disease specimens were of a cryptic nature where the symptoms and causal agent were not easily identified. Diagnosis, particularly of this type of specimen, was achieved by the well-integrated team of experienced diagnosticians, backed up by specialist taxonomists, entomologists, bacteriologists, mycologists, nematologists and virologists. The service also provided a frontline detection capability for outbreaks of exotic pests and diseases and a routine service for state and federal quarantine agencies.

 

For a period around the year 2000 CHS offered microbiological HACCP testing for the horticultural industries. This service was led by Janet Tregenza under the supervision of Robert Premier and tested produce, water, soil, manures, composts and other inputs for microbiological contaminants that may affect the quality of the product, or human health.

 

Several other plant health scientists assisted Crop Health Services with service delivery to industry and government clients.

 

CHS under a Service Level Agreement and later a Memorandum of Understanding provided advice and services to the department’s Plant Standards/Plant Biosecurity group (see AQIS and Plant Biosecurity Part 4).

Other CHS staff: Ramez Aldaoud, Fiona Cooper, Srikanthi De Alwis, Mallik Malipatel, Mark Blackett, Linda Semeraro, Savitri Nadesan, Lila Nambiar, Con Skyllas, Sandra Isaacs, Maree Martin, Cheryl Skyllas, Gray Harrison, Kelvin Dunn, John Wainer, Corina Horstra, Gisele Irvine, Deborah Keating, Alison Medhurst, Brendan Rodoni, Fiona Constable, Rod Jones, Chris Bottcher, Narelle Nancarrow, Stephen Doughty, Quang Dinh, Jacqueline Edwards, Joanne Mackie, Kerry Thomas and Karina De la Cruz.

 

Biosystematics

Section leaders: Mallik Malipatil, Ian Pascoe

 

The Knoxfield site held Victoria’s plant pest and disease collections, which at the time contained over 120,000 specimens. These specimens and associated data provided the basis for diagnosis and biosecurity management decisions. Taxonomic research focused on the Australian cercosporoid fungi, powdery mildews, the heteropteran bugs (such as mirids) and leafhoppers. This included evaluating new methods to identify pests of leguminous and cruciferous crops. A strong molecular taxonomic capability was developed which assisted resolving the taxonomy of problematic groups of fungi including smuts and powdery mildews. The team of fungal, insect and nematode taxonomists developed a capability for on-line sharing of the validated pest and disease records from the nation’s collections needed to satisfy the technical evidence required for international trade. The process involved validation of historical records by re-examination of specimens, development of a new database, linkage of interstate databases and development of a searchable web interface.


This concept enabled the rapid development of a national network of plant pest and disease databases. The collections under the curation of Jacky Edwards and Mali Malipatel were transferred in 2013 to a state of the art facility in the Centre for Agribiosciences at La Trobe University.

 

Staff: Mark Blackett, Linda Semeraro, John Wainer, Ian Faithfull, Jill Hinch, Lila Nambiar, James Cunnington, Vyrna Beilharz, Kyla Finlay, Catriona Moors, Sharon Morley, Robyn Gross, Jacky Edwards.

 

Extension of plant health R&D

Many of the plant health projects described above included extension work with industry. Industry specialists in regions also carried out extension work, e.g. from Tatura and Geelong. In addition, extension of plant health information was part of the work of the Education and Training, Quality Assurance, Technology Transfer and High Value Horticulture Initiative teams and projects that are described above.

 

David Nichols and Lionel Jager two of Scoresby’s most loved and respected scientists circa 1990.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Peter Merriman, the first leader of Plant Health at IHD.  Peter was a great mentor at the Institute.

 

 

Below: Lila Nambiar, Srikanthi DeAlwis and Ramez Aldoud, members of Crop Health Services

 

 

Right: Mali Malipatil, Ross Field,

John Weiner

and Jane Moran.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ‘old bastards club’: Bruce Morrison, Arthur Osnearis, Richard Mapson, Bruce McColl, Trevor Davy, Samantha Ryan, Russell Goodman and Alan Noon.


Bruce Morrison, Peter Franz, Sonja Winkler, John Faragher, Christine Frisina, Peter Carr, Simone Kreidl, Linda Semeraro, Phil Moyle, David Riches, Glen Hale, John McMahon, Ian Wilkinson (with lables), ?, Ron van Hoof, Russell Sully, Bruce Tomkins, ?, Sue Collis, Con Skyllas, Brian Hanger, Cheryl Skyllas, Tony Slater, Craig Murdoch, Lionel Jager, David Beardsell, Karel Kroon at the retirement of Ian Wilkinson in 2007.

 

Methyl bromide team. Back row Ross Mann, Rajendra Gounder, Caroline Donald, Ian Porter and Scott Mattner. Front row Alan Shanks, Josie Lawrence, Robyn Brett and Natalie Tostovrsnik.


Entomologist Linda Semeraro with Minister Bob Cameron

 

 

 

Ian McLaughlin (Apple and Pear Growers Association)                                                                           with John Faragher.


 

Ian Pascoe, unknown, Mali Malipatil, James Cunnington and Linda Semeraro from Crop Health Services.

 

 

 

 

Ian Pascoe, an internationally recognised mycologist and taxonomist was a key member of the Crop Health Services group.

 

 

Education and training

A substantial and very effective education and training program was established by Jenny Beaumont and Rob Sward.  A wide range of training for horticultural and food industries was conducted. An excellent model of delivering education and training, Research to Practice TM   was developed and delivered. It was nationally accredited and widely used by IHD staff, for example to conduct workshops on wine grape quality and food safety. A

registered training organisation was registered so that accredited courses could be run.


Knoxfield staff were strongly supported to do post graduate training and nearly all scientists at the Institute had PhD or Masters degrees and most technicians had Bachelors degrees.

 

International aid projects (Industry Services Group)

IHD was involved in several overseas programs including a very successful program for the Indonesian vegetable industry run by Wendy Morgan, Peter Ridland and Nancy Endersby.

 

Australian Society for Horticultural Science

Many IHD staff were members of this society and attended the conferences. Knoxfield staff became the managers of the society in the late 1990s and organised its fourth conference in 1998.

