Communications stalwart honoured

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GRDC Northern Panel chair James Clark (left) congratulates John Cameron (right), winner of the GRDC’s northern region Seed of Light award, and long-time ICAN employee, Erica McKay.
GRDC Northern Panel chair James Clark (left) congratulates John Cameron (right), winner of the GRDC’s northern region Seed of Light award, and long-time ICAN employee, Erica McKay.

By Clarisa Collis

The former grains researcher who helped initiate the GRDC’s Grains Research Update programs, John Cameron, is the northern region winner of the 2011 GRDC ‘Seed of Light’ award.

Mr Cameron has been an industry stalwart in his work in grains communications and industry extension, and in particular the annual research updates.

His push for research updates in the northern region in the mid-1990s was born of his 20-year career as a researcher and consultant providing R&D advice. “There were a large number of advisers out there who were not engaged with the outcomes of the publicly funded research investments happening at the time,” Mr Cameron recalled.

This perceived need to more directly link consultants, advisers and, ultimately, growers with research coincided with the GRDC’s resolve to more rapidly connect public research investments and on-farm adoption.

He established the Independent Consultants Australia Network (ICAN) in 1995, which has supported his coordination of the northern updates since their inception in 1996.

GRDC Northern Panel chair James Clark said Mr Cameron’s combination of agronomic expertise, facilitation skills, formal qualifications and extensive contacts had accentuated his finesse as a communicator.

“John Cameron has made the GRDC northern updates what they are today – relevant, timely and useful to growers and advisers,” said Mr Clark when presenting the award at the recent Goondiwindi Update.
“He has the ability to work with local committees to identify production-limiting issues and form agendas,” he said.
“The updates concentrate on what’s seasonally relevant and what’s new,” Mr Cameron said.

Mr Cameron has been in a prime position to watch the industry evolve. “In the early 1980s the state departments of agriculture were nurseries for the emerging retail advisory sector. Now these departments and the retail sector serve as nurseries for the still-evolving consulting sector.”
“Having these networks where agronomists work with growers and researchers, gives us enormous capability and efficiency in the rapid uptake of new technology.”

Mr Cameron described how this development contrasted with his early career experience, when there was only a handful of retail-based agronomists operating on the Darling Downs in Queensland.
“Today, almost every grower either has their own consultant or is serviced by one or more retail-based agronomists.”

Looking to the future, Mr Cameron said he was optimistic about the Australian grains industry. “Our ability to develop and use technology places us in an excellent position to respond to and benefit from potential changes in the global demand and supply of food in coming years.”

As for agronomic challenges, he felt one of the biggest issues for grower profitability would be rising levels of herbicide resistance to glyphosate, particularly in no-till farming systems. “With many growers in the northern cropping region already on full no-till and controlled-traffic farming technology, we’ve got to do some serious blue-sky thinking to identify where the next productivity gains are going to come from.”

Aside from his passion for working in the space where growers and agronomists interface with researchers, Mr Cameron said he had always enjoyed the technological challenges of being a grains adviser. “Grains advisers are constantly applying their combined knowledge of genetics, chemistry, microbiology, soil science and crop physiology with great common sense when providing advice to their clients.

“It’s hard to identify any other career, other than perhaps medicine, where you’re applying so many science-based skills to help others make the right decisions,” he said.

GRDC Research Code ICN00011
More information: John Cameron, 0427 209 709; James Clark, 0427 545 212; www.grdc.com.au/ICN00011

GRDC Project Code ICN00011

Region North, South, West