Plant pathologist recognised as grains industry emerging leader


Agriculture Victoria researcher Dr Joshua Fanning has been awarded the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) 2023 Emerging Leader award for the southern region.

The GRDC Emerging Leader award recognises the commitment of an early career professional working in the grains industry who has already contributed to the future of the industry and is emerging as an industry leader in their field of endeavour.

In his 10 years with Agriculture Victoria, Dr Fanning has built significant research expertise studying pulse diseases and has committed time and effort to communicate that knowledge to growers and other industry professionals to enhance integrated disease management practices in crops.

Image of Joshua FanningDr Joshua Fanning has received the 2023 GRDC Emerging Leader award (South) for his contributions to pulse disease research and communication. Photo: GRDC.

Dr Fanning was presented with the award by GRDC Southern Panel Chair Andrew Russell at the GRDC Grains Research Update in Bendigo today.

“The success of the Australian grains industry is dependent on passionate young people like Dr Fanning leading innovation and adoption of new knowledge, technologies and practices,” says Mr Russell.

“Dr Fanning’s highly valuable mix of research expertise and the ability to communicate technical and scientific information in simple language is helping growers and agronomists rapidly respond to both the challenges and opportunities growing pulses present.

“With the growing importance of pulses in a wider geographic range, Dr Fanning’s research is more important than ever.”

Dr Fanning completed his bachelor degree and PhD at the University of Adelaide. His disease research kicked off in his first job at Agriculture Victoria in 2013 managing a soil-borne disease program, focusing on root lesion and cereal cyst nematodes. He also investigated yield losses and varietal resistance to different diseases in both cereal and pulse crops and developed an interest in pulse foliar diseases.

By 2018, Dr Fanning started a new role as a field-based pulse pathologist, while supporting the soil-borne disease program. The new role was developed to support Victorian pulse growers and to work in collaboration with pulse pathologists, agronomists, and breeders nationally. In 2022, Dr Fanning accepted a promotion to Research Leader – Plant Pathology overseeing the Plant Pathology team.

Pulses like chickpea and lentil are high value crops that have expanded rapidly in south-eastern Australia over the past two decades.

Integral to their success has been the development of integrated disease management, which combines cultural methods (e.g. rotation), genetic tolerance and strategic fungicide applications.

Pulses are now expanding into new areas, including low-rainfall zones, where disease incidence is different.

Supported by GRDC, Dr Fanning has been working on fine-tuning disease management recommendations for these new areas and communicating these to growers and their advisers.

In accepting the award Dr Fanning thanked his mentors and colleagues, and the growers and agronomists with whom he works.

“Without them I wouldn’t be here today because that’s where I get my knowledge – they push me everyday.”

Dr Fanning has delivered multiple Update papers for GRDC including these recent ones from the past two years:

Discover more Update papers by Dr Fanning.

Dr Fanning has also featured in GRDC podcasts and GroundCover articles including Root disease a growing concern for pulse crops (18 Sep 2021) and New chickpea IDM strategies tested (12 Oct 2022).

Dr Fanning will receive up to $15,000 as part of the award to support his professional development and his future contribution to the grains industry.

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