Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.09.2014

News in brief

Image of a man's face

Professor Michael (Mick) Poole.

PHOTO: Evan Collis

Image of a man

Wheat and durum-breeding pioneer Professor Tony Rathjen.

Honour for Mick Poole

Former GRDC board member Professor Michael (Mick) Poole was awarded an Order of Australia in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

The citation was for “significant service to environmental science as a leader, researcher and adviser to government”.

Now in “semi-retirement”, Professor Poole retains a strong interest in cropping systems, bioenergy and biofuels, is an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Western Australia, a CSIRO Research Fellow and immediate past chair of the Swan River Trust. He is noted for his expertise in dryland farming systems and landscape management, having worked with the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, for 29 years and CSIRO for 15. He was head of the CSIRO Centre for Mediterranean Agricultural Research and a program leader with CSIRO Plant Industry.

Agricultural boards he has chaired include the Australian Plant Industries Committee, the National Pasture Improvement Coordination Committee and the WA Wheat Advisory Committee.

Professor Poole is also a past director of the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), the Plant-Based Management of Dryland Salinity CRC and the Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture CRC.

Vale Tony Rathjen (1940–2014)

Professor Tony Rathjen, a plant breeder and lecturer whose legacy includes more than 25 wheat varieties and teaching scores of agricultural science graduates, died in June, aged 74, after a battle with cancer.

Following his Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Adelaide in 1962, Professor Rathjen won a scholarship to study genetics at the University of Cambridge. Three years later, armed with his PhD, he returned to South Australia hoping to work as a geneticist, but instead became a wheat breeder at the Waite Research Institute.

With a geneticist’s eye, and in the context of the technological innovation and collaboration occurring at Waite in the late 1960s and 1970s, Professor Rathjen helped to revolutionise Australian wheat breeding.

Some of the innovations that came from the program Professor Rathjen led included resistance to cereal cyst and Pratylenchus nematode pests, boron tolerance, adaptation to alkaline and saline soils, introducing the first durum germplasm into SA, improved quality traits for flour, pasta and biscuit making, and increased yields.

He was keen to work with farmers and would enlist growers as research assistants. As a lecturer, Professor Rathjen was admired for his laid-back yet enthusiastic manner and lateral thinking.

With the royalties from the wheat variety YitpiA, Professor Rathjen set up the Yitpi Foundation to support crop science research, agricultural education, overseas study tours for undergraduates and studies of the linguistics and culture of Indigenous Australians.

Non-wetting soil booklet

The GRDC and the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA), have released a new booklet on non-wetting soils. The 64-page booklet, Combatting non-wetting soils: A tour of on-farm research in Western Australia – 2014, outlines some of the options WA grain growers are using to manage non-wetting soils.

Written by Niki Curtis, of the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association, DAFWA researchers Dr Steve Davies, David Hall and Derk Bakker, and CSIRO researcher Dr Margaret Roper, the booklet was developed to increase grower knowledge of methods of addressing non-wetting soils.

More information:

New AEGIC chair and CEO

Western Australian grain grower and former GRDC chair Terry Enright is now chair of the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre. He was appointed by the GRDC and the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, after inaugural chair Robert Sewell stepped down.

AEGIC also has a new chief executive officer, David Fienberg, a former GRDC panel member.

Mr Fienberg has a background in farming, overseeing supply chain and grain handling operations, and most recently the development of new and novel lupin food products for the export and domestic markets.

More information:

Laureta Wallace

Farm Safety Induction app

Farmsafe Australia has released a Farm Safety Induction app to assist the safety induction of workers.

Launched during national Farm Safety Week in July, the free iPhone and Android tool allows farm managers to enter information into the app during discussion with new workers as part of the safety induction process. The app then emails a record of the safety issues covered to the farm worker and owner/manager.

The app was developed through the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership, which is funded by the GRDC, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RDC), the Fisheries RDC and the Cotton RDC.

More information:

Mouse app

Mouse control entered the digital age in August with the release of the smartphone app MouseAlert. The app ( will allow growers to report mouse abundance from a smart phone, tablet or computer and also see what other mouse activity is being reported locally and across the country.

This new digital platform for recording mouse activity has been developed by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre with the GRDC, Landcare Research and CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.

More information:

Simon Humphrys


Sci-fi scenario a crop protection breakthrough


Hart Winter Walk: virus explained to growers

Region South, West