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Southern grains industry celebrates consultant's contribution to combatting agronomy challenges

GRDC Southern Region Panel chair John Bennett, left, presented consultant Dr Harm van Rees, director of Cropfacts Pty Ltd, with the GRDC's 2020 Southern Region Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award.
Photo: GRDC

Agronomic specialist Dr Harm van Rees recieves GRDC's award for excellence in the south.

The contribution of Dr Harm van Rees to the Australian grains industry has been officially recognised with the GRDC's 2020 Southern Region Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award.

Voted upon by the GRDC Southern Region Panel, the award acknowledges Dr van Rees' input and commitment to the grains industry.

In presenting the award at the GRDC Grains Research Update in Bendigo (Victoria), GRDC Southern Region Panel chair John Bennett said Dr van Rees was a most worthy recipient of the award.

"Harm is a man with a passion - an unwavering passion for all things agriculture and in particular the translation of scientific knowledge into practical application for grain growers and farmers more broadly," Mr Bennett said.

Based in Bendigo, Dr van Rees is an agronomy consultant and director of Cropfacts Pty Ltd.

Experience benefits growers

Dr van Rees became well known and highly regarded throughout the farming industry for his instrumental roles in the MEYCheck (Maximum Economic Yield) and Top Crop programs - which were transformative in the 1990s in terms of driving understanding around production constraints such as water use efficiency and nitrogen management.

In the early 1990s, Dr van Rees began consulting to growers across the Victorian Wimmera and Mallee.

"The advice, recommendations and support delivered by Harm to growers in that region have influenced positive, profit-generating practice change," Mr Bennett said.

"Cropping in that region of Victoria has come a long way thanks to Harm. And as a result, the community has benefited tremendously.

"Harm long ago recognised the value of farming systems groups in improving the understanding by growers of crop and pasture production techniques. Bringing growers and researchers together to solve production issues was his focus.

"And he has been influential in bringing to fruition the BCG's long-term goal and mission of 'Improving the profitability and long-term viability of Mallee and Wimmera communities through research, demonstration and exchange of ideas amongst growers and industry groups'.

"BCG is a dynamic and innovative farming systems organisation that has expanded significantly over the years to become a vital part of the region's community. We thank Harm for his pivotal involvement in BCG's success."

The advice, recommendations and support delivered by Harm to growers in that region have influenced positive, profit-generating practice change. - GRDC Southern Region Panel chair John Bennett

Beyond BCG, Dr van Rees has over the years conducted research on a multitude of issues and topics, including palm oil in PNG, and has undertaken project work for a number of research and development corporations across Australia.

Contribution to research

Dr van Rees' involvement in many and varied GRDC investments over many years has been invaluable, and the outcomes from that work have been highly impactful, according to Mr Bennett.

"For instance, in 2002, Harm - on behalf of BCG - initiated the revolutionary GRDC-supported Yield Prophet® program with then CSIRO researchers Drs Zvi Hochman and Peter Carberry," Mr Bennett said.

Yield Prophet® is an online crop-production model that uses: soil test results; growing-season rainfall; stored soil water; crop management; and historical climate data to provide objective, real-time assessments of seasonal yield potential.

The model estimates the probabilities of a specific paddock obtaining a range of yields. By matching crop inputs with the attainable yield in a given season, growers can avoid over-investing or under-investing in their crop.

"Harm has also been heavily involved in the National Paddock Survey, a four-year GRDC investment designed to quantify the yield gap on 250 paddocks across Australia and to determine the causes," Mr Bennett said.

In the GRDC video below, he presents findings from this survey project to the GRDC Grains Research Update Bendigo 2019 event.

Dr van Rees has authored numerous publications and for decades has been a regular presenter at GRDC Updates and other industry forums and events.

Spreading the word

Mr Bennett said Dr van Rees was always willing to extend his vast knowledge - especially to a grower and adviser audience.

"Harm's current research work, with GRDC investment, is focused on targeted phosphorous and nitrogen fertiliser use," he said.

"We wish Harm well in his ongoing work and look forward to seeing the outcomes being applied to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers."

Dr van Rees said it was a "great honour" to be presented with the Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award.

"I love working in this industry. There are so many inspirational farmers, agronomists and researchers working for the common goal of improving production, life in rural communities and improving soil health and our environment - the GRDC is a huge part of this," Dr van Rees said.

Dr van Rees receives a financial scholarship that can be used for travel or another agreed activity to further his skills and expertise.

He will be provided with an opportunity to network and strengthen linkages with other world-leading researchers to identify relevant research and technologies for potential adoption here in Australia.

More Information: John Bennett, GRDC Southern Panel, 0429 919 223; Harm van Rees, Cropfacts Pty Ltd, 0419 325 252

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