Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

In the Limelight: Ben Stodart

Position: Lecturer in plant biology

Organisation: Charles Sturt University

Career Brief

Dr Ben StodartBeing interested in forensic sciences I undertook a Bachelor of Science Honours at Flinders University. After realising the career limitations in forensics, and good advice from a family friend, I took an opportunity for casual work at SARDI where I was introduced to the world of plant pathogens -and realised that this was forensics for crops. This progressed to a PhD through the University of Adelaide under the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) National Rhizoctonia Disease Control program.

I followed (not in any creepy way) my wonderful wife to Wagga in 2002 and began working with the NSW Department of Primary Industries under the BioFirst Initiative, where I examined the genetic structure of Landrace wheat and helped out with the wheat breeding program.

In 2006 an opportunity came up working with Gavin Ash at Charles Sturt University where we established plant pathology capability in Cambodia, under ACIAR funded projects. I have continued with ACIAR funding to the present, with additional involvement with GRDC funded projects at times.

Research and Teaching Activities and Interests

Research interests cover bacterial plant diseases and microbial interactions, particularly the interaction between biocontrols and plant pathogens. Working in Cambodia and Lao I also get to look at a range of crop pathosystems, mainly in horticultural production systems, but have covered most things from leafy vegetables to cassava. Along with the focus on particular pathogens I also get to undertake quite a lot of capacity building, and try to get my head around extension. Luckily I have post doc Nicola Wunderlich along for the ride to provide her experience in this area.

Current higher degree research students within the pathology/microbial group are working on microbial interaction projects identifying species of bacteria with antagonistic potential towards things like blackleg in canola and dieback in grapevine, and on the pathogen side investigating epidemiology of common rust in Maize (with USQ), dieback disease in walnut, and Sclerotinia rot in legumes. Slightly away from plant disease is the interaction between bacterial communities and mycorrhizal fungi, and the role of microbes in the degradation of herbicides.

I currently teach Agricultural Biotechnology and Plant Pathology within the Bachelor of Agricultural Science, and help with the coordination of the Honours year.

A typical day for me includes …

Chasing kids out the door or being chased out by them, getting to work and checking emails, adjusting lectures, tutorials, practicals, trying to get in to the lab or mining some genome data.

My main project at the moment is …

ACIAR funded research improving IPDM strategies in protected cropping systems for Lao PDR and Cambodia. This is a multi-disciplinary project with the University of Adelaide aimed at extending the vegetable production period for the wet season.

My favourite part of my job is …

The people I work with, the travel (except overnight flights), and the fact that I get to work on a wide range of cropping systems.

When I am not in the office I like …

Just hanging out with the family!

When I am driving I like to listen to …

Other than my kid’s silly chatter, the radio is normally on Triple J or I have a play list with a mix of stuff – The Stooges, Lamb, Hilltop Hoods, Doves and Nick Cave.


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