Students putting plant health under the microscope in national competition

News release | 14-Feb-2020

Key Points

  • Students from around the country are being invited to enter the Hermitage Research Facility Schools Plant Science Competition
  • Now in its 24th year the competition encourages students to consider how protecting plant health can sustain life on earth
  • Previous winners have gone on to win other prestigious agriculture awards or pursue careers in the sector

Main Story

Students are encouraged to enter a national competition based in southern Queensland that focuses on how important protecting plant health is in sustaining life on Earth.

Now in its 24th year, the Schools Plant Science Competition is being held at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Hermitage Research Facility at Warwick.

Competition coordinator Kerrie Rubie said this year’s theme of ‘plant health’ celebrates 2020 as being the International Year of Plant Health.

“Last year, more than 3,600 students from 153 schools submitted 255 science and art entries. 82 schools from across the country have already registered to be part of the competition,” she said.

“Students will conduct hands-on experimental investigations, design mind maps with a plant health theme, and communicate key constraints to the plant health of a field crop in a developing country.

“They will also be immersed in nature with the QuestaGame ‘Pest Invaders’ mobile gaming app to spot and identify pests that invade our precious plant life and interfere with agricultural production.

“And they will be in the running for a selection of fantastic awards and prizes too.”

One 2019 entrant, Toowoomba-based Year 9 student, Michelle Springolo, is currently competing as one of 26 finalists at the 2020 BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards, showcasing her project Pest Invaders - Will Companion Planting German Chamomile with Barley Crops or Spraying Barley Crops with German Chamomile Tea Help Prevent Net Blotch Disease?

A 2015 and 2016 competition entrant and winner, Joel Johnson, from the Faith Christian School of Distance Education in Rockhampton, is currently demonstrating his passion for agricultural science via a Master’s degree through the University of Central Queensland.

“Joel is researching non-invasive techniques for measuring bioactive compounds across a range of food crops, such as mungbeans, faba beans, and chickpeas. I like to think we helped spark and foster that passion,” Ms Rubie said.

“Students with a flair for art can also enter the Art in AgRiculTure Awards, which combines the International Year of Plant Health with the National Science Week theme for students.

“The National Science Week theme is ‘Deep Blue – innovations for the future of our oceans’ and students will be asked to depict how plant health (agricultural production) and healthy oceans can exist together in harmony.”

Hermitage Research Facility Schools Plant Science Competition entries close on 26 June 2020.

Winners will be announced on 18 August 2020 at the annual Awards Day and Agricultural Science Expo held at the Hermitage Research Facility in Warwick during National Science week (15-23 August 2020).

Hermitage Research Facility Schools Plant Science Competition activities are aligned to the Australian school curriculum each year, making it easy for teachers to incorporate the competition project into their learning programs.

For more information about the competition, visit or call 13 25 23.

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


Media contact: DAF Media,