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«Plant Pathology and Entomology Capability Study Bruce Howie Managing Director C-Qual Agritelligence Pty Ltd Table of Contents Table of Contents ...»

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There continues to be a dominance of research focus with 63% of FTEs applied into research, whilst areas such as education/teaching and extension rate at fewer than 5% of FTEs each.

Extension has declined from an already low base in 2006 to just 2.5% of FTEs in 2012.

Most capability is applied with an agricultural production or horticultural production focus. Forestry, nursery, heritage, storage and post-harvest management all were found to have very low levels of capability application, mostly well under 10% of FTEs. However, this is consistent with the 2006 survey and there has been virtually no change over the 2 surveys in the distribution of capability in terms of the primary focus of respondents’ activities.

In plant pathology, mycology remains the dominant sub-discipline but showing a decline from 2006.

There are noticeable declines in areas of virology and bacteriology with an increase in respondents selecting ‘Other’, and then reporting multiple sub-disciplines. This suggests that many may be taking on greater diversity and a reduction in specialisation.

In entomology FTEs in genetics and insect pathology have declined in 2012, behaviour and biochemistry are slightly higher with high FTEs again reported for ‘Other’, most of which report ecology as the sub-discipline.

In terms of expected future demand within the various sub-discipline areas, mycology remains the strongest, with no change from 2006. Bacteriology, nematology, molecular plant pathology and phytoplasmas, all rank strongly higher for future importance in 2012.

In entomology sub-disciplines, the category taxonomy & systematics leads in importance with a small increase over 2006. Genetics and biochemistry, whilst lower ranked, have shown the strongest increase in importance in 2012. As with plant pathology above, rankings for entomology sub-disciplines in 2012 are similar to 2006 except for quite strong increases in genetics and biochemistry.

In the 2006 survey it was evident that the age distribution across the various age brackets from 25through to 55+ was relatively even. That is not the case in the 2012 where it is very clear that the age profile has shifted strongly into the 55+ age bracket with quite low levels coming through in the younger age brackets. This points to current concerns that capacity in plant pathology and entomology will be seriously diminished in a relatively short time frame. Whist there remains a continued potential for those in the younger age brackets to change career direction within 5 to 10 years, it is less apparent than in the 2006 survey. However, loss of capacity through retirement has become a far more significant issue as the age profile has shifted upwards.

Both surveys indicated that respondents have concerns over areas of funding and tenure. These concerns have a strong influence on the sense of job security and stability. Practitioners in these disciplines identify their concerns about loss of skills, inadequate succession planning and lack of


new emerging talent, yet administrators and managers (many of whom are themselves practitioners) have a perception that their organisations are not sufficiently committed to effective succession planning, engagement of emerging talent or internal development programs.

The 2006 report listed a number of areas that could be addressed in order to build and retain capacity and capability in plant pathology and entomology.

These included attention to:

retaining existing capability through improved sense of job security, professional n༆ development, knowledge transfer and retention incentives, programs aimed at attracting high school and generalist undergraduates into n༆ careers in plant pathology and entomology, development of inspirational and motivational curricula, including flexibility in n༆ delivery and access to undergraduate programs, active recruitment of undergraduates to capture, then develop the capacity n༆ internally within organisations.

All of the above remain relevant given the results from the 2012 survey. The current awareness of low enrolments in undergraduate programs and the shifting age profile are clear evidence of inadequate recruitment into these disciplines. When this is exacerbated by the emerging impact of retirements and some continued loss from early to mid-career specialists it is clear that recruitment and retention must receive significant focus if there is to be positive change.

Both the Australasian Plant Pathology Society and the Australian Entomological Society are strongly motivated to plan for expansion of their sector as opposed to developing contingencies for retraction. It is important that both societies have taken the initiative to undertake this survey and evaluate where capability exists and the factors influencing future capacity. The next steps are critical in development of a coordinated response to the issues identified.

The issues for both societies are similar. The data obtained provides the opportunity for them to work on joint initiatives to enhance the future of both disciplines, each so fundamentally important to Australia and New Zealand in terms of food and fibre production, food security, environment, amenity and natural heritage. Increasingly issues of biosecurity and access to international trade opportunities are dependant upon the national capability and capacity for both countries in these areas.

The key recommendation, therefore from the analysis of the 2012 survey is that the APPS and AES convene a joint action committee, with additional representation from the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre to review of the 2012 findings and commit to a combined and

coordinated strategy to address the key issues including:

–  –  –

With the added impact of combined and committed efforts the opportunity exists for these two disciplines to focus on and drive some key initiatives that, if successful will begin to rebuild the foundation for future capacity and ensure that both Australia and New Zealand can capture and retain the outstanding capability they currently have in both plant pathology and entomology.


References Australian. Dept. of Education, Science and Training (2006) ‘Audit of Science, engineering and technology skills, Summary Report’. Dept. of Education, Science and Training, [Canberra, A.C.T.] Howie, Bruce, Plant Pathology and Entomology Capability Study accessed at http://www.tpp.uq.edu.au/Portals/17/Resources/publications/APPC%20Final%20Report.pdf Merriman, Peter, Decline of Australian Agricultural experts in plant industries: causes & retrieval, Agricultural Science Vol 24, No 2. August 2012. AgInstitute Australia Acknowledgements The 2012 survey was conducted on behalf of, and funded by, the Australasian Plant Pathology Society, Australian Entomological Society and the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre.