 

International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS)

Former Director Graeme Frith and Graeme McGregor  were office bearers in this professional organisation.

Graeme McGregor was a member of the Rubus-Ribes working group and of the committee of the ISHS Fruit Section.

 

 

Graeme McGregor, great horticulturist, botanist, intellectual and wonderful person who died too young and is sadly missed.

 

Conferences

Graeme McGregor organised the 1998 ISHS Rubus-Ribes symposium in Australia and New Zealand and IHD staff organised the 1995 Australasian Postharvest Conference and the fifth Australian Wildflower Conference 1999.

 

Overseas travel and collaboration

Annual research reviews list the numerous international collaborations and visits. For example, Graeme McGregor studied and collaborated with pear breeding programs in Europe; Prof Shimon Mayak from Israel worked on postharvest physiology of cut flowers with Rod Jones and John Faragher, Prof Abraham Halevy and Wouter van Doom worked on postharvest handling of cut flowers with Rod Jones and Michael Reid from UC Davis advised on postharvest projects .John Faragher and Robert Premier were invited speakers at the US Gordon conference on postharvest horticulture, 2002.

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Thompson, Lionel Jager and Syd Hayes. Bill Washington in the rear (right).

 

 

Biometrics service 1993 to 2013

Statistical support underpinned all of the scientific work at IHD and its earlier Institutions. Up until the late 1970s, this was mostly done by the brilliant and eccentric Bob Jardine. Later, biometricians Peter Franz and John Reynolds worked with Knoxfield staff and in 1994 both Peter and Graham Hepworth (who had previously consulted with Burnley staff) were located at Knoxfield. Peter had the excellent practice of

walking around and watching how scientists actually conducted experiments. Graham also delivered basic statistics courses. Graham was at Knoxfield until 2000 and Peter until 2004. Fiona Thomson was there from 2000 until 2012, Debra Partington 2004-2009, Nam-Ky Nguyen 2001-2003 and Natalie Karavarsamis 2004-2006. Other biometricians located at Knoxfield who also assisted scientists were Jin Yoon and Sorn Norng.  All of these excellent biometricians ensured that the scientific work done was properly designed, analysed and reported.

 

Extension

The Technology Transfer team was set up at the beginning of IHD in 1993 and was led by Ralph Cadman. It was initially


funded from state funds and it was effective until the group had to find more of their own funding and the 1997 budget cuts were implemented. The three ornamentals people lost their jobs. The main extension projects, VegCheque, FruitCheque and GrapeCheque were to assist horticultural industries to become more efficient and competitive. A major part of the work was to transfer technology from the Institute’s R&D projects to the industries. The Viticulture Research to PracticeTM program assisted the grape industry to adopt best practices.

 

Library

The Institute had an excellent library which was a state wide resource. Several excellent librarians including Catriona Vroomen provided scientists with excellent literature searching support and literature presentation.

 

OH&S

A lot of effort was made by OHS staff (Samantha Ryan and Pam Rogers) and all the other staff to improve safety and reduce risks. Sam decided to "accentuate the positive" and started a men's health program where male staff were given the opportunity to listen to talks about men's health, to have an examination and blood tests and follow-up consultation with Dr. Chris. This program was an outstanding success and identified people with previously unknown problems including diabetes, prostate cancer and alcoholism. It also made staff feel valued. This was followed by a women's health program.

 

Vale

Marge Houghton, Graeme McGregor, David Nichols, Karen Heshelswerdt, Eve Cottral and Colin Little were much loved staff at the Institute who passed away too young.

 

Budget cuts 1997

There were substantial Government budget cuts around 1997. This led to some people losing their jobs, others of us competing amongst ourselves for jobs and weeks of uncertainty, so it was a difficult time. There was some organised resistance by staff to these cuts and some strong advocacy on our part by industry leaders to Government.

 

Field plantings at Knoxfield

From the late 1940s until the early 1970s, field plantings were a major feature of the Institute. However reduced funding for field maintenance led to removal of most plantings. The whole of the south block was sold for housing in the 1990s. Bruce Morrison’s strawberry breeding program provided for significant plantings of strawberries, generally on the north block on the corner of Scoresby Rd and Burwood Hwy.

 

Research papers and reports

In 1993-4 publications included 39 refereed papers , 126 other papers and 60 reports. By 1995/96 there were only 19 refereed papers, 89 general publications and 60 reports. The falling publication rate was largely due to increasing focus away from science to government and industry initiatives, contract research and consulting.

 

The final years 2004 to 2013 saw a reduction in the staff and output of IHD.

At some stage there was a restructure to make the AgriBio Centre (including Knoxfield plant health staff) and Farm Services Victoria (including Knoxfield postharvest and industry development staff). There was a protracted move, along with other institutes, to new centre called AgriBio at and with La Trobe University. The move of most biotechnology staff and Farm Services Victoria staff was made by the end of 2013. The new La Trobe University location should provide excellent facilities and opportunities for collaboration. The Toolangi campus was closed and some staff went to industry. In 2012 and 2013, there were further state budget cuts and many staff lost to voluntary or involuntary departures. This led to a great loss of expertise. However the number of staff working in horticulture the Department has remained roughly constant around 110 people, but most are now based at Tatura, Irymple and La Trobe University.

 

 

PART 3. HONEY BEES AND THE APICULTURAL RESEARCH UNIT BY RUSSELL GOODMAN

In the early 1950s, a white weatherboard building measuring 12 x3 m was built on the Scoresby Research Station to house the Apicultural Research Unit (ARU). One half of the building comprised laboratory and office space. The other half was used as a workshop, for extraction of honey and storage of hive equipment.

 

Initially, the sole occupier of the building was Don Langridge, Livestock Research Officer (Bees), of the then Division of Animal Health, Department of Agriculture. As with other Australian jurisdictions, bees were considered to be animals. The Department seemed to be unsure where bees fitted in the broad scheme of its programs. Consequently Don and the three apiary inspectors were largely left alone to do their work with little interference and virtually few demands for frequent reports.


