THE contribution of Victorian agronomy consultant, Harm van Rees, to the Australian grains industry has been officially recognised with the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s 2020 Southern Region Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award.
In presenting the award at the GRDC Grains Research Update in Bendigo, 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.
He 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 (Birchip Cropping Group) 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.”
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.
Mr Bennett said his involvement in many and varied GRDC investments over many years had been invaluable, and the outcomes from that work had been highly impactful.
“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.”
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 overinvesting or underinvesting 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.
Dr van Rees has authored numerous publications and for decades has been a regular presenter at GRDC Updates and other industry forums and events.
“He is always willing to extend his vast knowledge – especially to a grower and adviser audience,” Mr Bennett said.
“Harm’s current research work, with GRDC investment, is focused on targeted phosphorous and nitrogen fertiliser use.
“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.”
Working for common goal
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.