Barbara Hall, 2019 AUSVEG SA Researcher of the Year

Senior Research Scientist, Department of Primary Industries and Regions research division, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) – recently retired.

Crowned 2019 AUSVEG SA Researcher of the Year, Barbara Hall was recognised for her longstanding contribution and her work in providing plant pathology testing support to the horticulture industry. Her support has been essential to identifying and managing a number of key issues in South Australia. In particular, Barbara has been instrumental in helping advisors to better understand soilborne disease in the state and subsequent impacts on plant health and growth. Barbara retired from SARDI in January 2020.

Can you please provide a short overview of your career as a researcher (to date)?

I started as a technician in the Horticulture Pathology laboratory at the Northfield Research Centre, when it was the Department of Agriculture. Most of my work was in the diagnostic area, and covered all horticulture crops – vegetables, tree fruit, viticulture and ornamentals. I also provided research support both in laboratory and field trials, working on whatever crop and disease were problems at the time. After several years’ training, I worked up to be a senior research scientist, managing research projects involving field and lab work!

How long have you worked in the potato field?

I have done either research or diagnostics in potatoes for over 37 years.

What type/s of potato research have you conducted?

The potato projects I have been involved with were all about managing diseases, including understanding the epidemiology of the pathogens involved. These included most of the major diseases: soft rot, pink rot, Rhizoctonia, black dot, target spot, late blight, early dying and viruses. We have also undertaken commercial trials evaluating products for control of these diseases. In addition, I have been a collaborator on projects about management of root knot nematode and development of the PREDICTA Pt testing service.

What do you enjoy most about potato research?

With any research, the enjoyment is in finding answers to questions. The collaboration with growers is a great way to learn about the crop and their experiences with whatever you are working on. And you hope that whatever you find is useful to them.

Where do you think more potato research needs to be undertaken (e.g. pest and disease)?

There are so many things that impact on producing a high-quality potato that we still don’t understand. There are lots of blemishes and scurfing and tuber damage for which we can find no cause. Finding out what causes some of these would be a great challenge. Development of additional tests for the PREDICTA Pt service would be useful; it doesn’t solve the problem of how to manage the diseases, but it certainly helps with making those management decisions from a more informed position.

What does winning the AUSVEG SA Researcher of the Year award mean to you?

It was amazing to win an award that is recognition from growers and the grower community. It makes you realise that at least some of the work you have done is actually useful to them!

I’d just like to thank the growers for the years of cooperation, discussion, sharing of ideas, provision of their expertise and their levies for research funding! Research cannot be done in isolation, and if we don’t grow and learn together then nothing happens.

Cover image: 2019 AUSVEG SA Researcher of the Year Barbara Hall (right) and Cam Wallace (left) from SA Water, the award’s sponsor.

This article features in the autumn 2021 edition of Potatoes Australia. Click here to read the full publication.