The building was located, more or less, near the brow of the hill which rose relatively steeply, immediately north of Blind Creek. There was a large block of cherries and a similar sized block of lemons on the top of the hill together with a caretaker’s house that was occupied by Karel Kroon and family. Karel managed the strawberry runner scheme. Today, this area is occupied by the City of Knox community gardens.

 

About 12 hives of bees were located on the downhill side of the ARU building. Access to this part of the Research Station was by way of an unsealed track that ran westerly from the Station buildings, turned right at and ran parallel to the row of cypress trees on the western side of the property, past the dam which was much smaller than it is today and across a somewhat precarious wooden bridge over Blind Creek. Past the ARU, the track continued on to the caretaker’s house.

Another branch of the track turned right at the northern boundary of the property and continued easterly on to Scoresby Rd and it is still evident today on the north side of the fitness centre.

 

The ARU initially used tank water, but was later connected to a water main. The building was connected to the power grid.  A telephone line connected to the Research Station’s switchboard ran adjacent to the row of cypress trees to the

ARU and then onto the caretaker’s house. The service was often intermittent due to strong winds and physical interaction of the aging line with the growing trees. At night, and for weekends and public holidays, the phone was switched through by ARU staff to the caretaker’s house. Mail was obtained by visiting the office of Sid Hayes, the Station’s Administration Officer in the Sir George Knox Laboratory building.  There were no emails at that time!

The Apicultural Research Unit circa 1970.


Bee hives near the Apicultural Research Unit.

 

In December 1964, at the age of 19, Russell Goodman having completed a Diploma of Horticulture, joined the ARU as a casual employee for six months. At that time, Burwood Hwy was just a two lane country road with a 60 mile per hour (100 km per hour) speed limit. Scoresby Rd was also a two-lane road, but much narrower, with gravel shoulders. The corner of Burwood Hwy and Stud Rd where Knox City Shopping and Ozone Centre are now located was somewhat swampy ground, covered mostly with swamp paper bark which was very attractive to bees.

 

Russell’s employment period continued to be renewed every six months. In the middle of 1969, he was promoted to the classification of ‘Field Officer’, and after serving a three month probationary period was made permanent (on-going). His primary role was to manage the hives and apiary grounds, and assist Don Langridge with various research and extension projects.

 

Public transport to the Research Station was quite lacking. Initially, Russell travelled from his parent’s place in Brunswick to Boronia by train and hitched a ride with Syd Hayes from the corner of Boronia and Dorset roads to the research station. Some other office staff also used Syd’s transport, and everyone paid Syd a small ‘donation’ for the service. The arrangement ceased when Syd was warned by an unidentified party that the carrying of passengers contravened various transport regulations of the time. After that, Russell cycled from Bayswater train station until 1968 when he moved to Boronia.

 

The small dam was later enlarged to provide additional water for irrigation of the fruit blocks on the Station’s property on the south side of Burwood Hwy.  During construction, the track to the ARU from the main office was out of bounds.

Consequently, all vehicle movements from the ARU to the main office had to use the long route via Scoresby Rd and Burwood Hwy.

 

At this time, Don Langridge was analysing various Victorian honeys to determine if they conformed to the requirements of the World Health Organisation Codex Alimentarius International Food Standards.  The unique properties of honey vary according to the floral source. Don had completed his agricultural science degree as well as a large part of a chemistry degree and was well equipped to do these analyses. His work resulted in several overseas trips to report on his results.

Don and Russell conducted field experiments to determine the benefit of honey bee pollination on a variety of horticultural and broad acre seed crops. Some of the crops studied were apricots, apples, plums, peaches, rubus berries, lupins and canola. The basic approach was to net off individual trees or plots to prevent bee visits and compare yield and quality of fruit or seed (as the case may be) with that of trees and plots open to bee visits. Observations were made of insect visitors to the crop in order to determine the role (if any) of insects other than bees in pollination. Much of this work has been quoted in various reports on the Australian honey bee industry and pollination. The work was largely funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.


For some years, ARU staff prepared and manned a display in the Department’s marquee at the annual Wandin-Silvan horticultural and farm machinery field days each October. Posters detailed the benefits of honey bee pollination for various fruit and berry crops. A glass-sided small hive containing live worker bees and queen bee was always an attraction to young and old.

 

In the late 1970s, the Department of Agriculture transferred title of the land north of Blind Creek to the City of Knox. This required relocation of the hives, which now numbered 20-30, plus the ARU building to the Department’s property on the south side of Burwood Hwy. Mains water and power were connected. In later years, at least before 1994, the building was moved back over Burwood Highway to become a potting shed. Later still, it was moved to Plant Quarantine where it remains, at the time of writing.  It is probably the only building that has successfully crossed Burwood Hwy twice!

 

Don and Russell were given temporary office accommodation in a small portable building near the head house. They shared the building with a number of other staff including Harold Craig-Brown and Bruno Popovic. This arrangement continued until construction of a new single storey wing, including a staff tea-room, on the west side of the two storey building was completed. Don and Russell then moved to an office and laboratory in this wing, across the corridor and opposite the offices occupied by the Farm Manager and Institute Director. Don was a chain smoker of the strong Temple Bar cigarettes. When asked why he smoked these foul cigarettes he said that no one would ever “bot one off” him! He died of cigarette induced cancer.

 

Although the ARU was located on the Station, apiary staff were not administered by local management, but rather by Animal Health Division located initially in Treasury Place and later in Wellington Parade, East Melbourne.  Russell and Don were both authorised apiary inspectors under the Bees Act 1971 and later the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994. From the late 1970s to around 2000, Russell attended to outbreaks of the notifiable honey bee brood disease, American foulbrood in the eastern suburbs. This role included inspection of bee brood in all hives in the suspect apiary to determine their disease status, followed by the destruction of infected bee colonies and hives by burning them in a pit.

 

Don Langridge retired in 1983, after about 34 years of service. Russell acted in Don’s position for about 10 months. In 1984, after a review of apiary services by Departmental management, the ARU, and later hives, were relocated to the Plant Research Institute (PRI), at Burnley. The review considered that apiary staff and services would benefit by better liaison with entomologists and virologists at PRI.

