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The Donald Oration and the Donald Medal

In April 1980, at the inaugural Conference of the Society held at Gatton, Queensland, Professor C.M. Donald gave an address reviewing his concepts of the ideotype.

In 1984, the Society instituted the C.M. Donald Medal and this was presented for the first time at the Hobart meeting, when Professor F.C. Crofts gave the oration entitled "Thirty years of pasture research which changed Australia". It was also awarded retrospectively to P.G. Ozanne who gave an address at the 1982 meeting in Wagga, New South Wales on "Plant nutrition in Australia - past, present and future".

In 1987 it was awarded to R.J. French who addressed the conference on "Future productivity on our farmlands".



The design of the medal is shown above. The 1982-87 medals were cast in Melbourne and fabricated in silver. The 1989 medal (and the next four) were made by Sheridans in Perth and are gold-plated.

Colin Malcolm Donald 1910-1985

Colin Donald was Waite Professor of Agronomy at the University of Adelaide from 1954 to 1973, succeeding Professor H.C. Trumble, the first Professor of Agronomy in Australia. Previously he had been with CSIRO. Between 1934 and 1940 he was stationed at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute in Adelaide working on mineral deficiencies in pastures and strain evaluation in subterranean clover. Between 1942 and 1954 he worked on a wide range of problems at the Division of Plant Industry in Canberra. He became Assistant Chief of the Division and left his mark on the field work CSIRO was conducting at the time, and on the research scientists in the Division.

During 1941 and 1942 he held a Pawlett Scholarship of the University of Sydney and studied in the United States of America, Britain and New Zealand. His sojourn in Professor J.E. Weaver's laboratory at Nebraska stimulated his thinking on competition and had a lasting influence. His meeting in Britain with George Stapleton (later Sir George) and William Davies stimulated his thinking about the role of forage legumes and the use of nitrogen fertilizer on pastures; in New Zealand his contact with Bruce Levy (later Sir Bruce) furthered his interest in management and ecology.

He wrote extensively on various aspects of crop and pasture growth. He wrote well, with enjoyment and always presented a positive side of his topic. Perhaps one of his most widely read publications was "Pastures and Pasture Research" first published in 1941 by the University of Sydney. Originally delivered as a series of lectures at the University, they were revised and reprinted several times and for many years served as a reference for pasture agronomists around Australia.

Of the most widely cited contributions, the following deserve mention. The article in the Advances in Agronomy in 1963 "Competition among Crops and Pasture Plants" was based on a series of lectures given at Cornell University during a study leave. It has been compulsory reading for many students and is still widely quoted. The 1964 Farrer Memorial Oration "The progress of Australian agriculture and the role of pastures in environmental change" which appeared in the Aust. J. Sci (1965) 27: 187-198, and the chapter on "Innovations in Australian agriculture" which appeared in D.B. Williams (1981) "Agriculture in the Australian Economy" (pp 57-86), develop the same line of thinking. They gave a wide ranging account of the role of pastures in Australian agriculture and put in perspective the way in which the present farming system in southern Australia developed.

He will probably be remembered, most of all, for his introduction of the concept of the ideotype. First proposed at the 3rd International Wheat Genetics Symposium in Canberra in 1968, it was received cooly by cereal breeders at the time. The arguments that ensured led Donald to embark on a breeding programme which he carried on into his retirement and culminated in the publication in 1979 of the paper "A barley breeding programme based on an ideotype" (J. agric. Sci. Camb. 93: 261-69). Nowadays, the word ideotype is accepted in the vocabulary of breeders/agronomists, alongside genotype and phenotype and appears regularly in the literature. The workshop immediately following this conference will review the concept of the ideotype 21 years after its introduction. The organizers are hoping it will form the basis of a special issue of "Field Crops Research".

As well as his contributions in scientific journals, Donald wrote many review articles. These were like a breath of fresh air in the literature. They not only put work in perspective but they contained a significant element of original thought; they were invariably well written and therefore were widely read. In this respect his writing will stand the test of time and his influence has extended beyond his lifetime and beyond Australia.