Thanks also to:

–  –  –

Statistical Limitations As was the case with the 2006 survey, the 2012 survey was widely distributed in order to obtain a valid snapshot of plant pathology and entomology capability across Australia and New Zealand.

The data presented is a compilation of responses and analysed only to the extent of making comparisons between responses and one-to-one relationships through cross tabulation.

Comparisons between the 2006 and 2012 surveys are based on the direct response values.

The 2012 survey attracted 333 complete responses, considered to be a high level of representation for plant pathology and entomology in Australia and New Zealand.


Appendix A: Survey Plant Pathology and Entomology Capability in Australia and New Zealand Introduction This survey is a collaborative project involving the Australasian Plant Pathology Society and the Australian Entomological Society. It is supported by the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre. The purpose of the survey is to obtain information about two aspects of plant pathology and entomology in Australia and New Zealand. Part A is designed to capture a snapshot of the current capability in these disciplines, identify where the capability exists and how it is utilized. This information will be profiled against age groupings and anticipated future service, which will be helpful in assessing future capability distribution. Part A should take you about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Part B is designed to obtain feedback from various industry levels about current and future industry needs for plant pathology and entomology expertise. This will provide valuable information to assist in planning education and training programs to ensure the availability of specialists to support future industry requirements. Part B should take you about 15 minutes to complete. You may wish to complete only Part A or Part B of the survey. For example, if you are a plant pathologist or entomologist with no input on industry needs just complete Part A. If you are not a plant pathologist or entomologist but engaged in industry in a role that provides you with insight into industry requirements in these disciplines just complete Part B. You will be directed through Part A and/or Part B depending upon the answers you provide throughout the survey. This survey is based on a similar survey conducted in 2006 so your participation will provide valuable current and comparative data for these two science specialities. We respect your privacy and all data is collected anonymously except if you choose to provide your contact details for the purpose of a telephone interview. If you provide your contact details these will remain confidential. For further information about the survey please contact Bruce Howie at Bruce.Howie@c-qual.com The survey is intended to capture information about plant pathology and entomology capability currently within Australia and New Zealand.

Are you currently located in either Australia or New Zealand?

–  –  –

What is your current location?

New Zealand - North Island New Zealand - South Island Australia - Northern Territory Australia - Western Australia Australia - South Australia


Australia - Tasmania Australia - Victoria Australia - Australian Capital Territory Australia - New South Wales Australia - Queensland Which of the following best describes the type of organisation in which you are employed, or industry group in which you are involved (select only your primary employer or industry group)?

University/Higher education State Department/Ministry of Agriculture, Primary Industries or Forestry Crown Research Institute Commercial Company – supplier Commercial Company – distributor Commercial Company – services Commercial Company – R&D start-up Primary Producer or Grower Association

–  –  –

Cooperative Research Centre (primary employer) National Plant Health, Quarantine or Biosecurity entity Heritage or Environment (eg Landcare/Museum/National Park/Botanical Garden) Vocational (eg Agricultural College/TAFE/TVET) Industry Research and Development Corporation (eg HAL/GRDC/CRCD/FAR) Not currently employed (eg seeking employment or retired) Other, please specify... ______________________

If you are associated with a CRC please indicate your percentage inkind contribution.

What is your gender?

–  –  –

What is the nature of your employment contract?

Short term contract (3 years or less) Long term contract (more than 3 years) Tenured position Commercial sector employment contract Self-employed Honorarium (or similar)

–  –  –

Are you trained or employed in either plant pathology or entomology?

Note: If you answer YES you will be directed to Part A of the survey (Plant Pathology and Entomology Capability).If you answer NO you will be directed to Part B of the survey (Current and Future Industry Needs).

–  –  –


Part A - Plant pathology and entomology capability Indicate your highest level of formal training High school year 12 (or equivalent) Vocational/TAFE/Diploma Undergraduate degree Undergraduate degree with honours Graduate diploma Masters degree (coursework) Masters degree (research)

–  –  –

What is your age bracket?

25-34 35-44 45-54 Do you anticipate leaving your work in the Australian/NZ Plant

Pathology or Entomology fields within the next:

No plans to leave within the above time frame Not applicable (retired or not currently employed) Please identify the likely reason for leaving employment in

Australian/NZ plant pathology or entomology from the options below:

Retirement Career development (new field of activity) Career development (overseas study or overseas opportunity) Limited tenure/funding constraints Other, please specify... ______________________


How concerned are you about each of the following issues associated with your employment in plant pathology or entomology in Australia/NZ?

–  –  –

Employment opportunities in your field Prospects for career progression Opportunities for professional development within your organisation Emphasis on provision of services in commercial context A perceived shift from strategic to applied research Tenure or funding constraints Capacity of your organisation to respond to biosecurity incursions Work pressure demands Are there other issues that concern you? Please specify below Add a comment about other issues that concern you about your


How concerned are you about each of the following issues associated with the future requirements within your area of plant pathology or entomology in Australia/NZ?

–  –  –

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