 

At Burnley, Russell was joined by Dr Ben Oldroyd who had been appointed to replace Don as Research Officer (Bees). Shortly after, Peter Hunt was appointed to assist Ben with research projects. Ben left the Department in the late 1980s to pursue bee research in the USA, and Peter’s employment was terminated when the then Victorian Government reduced staff numbers in the Department, leaving Russell as the sole member of the ARU.

 

After Don’s retirement, Russell conducted more pollination trials on strawberries, blueberries, buckwheat and seed clover. The first two were conducted at Knoxfield and the remainder in the Ballarat district.

In late November 1994, following the closure of PRI, Russell and the beehives moved back to Knoxfield to become part of the newly formed Institute for Horticultural Development (like a home coming!).  An attempt by Animal Health to locate apiary services at Attwood was quickly thwarted by Institute Director, Dennis Richards, who strongly confirmed the important linkage between European honey bees and crop pollination. From this time, apiculture services were now managed by the Institute, except for regulatory and inspectorial services which continued to be administered by Animal Health Division, and later Animal Health and Biosecurity at Epsom in Bendigo. This was because these activities were administered under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 and regulations.

 

The apiary was now located on the north side of the dam, but not too close to the walking track which ran parallel to Blind Creek.  Russell’s office was initially located in the large portable building along with other entomologists.  His state wide bee disease diagnostic service was conducted in the south-east corner of the main entomology laboratory, until it was later hived off to the private provider, Gribbles Veterinary Pathology. Some years later, Russell moved to Module 13 to take up residence in an office next to the tea room.

The OBC (Old Bastards Club) was an august organisation of 8-12 members that met daily at morning and afternoon tea breaks under the veranda of the north-east corner of Module 13, next to Russell’s office. There is no need to state the requirements for membership!  Russell joined and participated in the camaraderie as well as departmental, and even world,


problem solving. As well as permanent members, there were honorary and guest members according to staff movements. The Club was well respected as demonstrated by the gesture of Institute Director, John Field-Dodgson, who kindly arranged for the somewhat dusty earth floor to be concreted for the comfort of members!  This act of kindness was greatly appreciated.

 

Ben McKee, a Melbourne University Agriculture Science student joined Russell and Graham Hepworth (Biometrician) in a project investigating the role of honey bees as pollinators of the broad acre crop, buckwheat. By this, Ben was able to conduct and submit his fourth-year research project.  Later, as a Melbourne University PhD candidate, Ben joined the ARU in 1999 to undertake a major project investigating the honey bee brood disease, European foulbrood. This project was co-funded by the Department and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. Ben’s office was located in the vegetable industry wing.

 

Ben’s experiments required many hives, probably numbering over 80. All, but three or four of these, were located away from Knoxfield. Bees are usually moved during the hours of darkness after all foragers have returned to their hives. One experiment required 35 hives to be relocated from Ampitheatre (near Avoca) to Knoxfield to allow for daily sampling of bee larvae. Ben and Russell began closing and loading the hives at sunset, and after securing the load with ropes, Russell departed solo at 10.00 pm driving the one-tonner and tandem trailer. Arriving at Knox shortly after 1.00 am, the hives were unloaded and the hive entrances opened, with the entire exercise successfully completed about 2.00 am. Although not many in number, similar hive movements were conducted over the years.

 

On completion of Ben’s work, research funds were almost impossible obtain. As a result, the hives were disposed of by the mid-2000s. The Department’s role in honey bee field research came to an end and the ARU no longer existed. In 2000, Russell became a part-time employee involved in extension and biosecurity services to the honey bee industry, as well developing policy and briefings on a range of apicultural subjects.

 

Around 1999, the Department’s apiary group began to target much of its resources, as part of a national initiative that involved surveillance and preparedness for an incursion of varroa, an economically devastating parasitic honey bee mite. Australia remains the only continent free of this pest. World expert, Denis Anderson, twice delivered training sessions for Departmental entomologists, including those of the Biosystematics Group and apiary officers.

 

In June 2013, the Department vacated Knoxfield’s Module 13 portable. As a result, Russell occupied the former office of Farm Manager, John Richards, in the single storey west wing of the main two storey laboratory building. In August 2013, Russell moved to the ‘industry’ wing in the ‘Palace’, near reception. A third move, to the Plant Standards Building, occurred around July 2014 when management of bees was transferred to the Chief Plant Health Officer. This followed a national move in which bees transferred from the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed.  Shortly after the last office move, a succession plan was put in place and Cynthia Kefaloulos

joined Russell in working with the honey bee and pollination industries. Russell Goodman retired after 50 years of service on 9 September 2016.

 

View to Mount Dandenong in the autumn of 1955 with a cumulo- nimbus cloud with an anvil top.


PART 4. AQIS (COMMONWEALTH) AND PLANT BIOSECURITY BY PATRICK SHARKEY AND DAVID BEARDSELL

These federal and state agencies were located on the campus until 2013 when both transferred to purpose-built facilities near Attwood.

 

Plant Biosecurity and its predecessor Plant Standards Branch oversaw the successful elimination of the catastrophic pome fruit disease Fireblight from the Royal Botanic Gardens in 1997 and the world’s worst invasive pest, Red Imported Fire Ants following an interception in Dandenong in 2001.

 

In 1996, the Commonwealth took direct responsibility for AQIS’ service delivery in Victoria, which meant that the vast majority of the 100 or so staff in the old Plant Standards Branch transferred from the Victorian state Department to AQIS. Michael Kinsella, was left as manager of a reduced state Plant Standards Branch and he negotiated to transfer the Branch from the World Trade Centre to a portable building at Knoxfield. Michael was a genial and dedicated manager who had previously been head of the state Department’s Vegetable Branch. The new Branch consisted of only 10 staff

and included Mike’s Personal Assistant, Joan Gould, Patrick Sharkey, who managed policy and market access, Richard Gardner, who specialised in plant protection (Queensland Fruit Fly, Phylloxera and Potato Cyst Nematode control) and an operational group of Keith Larner, Pandian Christudoss, Andrew Evans, Vera Geitzel, Emily Tee and Melinda Black, who were located at the Melbourne Wholesale Markets at Footscray.

