At regular intervals the Cotton Catchment Communities CRC Chief Scientist, Professor Peter Gregg, will profile an Cotton CRC Achiever. The Cotton CRC Chief Scientist Award recognises excellence in research and /or extension. Winners of this award are acknowledged for their significant contribution in their field and toward the overall achievement of our Cotton CRC Strategic Goals.
-Research Program Leader for Invasion Biology and Functional Ecology in CSIRO Ecosystems Sciences and Stream Leader for Multifunctional Biodiverse Landscapes in CSIRO's cross-divisional Sustainable Agriculture Flagship
Geoff’s research in the CRC centres on the ecology of the moths, Helicoverpa spp. He leads a team which is investigating the efficacy of refuge crops in reducing the development of moth resistance to Bt cottons. This project represents the Cotton CRC’s keystone research in management of resistance to Bt toxins, one of the greatest threats to the sustainability of the modern Australian cotton industry, which depends heavily on transgenic cotton to control Helicoverpa spp. Geoff supervises several senior researchers and technicians based at ACRI in Narrabri, including Dr. Mary Whitehouse and Colin Tann. This team works closely with the group led by Dr. Sharon Downes, which is monitoring changes in the frequency of resistant alleles in Helicoverpa spp. populations. Extensive experiments on the productivity of different types of refuges, new refuge options such as split plantings and seed mixtures, and refuge options for dryland cotton have been conducted. The team has also been able to show, using stable isotope markers of crop origin, that moths emerging from refuge crops mate at random in relation to those emerging from cotton, a key assumption of the industry’s Resistance Management Plans for Bt cotton. World-leading research on landscape-level interactions between refuge populations and populations arising from Bt cotton is now underway in the St. George cotton area. Finally, the Baker team has maintained a pheromone trap network around ACRI for over 15 years, and data from this network is providing valuable insights into changes in Helicoverpa spp. ecology which may be related to climatic variability and changes in farming systems, including widespread adoption of Bt cotton. All this information feeds into industry decisions on Resistance Management Plans, facilitated by TIMS and REFCOM.
The project led by Geoff is one of the largest and most complex in the Cotton CRC, spanning a wide area both geographically and scientifically. After replacing Dr. Gary Fitt, former Cotton CRC CEO and project leader, Geoff has ably led this research from a base in Canberra, remote from regular contact with research staff and field sites. This has required dedication, frequent trips to cotton areas, and high levels of organisational skill. The progress reports of his group to Cotton CRC management have been outstandingly detailed and informative, and he has still found time to publish extensively in high quality journals, both in relation to his Cotton CRC activities and his other research within CSIRO.