In 1964 he took the initiative that led to the establishment of the A.W. Howard Memorial Trust (JAIAS 30:68). The aims of the Trust were firstly to commemorate the pioneering work on subterranean clover by Amos Howard, a farmer near Littlehampton, South Australia, and secondly to establish a fund to advance pasture development in Australia and particularly to help young pasture research workers. The Trust has been successful in meeting these objectives.

He had a warm personality. Any account of Colin Donald would not be complete without reference to his relationship with his postgraduate students during his years at the Waite Institute. He had a continuous succession of students of many different backgrounds. Although he was under considerable time pressure, he gave as much of himself as time permitted, and imparted something of his way of seeing things and thinking about agronomic problems. Many have gone on to successful careers of their own and they would readily attribute some of their success to Donald's influence in shaping their attitudes and outlook.

Two obituary notices have been published. One in the April/May 1985 Newsletter of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science written by Professor J.P. Quirk, Director of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute, and the other in the 1985 Proceedings of the 3rd Australian Agronomy Conference (page xii) and this is unsigned.

W.R. Stern

1989 C.M. Donald Medallist - R.C. ROSSITER

Reginald Clarence Rossiter's scientific career has now spanned almost half a century. Since retiring ten years ago he has maintained his scientific ouptut. He began working with the CSIRO in 1940 and has worked continuously with subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.), making substantial contributions to the understanding of its nutrition, the infertility problem its oestrogenic compounds can cause in sheep, its nutritive value to the grazing animal and to its genetic diversity. He is best known, above all, for his writing on the ecology of subterranean clover and subterranean clover-based pastures, for which he enjoys an international reputation. His scientific rigour and the high calibre of his publications are well known.

Dr Rossiter was Officer-in-Charge of the Western Australian Regional Laboratory for about 15 years. As visiting lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Western Australia, he taught pasture agronomy to a generation of students.

In his early years he worked closely with C.M. Donald, who was at that time Assistant Chief of the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry and had responsibility for the CSIRO pasture programme across southern Australia. They were not only professional colleagues, but also close personal friends. They discussed ideas honestly and with great vigour and developed a profound mutual respect. It is fitting that the Society should recognize and honour Reg Rossiter's life-time work, but doubly so that he should be the recipient of a medal that bears the name of a colleague and close friend.

This award adds to his other honours, the Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences (FTS) and the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science (FAIAS), and the medal of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science.

Some of the more significant publications by R.C. Rossiter are:

1. Rossiter, R.C. (1951-1952). Studies on the nutrition of pasture plants in the south-west of Western Australia.

  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 2: 1-13.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 2: 14-23.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 3: 7-15.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 3: 244-258.

2. Rossiter, R.C. (1959). The influence of maturity grading on total yield and seed production in strains of Trifolium subterraneum L. grown as single plants and in swards. Aust. J. agric. Res. 10: 305-321.

3. Rossiter, R.C. (1966-1972). Physiological and ecological studies on the oestrogenic isoflavones in subterranean clover (T. subterraneum L.).

  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 17: 29-37.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 17: 447-456 with A.B. Beck.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 18: 23-37 with A.B. Beck.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 18: 39-46.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 18: 561-573 with A.B. Beck.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 20: 25-35.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 20: 1043-51.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 21: 593-600.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 23: 411-418 with N.J. Barrow.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 23: 419-426.

4. Rossiter, R.C. (1966). Ecology of a Mediterranean annual-type pasture. Advances in Agronomy 18: 1-56.

5. Lloyd Davies, H., Rossiter, R.C. and Mailer, R. (1970). The effects of different cultivars of subterranean clover (T. subterraneum L.) on sheep reproduction in the south-west of Western Australia. Aust. J. agric. Res. 21: 729-731.

6. Rossiter, R.C. (1977). What determines the success of subterranean clover strains in south-western Australia. In "Exotic species in Australia - their establishment and success". Editor Derek Anderson, Proc. Ecol. Soc. Aust. 10:76-88.

7. Rossiter, R.C., Mailer, R.A. and Pakes, A.G. (1985). A model of changes in the composition of binary mixtures of subterranean clover strains. Aust. J. agric. Res. 36: 119-143.

8. Rossiter, R.C. and Collins, W.J. (1988). Genetic diversity in old subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.) populations in Western Australia.

  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 39: 1051-62.
  • Aust. J. agric. Res. 39: 1063-74.

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