Australian agriculture’s grand challenge

FARMING FUTURE: Highly respected agronomist Tim Reeves will present a public lecture at Wangaratta on what he sees as Australian agriculture's big challenges.

FARMING FUTURE: Highly respected agronomist Tim Reeves will present a public lecture at Wangaratta on what he sees as Australian agriculture's big challenges.

A pioneer of no-till/conservation research believes farming must change to safeguard the future of Australian agriculture.

Tim Reeves, who spent 25 years based at Rutherglen Research Institute, will deliver a public lecture in Wangaratta on Tuesday, October 17, focusing on what he sees as the grand challenges agriculture must address.

“I’m optimistic about agricultural production but not with business as usual,” Prof Reeves said.

“We still have to go on making changes. Of course it’s got to be about productivity and profitability but increasingly it’s got to be about sustainability as well.

“It’s no point doing well in the next two years and not being in business in five or 10 years time.”

With the world’s population growing at 150 people a minute, professor Reeves believed Australia was no longer able to compete internationally on a cost basis but our reputation as a clean producer of safe, healthy food was a key advantage.

He also believed changing consumer behaviour also played a role in strengthening our agricultural output.

“Here in Australia we’re wasting around 60 per cent of food production at the consumer end of the scale,” he said.

“Now if we can change that, that actually reaches right back to farm production because the challenges would not be as high.

“The last of the grand challenges is the neglect and erosion of rural communities.

“The people producing this food are out there living in those rural areas. We’re just not going to have food and nutritional security if no one wants to be out there producing it because the areas where they live just don’t have the basic services they need.”

In September the well-known cropping industry researcher was presented with the Australian Society of Agronomy’s most prestigious award, the C.M Donald Medal, for his services to agronomy.

The medal is awarded to an eminent Australian agriculturalist in recognition of a long and distinguished career with contributions in all areas of agronomy.

Professor Reeves has worked in agricultural research, development and extension, for 50 years.

He chairs the Agriculture Forum of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and is a former director general of International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, Mexico.

However, professor Reeves says his 25 years at Rutherglen were crucial to his career.

“I payed a lot of football for Rutherglen in the Ovens and Murray days and actually that helped my agronomy because most people I played against or with were farmers and we’d always get around to talking about farming.”

The address at the Learning and Teaching Centre auditorium, Dixon St, Wangaratta starts at 5.30pm and has been organised by the University of Melbourne’s department of rural health

Register at www.trybooking.com/300761