Nahida Bhuiyan has been an examiner in plant breeder’s rights (PBR) for nearly 10 years. In that time she has travelled the Canberra area, as well as to Melbourne, Tasmania, Waikerie, Brisbane, Portland, Gatton, MacKay and Sydney to examine growing trials for new plant varieties.
Nahida assesses PBR applications and works on the Plant Varieties Journal. ‘I am the coordinator of the journal. As part of that I sometimes take the photos, often while I am travelling for an examination. I love plants and I am interested in photography,” she says.
Nahida’s background in molecular genetics and plant bio-chemistry is perfect for the job of examining new plant varieties against international conventions. To grant PBR she needs to determine that a new plant is uniform, stable and distinct from all existing varieties. She also needs to confirm that the plant is has not been commercially sold for more than a single year.
Life as a PBR examiner is full of variety. ‘I like the scientific part – it is enjoyable to see the variations. Each time is a bit different from the previous time,’ explains Nahida.
And does Nahida have her own garden? ‘Oh yes. I used to have a lot of roses. But now in my garden I have Australian natives.’
What PBR examiners do
There are only a handful of PBR examiners at IP Australia, so they are kept very busy checking applications and examining growing trials for new plant varieties.
In the office, examiners check the part 1 applications as they come in. ‘This work is both administrative and technical,’ says Nahida. ‘The part 1 application is about how they bred their variety and details like who is the owner and what makes the new variety distinct from existing varieties.’
At the other end of the application process comes the plant variety description for publication. ‘We finalise the description from our own examination results and sometimes from overseas test reports. We mutually agree on that. My part is in editing and verifying the description,’ explains Nahida.
But not all the work is desk based. ‘We go on many field examinations each year,’ says Nahida. ‘We need to check also that the growing trial is methodically sound and that the claims for distinctness, uniformity and stability can be verified.
‘I take the species protocol and go through the claims in the part 1 application. I check colour, height, and sometimes take a measurement. Sometimes there is no protocol for a particular species, so I develop the protocol consistent with the internationally adopted Test Guideline Protocol (TGP); and I use my own experience and my judgement.
‘Each trial is different. In field crops the plant difference is often not easy to see. I may have to measure leaf length and width in order to determine whether they are different. I also check how they propagated the plants and talk to the qualified person (QP) about varieties of common knowledge.
’As examiners we do a physical examination and then create our field report. I usually work in ornamental varieties (flowers), but sometimes in crops.’
Nahida does a lot of preparation for each trip. While she travels regularly, the locations are not luxurious. ‘I do take my laptop, but I can’t always use it because of poor Wi-Fi or rain. I take a lot of other equipment such as digital callipers for measuring, colour charts, a magnifying glass, and a camera.’
Some common mistakes
Nahida says she often sees avoidable errors in PBR applications. One major error involves not applying for PBR in time. If a plant has been on sale in Australia for more than a year it is not eligible for PBR.
‘Sometimes people miss the date,’ Nahida explains. ‘This is a shame, but it is their responsibility to apply on time. If they have exploited that plant already it is clearly not new.’
Another common mistake applicants make when filling out their application is to leave out a question or mistake the meaning of a question.
‘If a QP (Qualified Person) has completed the form it is usually ok as they generally have a horticultural or agricultural background.’
‘My advice to applicants is to read everything. Read all the information we provide on forms and on the website. It is important. Reading the information helps them to understand more, as well as helping us, in getting error-free applications.’
Examining the Canberra bells Correa, the official plant for Canberra’s centenary in 2013, remains a highlight.
‘I prepared the guideline and examined the plant and the trial,’ she says.
‘I have a proud memory of working on the Australian Correa Canberra Bells.’
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