Conference to address ‘opportunities’ and ‘obstacles’ in agronomy

Published 23 July 2012

The 16th Australian Agronomy Conference, to be held at the University of New England in October, will include presentations by the President of the National Farmers’ federation, Jock Laurie, and a former Chief of CSIRO’s Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures, Dr Bob Clements.

There will also be a presentation by the Chair of the Agricultural Committee of the International Fertiliser Association (IFA) in France, Patrick Heffer. Mr Heffer’s role in IFA includes the international coordination of all issues relating to fertiliser use, innovation and research. He will speak at the conference on the future supply of fertiliser raw materials and finished products to Australia.

More than 250 delegates from around Australia – and from New Zealand, South-east Asia and Africa – will attend the Australian Society of Agronomy’s biennial conference, which will include field tours to a wide range of innovative agricultural enterprises and research stations in the New England region.

The conference, scheduled for October 14 – 18, 2012, is titled Capturing Opportunities and Overcoming Obstacles in Australian Agronomy. “Opportunities” and “obstacles” in plant breeding, nutrient supply and management, weed management, precision agriculture, and chemical-free agriculture are among the topics for discussion.

The President of the Australian Society of Agronomy, UNE’s Professor Graeme Blair, said the theme of the conference reflected “the challenge for Australia to increase food and fibre production in a sustainable manner in the face of increasing barriers to the adoption of new technologies”. “These barriers are being raised by a burgeoning urban population that is remote from the realities of agriculture but wants cheap and safe food,” he said.

Dr Clements, a UNE graduate whose research at CSIRO helped to boost the viability of livestock industries in northern Australia, will speak about the contribution of Australian agronomy to world food security over the past 20 years, and look at what lies ahead. In his role as Director of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, he helped to open doors for Australian agricultural scientists in many Asian countries.

The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia and New Zealand. Its members are drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector. A highlight of the Society’s biennial conference is the presentation of the Donald Medal to an eminent agriculturalist. The medal honours the memory of Colin Donald, who was Professor of Agronomy at the University of Adelaide from 1954 to 1973.

Fellowships of the Society will be presented for the first time to agronomists who have made significant contributions to Australian agronomy.

Another event at the conference will be the presentation of the Young Agronomist Award, worth $1,000, to an outstanding agronomist under the age of 35.

Professor Blair said that the Society was encouraging farmers to attend the conference “to learn about the latest in agronomic advances”.