 

 

Manager of Plant Biosecurity, Patrick Sharkey and David Beardsell acting as Incident Controller at the State Emergency Centre during a simulated disease incursion circa 2010.

 

 

The first real test of the Branch’s capability occurred in May 1997 when New Zealand scientist Chris Hale, who had been visiting Australia, announced that he had discovered Erwinia amylovora, the causal agent of the devastating pome fruit disease on host material from Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG). This was reported to the state and Commonwealth governments by the New Zealand government. Dr Hale was reportedly on holidays in Melbourne when he took the specimens without permission of the RBG. This incident set off a huge surveillance program to validate absence of Erwinia amylovora, across

Australia’s pome fruit production districts and suburban parks, gardens and reserves. The resultant interstate trade restrictions on host pome fruit and nursery stock cost the Australian governments and the pome fruit industry approximately $30million. Three infected host trees and 600 other at risk fireblight host plants were removed from the RBG, as were hosts from private and public gardens within a 1km radius of the Gardens.

At Knoxfield, Michael Kinsella and Peter Merriman led the fireblight response supported by Rowena Giles and plant health staff from IHD including Satish Willamejema. Approximately 30 hardworking scientific staff from Knoxfield and Tatura were deployed around Victoria for several months on surveillance work.

Following Mike Kinsella’s retirement in 1998, Patrick Sharkey took over as acting Manager of Plant Standards, and was confirmed in the position in 2000. The fireblight incident had demonstrated gaps in DPI’s capability and this resulted in a restructure of the Branch and the injection of significant funding over time through various biosecurity initiatives. As a result, the Branch was strengthened by a series of appointments to enhance capabilities in areas of: policy and legislation; market access and plant protection; incursion management; and science and risk assessment. At the same time in 2000, Chris Dalley was seconded from Head Office to supervise the construction of a new Plant and Chemical Standards building at Knoxfield and to oversee upgrading of facilities at the Melbourne Wholesale Markets.


Initially, Andrew Evans was appointed to look after incursion management and quality assurance, David Beardsell and Rowena Giles to manage quarantine policy, legislation and industry liaison, and Richard Gardner and Richard Mapson to manage market access and plant protection. Gary Darcy later took over the market access role when Richard retired and was joined by Greg King, who had been managing the state’s Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) program. Steve Waller followed by Greg Jones acted in the role of business manager and Debbie Karandais was recruited as Executive Assistant when Joan Gould retired.

Other appointments were Melinda Bowen (policy), Pandian Christudoss (auditing), Vanessa Loncar (protocol development), Bruce Mackie (quality assurance and legislation), Amanda Silver (market access), Paul Murcott and Tony Monteith (information systems), Craig Murdoch, Gisele Irvine and Norm Morrison (investigation, incursion planning and surveillance and reporting) and Lyn Jacka (QFF project manager). More recently, Stuart Holland was appointed to manage strategic policy and Rosa Crnov to oversee investment and planning.

During the 2000s, the Branch responded to a series of exotic plant pest incursions including Pine Nematode (2000), Red Imported Fire Ant (2001), White Blister of broccoli (2001), Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus and Potato Virus Y (2003), Karnal Bunt (2004), Lettuce Aphid (2005) , Chestnut Blight (2010), Green Snail (2011) and Myrtle Rust (2012). There were major challenges with managing new detections of established pests including Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) in Kooweerup (2005) and Thorpdale (2008), multiple Queensland Fruit Fly (QFF) outbreaks, including a major incursion to inner metropolitan Melbourne in 2008 and several extensions to Grapevine Phylloxera infested areas. Grapevine Phylloxera was the main reason for setting up a quarantine role within the Department in the 1890s.

Science and planning capability of the Branch was increased because of a greater need for technical input into preparedness and response planning and closer involvement with the national Plant Health Committee, Plant Health Australia and Biosecurity Australia.  In the early 2000s, Andrew Tompkins was recruited as science manager, along with Bill Washington (pathology and risk assessment) and Martin Mebalds (response planning). Later, Wendy Coombes moved from fruit fly control to manage response preparedness and Gordon Berg was appointed to replace Andrew Tomkins, who resigned to take up a position in the Northern Territory.

In order to enhance staff training, Samantha Truscott transferred to Knoxfield from the Melbourne Wholesale Markets to assist Melinda Black, the training officer. Felicity Wardlaw was employed for the Red Imported Fire Ants communications program and her position was upgraded to cover industry liaison for all pests and diseases. Andrew Henderson joined the Branch to undertake this function when Felicity resigned in 2007.

The Branch also managed the inspectorial and compliance group at the Melbourne Fruit and Vegetable Market. Chris Dalley, and later Geoff Jackson, assisted by Maryanne Laguna, oversaw industry compliance with import and export certification requirements for interstate trade. Karyn DiFlorio and Tanya Krause supervised at various times up to 10 staff, who included David Sgambaro, Pat Shegog, Joe Wright, Vin Morris, Nicole Marshall, Trish Lord, Sue Greening, Elizabeth Pierce, Youssef Fares, Chris Pollard, Daniel Mansell, David Reid, Aimee Addlem and Peter Pantadis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stable and sheds in 1951.


A key function of the Branch was to develop plans and service arrangements and monitor outputs of the regional operations staff. These arrangements were implemented originally through the Regional Managers’ network but subsequently through a service agreement with the Farm Services Victoria Division.

In 2010, there were further changes with the amalgamation of the plant and chemical standards functions under Russell McMurray. From a plant industry perspective, previous functions have largely been preserved, although the focus is increasingly on prevention, preparedness and response and increased scientific and risk management capability. Plant biosecurity staff numbers fell when the Branch moved to Attwood in 2014.

Since its formation in 1996, the Branch has had a significant impact on plant biosecurity in Victoria. This includes maintaining market access for local produce through policy and technical inputs to national risk assessment processes, interstate trade negotiations and operational initiatives such as the Tristate Fruit Fly Exclusion Zone and the Sunraysia Pest Free Area project. The Branch has helped expand surveillance to most plant sectors through initiatives such as CropSafe and has improved preparedness capability to include amenity horticulture and forestry. In addition to managing exotic pest incursions to Victoria, branch staff have contributed significantly to national biosecurity policy and management of exotics found interstate, such as Citrus Canker, Sugar Cane Smut, Electric Ants and Red Imported Fireants in Queensland, European House Borer in Western Australia and Myrtle rust in NSW. The Fireblight-like

organism and the world’s most invasive pest, Red Imported Fire Ants were eliminated in Victoria by the Branch.

