Researcher biography

My research career has covered a wide range of topics in plant - soil - environment interactions, with a gradual increasing focus on integration of these components into productive and sustainable farming systems. Key work areas have been (i) Plant/crop responses to environmental stresses - examining interactive effects of temperature and photoperiod on peanut phenology and partitioning; chilling effects on peanut photosynthesis; and effects of water stress and soil mineral N status on legume N fixation; (ii) Plant response to soil biotic and abiotic stresses - studying impacts of crop rotation and management strategies on soil biota and pathogen activity; the effects of soil properties and management practices on Cd accumulation in grain legumes; nutrient requirements of different crop species against a background of declining native fertility reserves; and effects of soil organic matter on structure, nutrient dynamics, pathogen suppression and soil water balance; and (iii) Development of more sustainable management practices and farming systems - work focused on the interaction between management practices, crop productivity, farming system profitability and off site impacts. It includes studying the role of legumes in soil N cycling and disease management; use of fertilisers and organic wastes to maintain soil chemical fertility and crop productivity; the role of ley pastures and pasture management on soil health; the interactions between tillage, soil organic matter and soil biology in root health and nutrient and water use efficiency; and the impact of management practices on the off-site movement of nutrients and agricultural chemicals.

Researcher biography

Graduated with a B Agric Science (Hons() degree from UQ in 1978, after which I worked as a research agronomist for the West Australian Dept of Agriculture at Kununurra, in the Ord River Irrigation Area, until 1983. During that period I worked primarily with grain legumes (chickpeas and cowpeas) and peanuts, focussing on agronomic management practices (fertilisers, soil amendments, crop protection strategies, irrigation), and enrolled part time in a research Masters on growth physiology of peanuts through UQ. IThe M AgrSc was conferred in 1985.

I took up a position with the Qld Dept Primary Industries at Kingaroy in mid 1983, working on soil fertility management/restoration and continuing to research the physiology of the peanut crop. We ran long term farming systems experiments, and also participated in and ultimately led two successive phases of ACIAR funded research on peanut production in Indonesia.

In 1990 I was granted study leave from DPI to undertake a sponsored PhD program at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. This was completed in 1993 and I returned to Kingaroy with DPI, where I remained based at the Kingaroy Research Station until 2014. During that time our research focussed on soil fertility management (especially P and K), soil physical restoration using ley pastures, soil water dynamics and legume N fixation in rainfed cropping systems, and also in researching the Yield Decline phenomenon in the sugar industry. The latter was a major collaborative, multidisciplinary research project over 15 years, that led to the design and testing of a new sugarcane cropping system. Most research was externally funded, through the Grains, Cotton and Sugar Research and Development Corporations.

In 2010 I was invited to join UQ on secondment at the establishment of the Qld Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), and accepted that role while being based in Kingaroy. In 2014 I was appointed to the Chair in Tropical Agronomy in the School of Agriculture and Food Science (SAFS) at Gatton Campus, relocating to Gatton in 2015, but remain a QAAFI Affiliate. Since that time, I have increasingly focussed on soil fertility management and the development and testing of management strategies to optimize the efficiency of nutrients and water in grains, cotton and sugarcane cropping systems.

I have led an ACIAR project developing more sustainable management systems for sloping lands in NW Vietnam and NE Laos, and have also been involved in advisory bodies associated with the Reef Water Quality Management Plan, and with overseeing research activity in grains and sugarcane industries. Currently I lead national and regional research projects on improving fertiliser N management and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the grains cropping systems in Australia, funded by GRDC and the Federal Goverment Soil Science Challenge initiative.