Panel Profile: Neil Fettell

Author: | Date: 18 Feb 2014

Neil Fettell, GRDC Southern Regional Panel Member, 2013-15

Condobolin, NSW

Based at Condobolin in Central West New South Wales, Neil has a passion for farming as well as the role of research in promoting growth in agricultural production.

With more than 40 years involvement in the grains industry, Neil began his career at the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

“My family has been in agriculture for quite some generations so it was pretty natural for me to study agricultural science at Sydney University. I then embarked on a career with NSW DPI as a research agronomist for 30 years,” he says.

“I’ve been on the panel now for just over two years. I’ve been passionate about cropping and farming for some time but also what contribution research could make to improve agriculture, so I felt I had something to offer the panel.”

In addition to being a GRDC panel member, Neil is a part-time lecturer at the University of New England, and assists the grower group Central West Farming Systems as a Research Advisor. He holds a doctorate in science and runs a small farm on the Lachlan River.

Neil received the 2002 Seed of Light Award for excellence in extension and communication. He has been involved with a number of programs and activities, such as the Southern Barley Agronomy Project, the Low Rainfall Collaboration Group and GRDC’s Water Use Efficiency Initiative.

With his breadth of experience, Neil is keen to see GRDC continuing to tackle a number of key issues that he regularly encounters across the many aspects of his work.

“My major interest is in harnessing advances in science to get them back to the farm level where they can improve the productivity of cereal growing. I think great advances will be made in the next few years based on developments in genomics and plant breeding.

“Three major issues that are front of mind are; frost because it’s an issue every year but this year (2013) it has been particularly bad; nitrogen, because with increases in cropping intensity ensuring an adequate and economical nitrogen supply will be a challenge; and water use efficiency, making sure we get the best production that we can out of every drop of water that is available.

“GRDC has some major investments in each of these areas, in particular frost, where we are searching worldwide for improved genetic sources for better tolerance that we can breed into crops.”

Neil says farmers are continually under pressure from the increasing costs of production and more difficult terms of trade.

“Productivity gains are therefore crucial but we must make sure that resources are protected in ways to ensure we can continue to be productive,” Neil says.

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