 

Over the years, operational staff have eliminated hundreds of outbreaks of QFF and facilitated fruit exports and imports through managing pest status and treatment certification including implementation of Interstate Certification Assurance programs. By controlling or eliminating pest outbreaks, the Branch has enabled interstate and international trade worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually, including up to $60 million of potato exports alone.

 

 

Pearl Benn circa 1980, operating the old plug in switchboard in the reception of the Sir George Knox building.

 

 

 

 

Staff have played key roles in developing policy, legislation and operational procedures to enable the creation of control zones and protection districts to allow for the management of established pests such as fruit flies, phylloxera and PCN. This included creation of Phylloxera and PCN control zones, potato protection districts,

plant protection areas and a Phylloxera Exclusion Zone which encompassed 80% of the State’s vine growing areas.

 

 

PART 5 POTATO RESEARCH STATION TOOLANGI

(Summary of the history by Harmsworth and Mattingly 1995)

The Director of Agriculture Hubert A. Mullett was a strong supporter of the creation of the Potato Research Station. He was so interested that in 1947-50 he sketched out the landscape for the future facility. The first clearing of Mountain Ash trees occurred in the late 1940s using gelignite. In 1950, two cottages were completed opposite Cone’s Landing. The Station was connected by telephone in 1950 and in 1953 electricity was provided! The first field officer was Lec Folliot, and the first Manager was Lin Harmsworth who moved with his family into the lower cottage in the summer of 1950. The first foreman was Larnie Petterson.  In 1951/2 two new farmhouses were completed one for the Manager and the other for the Field Officer. The first Administration Officer was Bert Brogan. For thirty years farm staff were driven up from Healesville. The current administration block was completed in 1963.

Lin Harmsworth oversaw the development of the Station including roads, water supply, paddocks and landscaping.


Trials on seed planting size, fertilisers, irrigation and variety comparisons commenced circa 1950. In the 1950s, the Pathogen Tested (PT) scheme for potatoes commenced using disease tested plants from the Plant Research Institute at Burnley. These plants were sent to Toolangi for multiplication. In the 1970s, potato leaf roll virus was a problem, but aphid control reduced its spread. In 1984, the station’s tissue culture laboratory began producing min tubers for the PT scheme. In 1995 this was privatised as ViCSPA. In the 1970s a further area of Forest Commission land was cleared for seed production for potato trials also in collaboration with the Centre for International Potato Research (CIP) based in Peru.

 

Potato breeding started in 1947 with potato seed received from CSIRO including some non-Solanum tuberosum species. In 1952, Henk Swaan took over as potato geneticist. The first commercial release in 1974 after ten years of thorough testing was Coliban. John Kavanagh then Roger Kirkham in 1976 followed as potato breeders. Some of the important cultivars released have been Coliban, Tasman (bred in Tasmania), Atlantic, Russet Burbank, Ruby Lou, Tarago, Wilwash and Wilstore.  The first field day was held in 1953 and they were regularly held until the 1990s.

 

In Head Office, Grant Mattingley oversaw the potato programs in the Department and edited the Potato Growers Digest. He retired in 1976.

The first Manager was Lin Harmsworth from 1946-1975. He left the Department to join CIP. The next Manager was Bill Macaulay from 1975-1980. Tony Kellock was manager from 1980 until 1994. Tony set up the Victorian Crisping Research Group and the National Potato Improvement Centre.

The Potato Research Station was incorporated into the Institute for Horticultural Development in 1993. Certification of seed potatoes was transferred from the Department to industry in 1994. Keith Blackmore who started as a potato inspector in 1969 became Manager of ViCSPA, the industry’s seed potato certification scheme in 1995.

Research at Toolangi was also done on strawberries, pyrethrum, tea, blueberries and raspberries.

 

In 1951-1952, the virologist Lionel Stubbs from the Plant Research Institute at Burnley imported virus free strawberry material from the USA and UK. He also eliminated viruses in local varieties using heat treatment. In 1958, the strawberry runner scheme started keeping the stock free of villiferous aphids. In 1963, the Toolangi Strawberry Isolation Area was set up at Castella and the following year the Strawberry Runner Certification Scheme started. Foundation stock from Burnley was multiplied at Scoresby by the berry section led by Karel Kroon, and Ralph Proctor and Bob Pockett distributed them to Toolangi runner growers. By 1995, production was 30 million runners and it now provides 90% of Australian runners via the industry cooperative Victorian Strawberry Industry Certification Authority.

From the mid 1950s, stocks of raspberries were produced but stopped in 1973 because of root rot. In 1983, Graeme McGregor started raspberry breeding and agronomy. By 1989, a local nursery sold the canes and this was later done under the auspices of the Australian Rubus Growing Association.

 

 

REFERENCES

Anon. 2003. Making a difference. A summary of work at the Institute for Horticultural Development 1998-2003. pp16. ISBN1741067103. Primary Industries Research Victoria.

Anon. Annual Reports of the Scoresby Horticultural Research Station. 1957/1958, 1958/1959, 1961/1962 (drought year), 1967, 1971/1972, 1974/1975 (see appendices).

Anon. 2000 Annual Report Institute for Horticultural Development 1999/2000. ISSN 1444-318X. pp64. Anon. 2001 Annual Report Institute for Horticultural Development 2001/2002. ISBN 07311 5138 0 pp69. Anon. 2003. Annual Report Institute for Horticultural Development 2003/2004. pp73.

Beardsell, D. 2008. Getting down to the nitty gritty.  Australian Horticulture November 2008: 21-25.

Frith, GJT. 2015. Email discussion with David Beardsell, June 2015.

Blackmore, Keith. 2015. Phone interview, 5 June 2015.

