Plant science competition proves resistant to COVID-19

News release | 26-May-2020

It’s full-steam ahead for the Queensland Government’s annual Hermitage Schools Plant Science Competition, which has been unstoppable despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The competition, now in its 24th year, has moved online.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Kerrie Rubie who coordinates the event said almost 2,000 students from 100 schools across Australia have adapted and are doing their research online for this year’s competition, which celebrates the International Year of Plant Health.

“Restrictions for COVID-19 have forced us to cancel the competition’s physical events, including the student plant health workshops and the combined Awards and Agriculture Science Expo Day, but there was overwhelming feedback from schools and parents to keep the competition going,” Ms Rubie said.

“As one teacher pointed out, business is being done via video conferencing from anywhere in the world, and it’s important for students to understand that you must be able to adapt to changing environments.

“By hosting our competition events online, we have the potential to reach students who might otherwise have been unable to attend in person, due to distance and travel costs.

“We are proud of the students who have adapted and pleased that our competition could adapt with them.”

The Department’s Research Scientist and competition committee member, Dr Barbara George-Jaeggli, said this year’s topic of plant health is especially topical due to COVID-19.

“Students may learn that any organism, whether plant, animal or an entire ecosystem, is similar in that it is vulnerable and has defence mechanisms. We must all adapt and become resilient if we want to survive,” she said.

In 2020, competition entrants from Years Prep to 12 will complete a scientific investigation, design a mind map poster, research plant health in developing countries, create artwork that connects plant health to ocean health, and discover plant pests via the QuestaGame mobile gaming app.

There’ll be a student plant health workshop online and a ‘virtual’ awards day in August.

For more information about the competition, visit www.daf.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.

Follow Queensland Agriculture on Facebook and Twitter (@QldAgriculture).

ENDS

Media contact: DAF Media, media@daf.qld.gov.au