Dr Kristy Hobson’s long-lasting love for the agricultural industry is what she credited for her passion of delivering impactful research and outcomes that help improve the grains industry.
Yesterday evening, at GRDC's Grains Research Update dinner in Goondiwindi, Dr Hobson was awarded for this passion, receiving the prestigious Seed of Light award by the GRDC Northern Panel, acknowledging her impeccable communication skills and impactful work in chickpea breeding.
When Dr Hobson, who is now an established chickpea breeder for Chickpea Breeding Australia (CBA) – a NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) and GRDC collaboration – first started working in pulses, growers’ experiences with the crop tended to be very ‘boom and bust’ and overall, confidence wasn’t high.
Throughout her career though, she said she has witnessed the industry’s perspective on chickpeas change and growers becoming more willing to take on the extra complexities that come with growing the crop to reap the proven on-farm benefits they deliver.
Dr Hobson says an increase in chickpea confidence has been supported by an increase in agronomy expertise and varietal breeding improvements which have established more reliable growing options for producers.
“A big part of my role as a breeder has been about providing expertise to be able to manage the diverse questions about chickpea varieties that would come across our desks,” she says.
“The industry has had an expectation of where we could get to with chickpeas and their value to on-farm profitability, so breeding and developing lines that respond to grower issues has been a big part of boosting their uptake.”
Dr Hobson has been involved in chickpea breeding since she took on a position as a Junior Breeder for the then Department of Primary Industries (Victoria) in Horsham during 2003.
Since then, she has been significantly involved in introducing new chickpea varieties to the industry and working to expand their adaptability across new locations throughout Australia.
Dr Hobson has worked closely on Australia’s chickpea breeding program, which integrates state-of-the-art technology with experimental design and data analytics to support the expansion of chickpeas across the country.
CBA focuses on traits that improve chickpea productivity and reliability, using breeding tools to speed up the rates of genetic gain and deliver varieties to growers to help achieve these goals.
Dr Hobson says breeding requires patience and persistence, but it has been extremely rewarding to see how chickpeas have progressed and to have worked to improve grower profitability.
“A huge part of my role as a breeder is listening to growers’ observations and understanding the key areas that are influencing their decision making,” she says.
“I measure my success on feedback from growers or consultants about how impactful a variety has been for their farming system or profit – whether that’s because it’s had a slight improvement in plant height or disease resistance or because it’s yielded really well for them.”
GRDC Northern Panel chair Arthur Gearon says he was so pleased to see Dr Hobson recognised for her dedicated work to the grains industry and her remarkable efforts to collaborate and communicate with growers.
“Kristy’s work has made a huge impact on the adaptability of chickpeas across the entire country, and she’s been constantly acknowledged for her work in keeping growers informed on the advancements of new varieties,” he says.
“It’s great to see ambitious people like Kristy in our industry, working to improve profitability on farm and taking on grower feedback to better our practices.
“She’s extremely deserving of the Seed of Light award and I hope this encourages her to continue the great work she’s done to generate positive outcomes for Australia’s chickpea production.”
Dr Hobson says she felt extremely honoured to be awarded GRDC’s Seed of Light award and felt humbled to be amongst some of her career inspirations who have won the award before her.
“For the Northern Panel to recognise me in this way has felt amazing,” she says.
“Making an impact on growers’ production systems is what it’s all about, so being awarded for this work is the biggest accolade I can have.”
GRDC’s Seed of Light award is awarded annually to recognise the outstanding contribution, dedication, and commitment of individuals to communicating research outcomes to GRDC’s grain growing regions.