Harmsworth LJ and Mattingly GH. 1995. The Potato Research Station Toolangi. The First Fifty Years 1945-1995. Ed. Joanne Bates.

Jager, Lionel A. 2006. Personal history at Scoresby manuscript from recorded interview 3 February 2006.

Little CR and Holmes RJ. 2000. Storage technology for apples and pears - a guide to production, postharvest treatment and storage of pome fruit in Australia edited by John Faragher. 528 pp Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Victoria, 2000.


Merriman, P and Ridland P. 2011. Unpublished cataloguing and sorting of records stored above the Sir George Knox Laboratory.

Read FM. 1944. Letter from the Superintendent of Horticulture to the Director General recommending purchase of land for a southern Victorian horticultural facility (24 August 1944).

Richards, John G. 2011.  Personal history at Scoresby - manuscript from recorded interview 3 November 2011. Tindale, GB. Some notes on the Horticultural Research Station, Scoresby, from its inception March 1946 to April 1948. Type written manuscript provided by the late Ian Peggie.

 

APPENDICES

 

Arthropodium nulliferum, Acacia verticillata, Acacia melanoxylon, Acrotriche serrulata, Acacia implexa. Acacia mearnsii, Acaena anserinifolia, Adiantum aethiopicum, Allocasuarina littoralis, Brunonia australis, Brachyscome cardiocarpa, Brachyscome decipiens, Bursaria spinosa, Billardiera scandens, Burchardia umbellata, Bossiaea prostrata, Cassinia aculeata, Centaurium minus, Cryptostylis subulatus (in bushland reserve), Cotula caronopus, Dichopogon strictus, Daviesia latifolia, Dillwynia cinerascens, Diuris lanceolata extinct by 1976 in grassland south of  Hwy, Diuris corymbia in Manager’s house lawn 1985-87, Dianella revoluta?, Eucalyptus ovata (on poorly drained areas eg near Blind Creek), E. cephalocarpa, E. o liqua, E. radiata, E. melliodora (on hill above Blind Creek), Epacris impressa, Exocarpus cupressiformis, Gahnia radula, Goodenia lanata, Goodenia ovata, Gnaphalum purpureum, Gompholobium sp.??, Helichrysum scopioides, (new name?), Hovea heterophylla, Hardenbergia violacea, Hibbertia stricta, Hakea sericea, Hakea nodosa, Kunzea ericoides, Lagenophora stipitata, Lindsaya linearis, Leptorrhynchus tenuifolius, Lomandra filiformis, Lomandra longifolia, Levina minor, Leptospermum juniperinum, Melaleuca ericifolia, M. squarrosa, Microtis unifolia, Microtis parviflora, Microlaena stipoides, Muelleriana sp., Oxalis coruculata, Olearia sp.??, Pteridium aquilinum, Platolobium obtusangulum, Pittosporum undulata (naturalised), Prasophyllum australe (near swampy part north of bush block extinct by 1976), Prunella vulgaris, Poranthera microphylla, Pimelea linifolia, Pterostlylis nutans (large colony on hill above Blind Creek), Pterostylis aff. longifolia (south block bush), Rubus parviflorus, Stylidium graminifolium, Stachhousia monogyna, Senecio quadridentatus, Tricoryne elatior, Themeda australis, Thelymitra pauciflora, Thelymitra ixioides, Viminaria denudata, Viola hederacea.

 

Birds observed at the Research Station 1971-2011. David Beardsell

Male Golden Whistler winter 1989, Spotted Pardalote June 89, White Naped Honey Eater 7 and 8 July 89, Willie Wagtail resident 1989 –disappeared circa 2000, New Holland Honey Eaters resident in summer 1988/9, White Plumed Honey Eater resident in the 1970s, Blue Wrens until 1989, Red Browed Finches (50 plus) in flock on south block summer 1987/88, Pied Currawong July 88, Kookaburra June 1988, Butcher Bird winter 1989, Red Wattle Bird resident, Mudlark resident, Welcome Swallow resident, White Throated Needletails and less often Pacific Swifts frequent overhead Jan –Feb 1988, Magpie resident, Austral Raven resident, Galahs intermittent visitors, Masked Lapwing intermittent visitor, White Faced Heron visitor, Eastern Rosella regular visitor, Crimson Rosella visitor in summer, Green Finch rare visitor, Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo visitor in old pines on the property, Pacific Black Ducks and Wood Ducks near dam, Rainbow Lorikeet, Musk Lorikeet, Little Lorikeet (last three in ironbarks when in flower)

 

Summary 1971/72 annual report

 

Apricots – the rain split many fruit with subsequent rots. Plums –all removed during the year

Peaches- old peach management/fertilizer block removed, close planting trials yielded heavily.

Pears- removals continued. 500 cases sold to local market and 120 cases Winter Coles went to Pinari Winery for perry production.

Apples-old blocks removed. Wet spring led to poor pollination and fruit set.  5000 cases sold

The old no.1 cottage was removed and the caretakers’ residence on Christies Block and the old Manager residence now used by southern district extension service were painted inside and out. The 18 acre McMahon Block was purchased on Scoresby Rd on 1/7/1972.

Mr A Beech was employed as assistant mechanic.

Chinese gooseberry cvs. Tomouri, Matua, Abbott, Monty and Bruno released from quarantine. Blueberries were growing well.  KH Kroon led the berry group in 1971.


The Station was 215 acres in size in 1971.

Administrative staff were: Syd Hayes Admin. Officer, Mrs AE (Del) Doran typist, Miss Christine Franks typist, Miss Judy Trewin typist/ receptionist, Mrs Val Crawford stores and services, Mrs Doreen Evans and Dawn Hammond maintenance (cleaners/tea ladies). The cleaners/tea ladies worked 2 shifts 7.30-12.30 and 10.30 to 4pm swapping over in alternate weeks.

Cool Storage Branch had 2 graduates, 2 diplomates and 4 other staff.

Southern Districts Advisory Service had 4 graduates (Fergus Black, Wendall Flentje, Paul Baxter, Nick Veinbrandts) , 6 diplomates (Owen Rich, Peter Newgreen, Jack Washbourne, Jim Hutchinson) and 3 others.

