BCG honours oilseeds disease expert Steve Marcroft

Oilseeds disease expert Steve Marcroft has been honoured by BCG with the Harm van Rees Award for his efforts to minimise canola disease.

BCG CEO Fiona Best said: “Steve has been instrumental in developing many practices currently used in Australia to minimise disease in canola, particularly the impact of blackleg which wiped out crops in the early 70’s.

“Annually the oilseed disease blackleg is estimated to cause 10% yield loss, and epidemics such as 2003 on the Eyre Peninsula, have resulted in up to 90% yield losses. Recently, new symptoms have been detected for blackleg, termed upper canopy infection, which is causing an additional 20% in yield losses annually.”

“For the past 20 years Steve has presented at numerous BCG events, training days and has contributed countless articles to help growers minimise blackleg damage through the use of cultural practices, such as avoidance of last year’s stubble, using a seasonal response, genetic resistance and fungicide controls.”

“Steve is an Australian oilseed authority. He has worked on everything from establishing the independent cultivar blackleg ratings, to working with federal agencies to help Australian canola be reintroduced into trade when it was banned due to blackleg seed infection.”

“This has ensured canola is still a viable, profitable crop for our region.”

The award, which has only been bestowed four times since its inception in 2007, was presented in the field on Tuesday to a surprised Steve who thought he was there to conduct a blackleg training session with BCG staff.

In presenting the award BCG Chairman John Ferrier said “On behalf of the board of BCG, the members of BCG and farmers in general right through-out the region we would like to thank you for the work you have done, and continue to do, to support our cropping systems.”

The award’s name sake, Harm van Rees, who attended the paddock presentation via zoom, praised Steve’s work: “BCG is what it is because of the tremendous support of our local farmers, sponsors, funding agencies, staff and of course research supporters of which Steve has been a major contributor. Steve has been a part of BCG’s journey for a long, long time.”

In accepting the award Steve said: “I’ve always enjoyed working with farming systems groups – it’s such a fantastic way to get the message across to a large number of people.

“Being able to have skill development days like today to pass different skills on and be able to get a flow-on through the whole farming community makes the whole system work.”

While the award would normally be presented at the BCG Main Field Day in front of a large crowd, BCG members were still able to attend the presentation via zoom, ensuring the event adhered to covid-19 guidelines.

The Harm van Rees Award is awarded to a farmer, researcher, agronomist or industry individual who has made a significant contribution to agriculture in the region. The recipient must capture and share the qualities of the award’s name sake, Harm van Rees, in that they are committed to supporting farmers with science delivered in practical messaging.

The Harm van Rees award was first awarded in 2007 to no-till farming pioneer Allen Postlethwaite, subsequent recipients have been Rob Sonogan, legendary agronomist of the Mallee and the late Tony Rathjen, who was responsible for creating the popular wheat varieties Frame and Yitpi.

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