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1987 C.M. Donald Medallist

Reginald James French RDA, M.Agr.Sc., FAIAS

Following study at Roseworthy Agricultural College and the University of Adelaide, Reg French commenced his professional career as a Soil Conservation Officer in the South Australian Department of Agriculture. Since then he has had a distinguished career within that organization and through his work has earned a national and international reputation in Agriculture.

From 1951-55 he was the first resident Soil Conservation Advisor on the Eyre Peninsula. There he introduced soil conservation practices to farmers and promoted the sowing of barrel medic over large tracts of calcareous soils. During this time he wrote the bulletin 'Soils of the Eyre Peninsula' which still provides the basic description of the soils of that area.

He moved to Adelaide in 1956 and as Senior Soil Conservation Officer investigated the role of fallowing in moisture conservation and nitrogen management to establish criteria for fallowing in the wheat belt of South Australia. In 1963 he was appointed Principal Research Officer and two years later, Officer-in-Charge of the Research Laboratories of the Department of Agriculture at Northfield.

During the period 1965-76 he was the Leader of an expanding research team. The breadth of his expertise is indicated by the diversity of projects he undertook in conjunction with his colleagues. They ranged from further soil survey, continuing work on fallowing, studies on the role of fertilizers, participation in the National Soil Fertility Project, reclamation of saline soils and vegetation studies in the arid zone. During this time he also pursued his interest in the effect of climatic factors on crop yield and the definition of optimum conditions for the growth and yield of a range of crops.

He moved into Senior Administration in 1976, first as Chief Soils Officer and then as Head of Soil Conservation. During 1979-86 he served successively as Chief of the Divisions of Land Use and Protection and of Agricultural Research. During these periods of heavy administration he maintained his keen interest in research, kept abreast of new developments in agriculture and continued his frequent contacts with the farming community.

In 1986 he was appointed to the new position of Chief Soil Agronomist. Now, without administrative responsibilities, he is charged with the task of co-ordinating and directing research, training research teams and continuing his life-long commitment to producers.

Reg French has contributed greatly to the development of dryland agriculture in South Australia and benefits from his work have flowed to other states as well as overseas. His remarkable ability to bridge the gap between research and practical agriculture has influenced extension services in South Australia by making them more aware of the significance of new Information arising from research. His ability to enthuse the farming community with the relevance of research has earned him its respect and admiration.

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