New format for banana scholarship

The Australian banana industry’s most prestigious scholarship is to have a new focus – assisting budding young scientists into banana research careers.
The renewal of the Mort Johnston Professional Development Scholarship comes after six years of funding important industry work  conducted by  established researchers or postgraduate students.

Now the scholarship – an annual $10,000 prize – is to switch its focus to undergraduate students in response to a need to encourage more young scientists into banana research.

The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) awards the scholarship and has changed the format following discussions with the scholarship’s selection panel.

The scholarship honours the work and memory of Tully grower and banana industry leader Mort Johnston. Mort was a grower whose vision, determination, optimism and goodwill were an example to all.

ABGC director Paul Johnston, who is one of Mort’s sons and a member of the selection panel, said the new initiative to assist students studying agricultural science signified an exciting new chapter for the scholarship.

“The scholarship has produced some great research since 2008 – including world-leading research into Banana Freckle which has proved invaluable in managing the current outbreak of the disease on Cavendish bananas in the Northern Territory,” Paul said.

“However, in recent years the industry has been able to establish a strong foundation for funding work by postgraduate students and established banana researchers.

“Initiatives such as the industry’s  Banana Plant Protection Program (BPPP) have really helped to move ahead  research being conducted  at that higher level.

“What we’re doing now with the Mort Johnston Professional Development Scholarship is looking at how we can help develop the next generation of researchers.

“There’s a real need to ensure the best and brightest ag science students are encouraged to consider a career in banana research.”

Details are yet to be finalised but it is proposed the $10,000 annual scholarship be utilised to assist two undergraduate students each year, each student receiving $5,000 to assist with the costs of their studies.

Recipients would most likely be third year agricultural science students and would also take part in work experience on banana farms.

The scholarship selection panel did not award a scholarship in 2014 and are now working on initiating plans for  the new scholarship.

Scholarship winners
Mort Johnston Professional Development Scholarship winners since 2008:

2013 – Liam Riedy
“Investigation into the use and efficacy of biological fungicides in the Australian Banana Industry”

2012 – Naomi King
“Taiwan and China Banana Study Tour” 2011 – Matthew Whittle “Investigating the application of Short Sea Shipping”

2009 – Mee Hua Wong
“Identifying Banana Freckle Disease Pathogens”

2009 – Kevan Jones
“Investigating the use of silicon as a soil amendment in banana growing to enhance tolerance to fusarium wilt (and other diseases)”

2009 – Jane Milburn
“Develop a new narrative for Australian Agriculture” 2008 – Fiona Giblin “On-Farm Biosecuity Project”