Apicultural Research Unit had 1 graduate and 1 diplomate.

Research Station had 9 graduates, 8 diplomates, and 20 others (foreman and mechanic, 9 exempts, 2 casuals, 4 permanents and 2 part time casuals.  Total staff was 37.

The R&D group was Richard N Rowe (Officer in Charge), David L Jones (Horticultural Research Officer) and David Beardsell (Graduate Cadet Trainee), plus Cheryl Finger (lab technician).

Professional staff: Richard N Rowe, Brian Taylor, David Chalmers, David Jones, Bill Thompson, Danny Filipovich, David Beardsell, Bill Packer, George Kuhlmann, Peter Mitchell, John Raff, Lionel Jager and John Richards.

Trials on phosphate nutrition, nitrogen nutrition- Staff: Brian Taylor, Graeme Frith, Danny Filipovich, David Nichols, Fouad Goubran, John Raff, Gwen West and Betty Stirton.

Regulation of anthocyanin in apples was a project by David Chalmers and John Raff.

Fruit and Berry program- chilling on apple rootstocks, flower bud drop in peaches, chilling on dormancy of strawberries. This project was done by David Jones, Bill Thompson, David Nichols, Cheryl Finger, Gwen West and Betty Stirton.

 

Summary Annual Report 1974/75

 

Staff Syd H Hayes (Administrative Officer), Pat Willmot (typist/shorthand), T. Sellers (vice Pape, typist), June Stockley (typist), T. Young (clerical assistant). The part time staff were Mrs P. Kerr (supply and services), Mrs Sylvia Wilson (librarian and cleaning), Mrs Dawn Hammond (cleaning and tea lady), Mrs Doreen Evans (cleaning and tea lady), Mrs Pam Ball (cleaning).

In 1973, there were 2 calculators and by the following year 6 were being used. There was a full time position of telephonist/receptionist). The IBM electric typewriter spelled the end of manual typewriters due to clarity and type-over feature etc. (Ed. technology was simple then!).

 

 

Summary 1993/94 Institute for Horticultural Development report #1

 

Staff were 139, 64 scientists, 56 technicians and 19 administrative. Operating budget was $9.2m and capital improvements (stage I and II of the Burnley merger) $3.0m, external funding $4.6m.

Refereed papers 39, 126 other papers, 60 reports.

 

Crop improvement was strawberry (Mindarie and Coogee) Bruce Morrison and raspberry breeding Graeme McGregor (Dinkum and Bogong). Coconut improvement was done as an aid project for PNG Roger.  Transgenic Royal gala and Pink lady apple trees were created Gowri Maheswaran. Alternatives to DPA for superficial scald were ascorbic acid and Semperfresh film John Faragher. Rob Holmes work on biological control of post-harvest rots. Control release pesticides Mark Smith. Reduced pesticides in honey. MAP broccoli Bruce Tomkins. Vege IPM Peter Ridland. Potato cultivars released: Wilstore, Wilwash.  Tuber –borne diseases Dolf de Boer.

In 1994 seed certification of potatoes went to industry.

Baeckea behrii selection and postharvest Tony Slater. Post harvest blackening of proteas. Street tree program and Thryptomene improvement David Beardsell

Cropwatch David Williams


Summary 1994/95 Institute for Horticultural Development report #2

 

The highlights of this report were alternatives to methyl bromide fumigation, control of club root in brassicas (this disease had been endemic at the Knox site since the 1950s and was a big industry problem), control of diamond back moth in brassicas, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for fruit production, non chemical disinfestation of fruit breeding of potatoes, berries and pears, water recycling methods for nurseries and flower farms., and MAP for export of fruit and vegetables (especially pears and cherries).  Cherries were found to have up to seven weeks increased storage life using MAP.  Work was promising on BT for control of light brown apple moth in grapevines.

The breeding programs on pears and potatoes were national long term projects. Pear scab control work focussed on timing of treatment during the spring.

Vegetable projects included export of Asian veges, value added fresh cut (salad) vegetables using MAP, MAP on export tomatoes (John Faragher).  Dalmore and Catani potato cultivars were released.

Acacia sp. as cut flower crops –mainly post harvest trials to get vase life of a minimum of 7 days. Consultancy established that poor growth of trees on the Yarra near the CBD was due high and saline watertables. Phytophthora cinnamomi was detected on oriental plane trees at Southbank. Steam air machine was completed and tested to control seed borne diseases of flowers.

Technology transfer was a focus with teams for fruit, vegetables, potatoes and ornamentals. An industry training group was established.  Crop Health Services was set up as an integrated fee for service business.

There were 158 staff based at two sites Knox and Toolangi. 73 scientists, 68 technicians and 17 admin/management. The Institute had 115 computers and Internet was used for accessing horticultural databases.

25 refereed papers,  61 reports

Operating budget was $9.4m, $4.5m of which came from external sources.

$6.2m on capital works (mostly the new Conference Centre {Palace} and new glasshouse complex.

 

Summary 1995/96 report

 

Reports  71, 19 refereed papers, 89 general publications

Total staff 172. With a budget of $10.1million, $5.2 million in external funds.

Premier Jeff Kennett opened the new Conference Centre, Postharvest and Glasshouse complexes. 650 people at open day in March 1996,

Phomopsis in chestnuts- hot water treatment before storage. Low temp storage (0oC) also reduced the rot. Two groups worked on non chemical and natural alternatives to control of pests and diseases of pome and citrus fruits Chris Chervin, Fouad Goubran and Rob Holmes.

Sir George Knox Laboratory looking east from the main drive circa late 1970s. The large Eucalyptus michaeliana which now exists can be seen as a small sapling adjacent to the front car.


Moving the weeping elm tree in 1993. This tree is still in the landscape at Knoxfield and was originally grafted by staff member George Kuhlmann in the early 1950s.

Jane Moran and Patrick Sharkey 2005.


Construction of the laboratory building in 1973/4.


The remains of the former laboratory building with the headhouse and Mt Dandenong in the background in 2013 .



Plant Health group in 2005.

David Beardsell’s farewell in November 2011 with Plant Biosecurity staff.