Lincoln graduate a MacDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year winner

June 20, 2007 0 Comments

Lincoln University graduate Dr Marco Jacometti of Christchurch, is one of five category winners named in Auckland on 20 June at the 2007 MacDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year awards.

Marco and the other recipients, along with the supreme award winner,  received their prizes from the Minister of Research Science and Technology, the Hon. Steve Maharey.

The prestigious awards are organised by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and carry the name of New Zealand-born Nobel Prize winner Professor Alan MacDiarmid. This year there were over 110 entries from around the country and the top award  –  Young Scientist of the Year  –  went to an Auckland University doctoral student working on Huntington’s disease.

Marco won in the category “Adding Value to Nature”. His entry was entitled “Managing grape diseases by enhancing nature’s services”.

It drew on his doctoral research into a non-chemical technology for reducing the damaging grape crop disease grey mould, one of the most common diseases affecting vineyards worldwide.

Grey mould is caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea and it can reduce wine quality and cause crop loss.

The technology explored by Marco involved the use of easily sourced and inexpensive mulch materials.
Marco’s experiments were conducted at Seresin Estate, Marlborough, where mown grass, shredded office paper and composted grape pressings were used as mulches on top of prunings left under grapevines. This was in contrast to the practice of leaving the ground bare.

Shredded office paper proved to be the most effective of the organic mulches used.

The technology works by improving decomposition of vine debris, increasing competition between soil microbes and the botrytis fungus and increasing the strength of the grape skins, thus making the grapes more resistant to disease.

“Mulches don’t eliminate grey mould but they can control it to the point where sprays are not needed,” says Marco. “This is important for an industry that is trying to eliminate unsustainable practices such as spraying with agrichemicals. In turn, chemical residues in the wine are reduced, something consumers around the world are demanding.”

Marco grew up on Banks Peninsula, attended Diamond Harbour School and Middleton Grange School in Christchurch. He came to Lincoln University in 1993 and was capped Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Hons) in 1998.

He commenced doctoral studies at Lincoln University after working as a plant scientist in the Netherlands and New Zealand and received a PhD in Ecology in April this year. His principal supervisor was Professor of Ecology Steve Wratten.

Dr Jacometti is now working as a postdoctoral fellow in Lincoln University’s Bio-Protection and Ecology Division. Among his projects is involvement in a study to identify and trial biodiesel plant crops with the potential to be commercially farmed in New Zealand to create a sustainable agricultural energy source. The worked, guided by Professor Wratten, has been commissioned and funded by the energy company Chevron, marketers of the Caltex fuel brand.

He is also continuing his work in viticulture and his long term aspirations are to stay in biological control research.

Footnote:
Dr Jacometti is the second Lincoln University graduate to win a MacDiarmid prize since the awards were established in 2004. In the inaugural year, food scientist Nicola Turner, a Master of Science student, won the Environmental Science category and was also overall runner-up to the Supreme Award.

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