Hort Innovation Churchill Fellow Graham Anderson shares his Fellowship experience
3 Sep 2019
What was your Churchill Fellowship research?
To study developments in avocado production in both nursery and field in Israel, USA
Why did you apply for a Churchill Fellowship?
I was a third-generation farmer at Duranbah, north-eastern NSW, where my father started growing avocados in around 1950 and I followed in his footsteps in 1958 at the age of 15. About 1960 I started an avocado nursery. In 1970, I built my third nursey under the guidance of Patricia Barkley from the Department of Agriculture NSW and Professor Ken Baker from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Baker was brought to NSW by the Department of Agriculture to introduce the University of California system of nursery culture using steam pasteurisation and strict hygiene control.
In 1976, I studied tissue culture under Professor Ron De Fossard at UNSW and then worked on this method using the facilities at the Biological and Chemical Research Institute at Rydalmere with Dr Alan Smith.
This was not successful and Dr Smith encouraged me to apply for a Churchill Fellowship to see other tissue culture laboratories as well as all aspects of avocado culture.
How did the Churchill Fellowship benefit you as a grower?
The main laboratory attempting to tissue culture avocado was Rahan Meristem in Israel. I visited many countries but most of my time was spent in Israel. The two important cultures I was taught there were at Rosh HaNika kibbutz. The first was selected limb removal to prune avocado trees and the second was the method of using open bottom pots to air root avocado plants to prevent root binding.
How did the knowledge gained on your Churchill Fellowship benefit the wider avocado industry?
This method of pruning avocado trees to control growth and maximise production was very quickly adopted by not only Australian growers but worldwide.
Air root pruning took a long time to be adopted by others, but was immediately a huge benefit to my nursery.
Any major achievements or milestones reached since going on your Fellowship?
In 1988 I was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), for my services to horticulture mainly in the avocado industry.
In 2017, while working with Professor Neena Mitter at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation at the University of Queensland, we have been able to commercially tissue avocado rootstock using meristems. A world first!
What is next for you?
My two sons (4th generation) have joined the business and now I will concentrate on developing facilities to produce tissue cultured rootstock for Australian and overseas avocado growers, and continue with research into the avocado industry. I have kept in touch with some of the people who taught me overseas, and now visit these friends in South Africa and Israel as well meeting with new generation growers and researchers as friends and collaborators.
Travel overseas to grow your horticulture expertise - three Churchill Fellowships sponsored by Hort Innovation Australia will be offered for award in 2020.