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Official Opening by The Governor of Tasmania

The Honourable Sir Guy Green AC KBE CVO

Governor of Tasmania

I would like to add my welcome to you all to this conference. I add a particular welcome to all our visitors from outside Tasmania. We have participants from all states of Australia, and from New Zealand, the United States of America, South Africa and Iran. We are delighted to see you all and do hope that whilst you are here you have some time to enjoy some of the many attractions which Tasmania has to offer.

I think that Tasmania can be seen to be a rather appropriate venue for this conference.

Over a quarter of the surface area of this State is devoted to agriculture and the industry makes a very substantial contribution to the economy of the state. As well, reflecting one of the major themes of your conference there is in Tasmania a good history of collaboration between researchers, government, farmers and institutions including in particular the University of Tasmania. One vehicle for achieving that has been the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research which plays an important role in helping to ensure that research and development in agriculture in Tasmania are aligned with the needs and priorities of the industry and help to maximise economic development on a sustainable basis. An example of the effective way in which those sectors have worked together is provided by the major contribution made by research and development to the development of the essential oil industry in this state, Tasmania being a producer of a number of essential oils including being a major producer of oil from lavender, boronia and the natural insecticide pyrethrum. In particular at this conference you will be hearing how good collaboration between researchers, growers and processors has helped give the Tasmanian Opium Poppy industry the advantage it needs in order to compete against the subsidised poppy industry in other countries.

You are engaged in a uniquely significant field. It was agronomists who settled the basis of modern civilisation 10,000 years ago when they started planting the seeds of wild grasses and thus enabled a given area of land to support a far greater concentration of people than when it was only used for hunting and gathering. The fundamental nature of the contribution which agronomists make to our society can be illustrated by comparing the significance of advances in agronomy with those made in other fields. If we were to wipe out some of the major technological advances of the last 100 years by for example grounding the aeroplanes, disconnecting the telephones or even shutting down the computers, the consequences would be traumatic indeed but we would survive. But if we were to wipe out the gains in the productivity of land which agronomists have achieved over the same period a large proportion of the world's population would not survive because they simply could not be fed. And that contribution is continuing: one of the presenters at this conference will be showing that, contrary to some currently fashionable views, we are capable of increasing productivity even further so that we shall be able to satisfy world demands for cereals well into this century provided - and it is an important proviso - that appropriate investment is made in agricultural research and development.

But of course the great potential benefits from agronomy and the science and technology which underpin it can only be realised if advances in research and development are applied to the actual management of farms and agriculture generally. I think that this conference will be an excellent vehicle for facilitating that transfer.

At this conference you will be discussing an impressive number and range of topics. The relationship between information about the environment, the land and yield on the one hand and farm management and decision making on the other is a recurring theme. An interesting example is the conclusion that new ways of modeling and transmitting information to growers must be found if the full potential of advances which have been made in precision agriculture technology are to be fully realised. Similarly better modes of communication are needed if we are to give full effect to the improved knowledge which research has yielded about climate variability.

Another significant topic you will be dealing with concerns the ramifications of applying environmental management systems to Australian agriculture. There have been a number of developments in recent times which make this an appropriate and timely theme for this conference to be addressing. One of the most important has been a significant shift in attitudes towards environmental issues. During the past decades much political, public and media debate about environmental and resource issues has been, to use moderate language, of low quality and unproductive. But I think that as a society we are becoming more mature in the way in which we approach such issues. Increasingly, science is replacing dogma, informed comment is replacing propaganda, ordinary political processes are replacing confrontation and perhaps of most significance of all the various interest groups in the public, industrial and conservation sectors are appreciating the extent to which at a fundamental level their interests coincide. That view has prompted the development of standards such as the ISO 14000 series and the increasing recognition by industry that self regulation guided by those standards is to be preferred to what has been called the “command and control” model. And one significant consequence of those developments has been that the extreme environmentalists on the one hand and those who heedlessly exploit resources on the other are increasingly being marginalised. Responsible discussion of environmental management systems in a forum such as this will make a valuable contribution to encouraging the continuation of that trend.

Another issue which you will be discussing is the dichotomy which is said to exist between industry led or goal oriented research on the one hand and curiosity led or academic research on the other. But I would suggest that in agricultural science at least that is largely a false dichotomy. The sort of global approach to the field taken by agronomists whereby the various categories of research are not seen as opposed but as interrelated parts of a continuum all of which are interesting, important and worth promoting does much to reconcile the demands of both academia and industry.

One of the most important features of this conference is that it involves a wide range of topics as well as a full range of people working in all aspects of agriculture including farmers, agro-business personnel, field officers, consultants, advisers and research workers. I think that this conference epitomises very well the global perspective and multi-disciplinary approach involving all stakeholders which are such valuable characteristics of agronomy today.

You are engaged in endeavours which are of fundamental significance not only for agriculture but for our whole society.

I hope that you have a productive, interesting and above all enjoyable conference.

I have much pleasure in declaring the 10th Australian Agronomy Conference open.

The Honourable Sir Guy Green AC KBE CVO

Governor of Tasmania

Hobart - Monday 29 January 2001

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