Soil expert shines in industry

Seed of Light award winner Stephen Davies.
Camera IconSeed of Light award winner Stephen Davies. Credit: Cally Dupe

One of WA’s leading experts on managing soil constraints in cropping systems has received the 2017 Grains Research and Development Corporation western region Seed of Light award.

Department of Agriculture and Food WA research officer Stephen Davies was presented with the prestigious award on Monday at the GRDC Grains Research Updates in Perth.

The western region Seed of Light award is presented annually to a person making a major contribution to communicating the outcomes of grains research and development in WA.

GRDC Western Regional Panel chairman Peter Roberts said Dr Davies’ skills and knowledge were an asset to the local — and national — grains industry.

“In terms of economic restraints facing WA grain growers, one of the biggest hurdles we have had is in the area of soils that can be water repellent, compacted and/or acidic, adversely affecting crop growth and grain yields,” he said.

“But the increased productivity of WA grain growers in the past decade highlights the willingness and ability of researchers, growers and advisers to tackle these soil issues.

“Research into areas of ameliorating water repellent and non-wetting soils and acidity with tactics such as deep ripping, spading, mouldboard ploughing, topsoil ‘slotting’, lime and clay application and wetting agents have played a role in this.”

Mr Roberts said work led by Dr Davies into these strategies were starting to pay off in the development of tools for more effective soils and agronomy management to reduce production risks and lift returns. “Dr Davies has demonstrated outstanding leadership and use of innovation and creativity in his scientific endeavours in this field,” he said.

“Many growers across the grainbelt have now adopted some form of soil amelioration techniques and are reaping the benefits of potentially higher yielding crops that can tap into extra soil moisture at seeding and other key times of the growing season.”

Based at DAFWA’s Geraldton office and part of the Soil Productivity Research and Development team, Dr Davies heads the GRDC-funded research project into delivering practical agronomic solutions for water-repellent soils in WA. In this role, he liaises and collaborates with researchers and personnel from key organisations in the WA and national grains sectors, including universities, the CSIRO, grower groups and growers.

Mr Roberts said Dr Davies had more than 22 years of experience in understanding agricultural plant physiology and soils research and was always willing to sit down with growers and advisers to work through their issues.

“He and his team provide an excellent example of researchers, who are based in the heart of crop production regions and can take on board the practical implications of the work they are doing,” he said.

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