THE contribution of South Australian agronomic consultant Allan Mayfield to the Australian grains industry has been officially recognised with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) 2021 Southern Region Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award.
Voted upon by the GRDC Southern Region Panel, the award acknowledges Dr Mayfield’s long-standing input and commitment to the nation’s grains industry.
The award was presented to Dr Mayfield by GRDC Southern Region Panel chair John Bennett at this week’s GRDC Grains Research Update in Adelaide.
“There are many words to describe Allan – but effervescent, efficient, spirited, generous, hard-working, motivated, knowledgeable, unpretentious and considerate are right at the top,” Mr Bennett said.
Commitment to improving farming
Dr Mayfield grew up on a farm at Kimba on Eyre Peninsula and took an interest in farming and agronomy from an early age.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and a PhD in Plant Pathology, he worked with the then South Australian Department of Agriculture on plant disease research and then went on to work in crop protection at Clare before starting his own consultancy business in 1991.
“Supporting growers with their decision making and helping to make a difference on-farm and in the hip pocket has been one of Allan’s constant passions,” Mr Bennett said.
“The challenge of overcoming ever-evolving constraints has been a driving force behind his fierce desire to extend new knowledge and understandings from research into application in the paddock. He has been a tireless collector and disseminator of information, fervently promoting best practice and methods of pushing farming frontiers.”
Dr Mayfield’s selfless commitment to improving farming systems and the fortunes of grain growers saw him become one of the pioneer members of the Hart Field Site Group, where he served as the research manager for 10 years and, along with fellow agronomist Barry Bull, laid the foundations for the now popular and professional Hart Field Day.
Having seen the potential of precision agriculture early on in the movement, Dr Mayfield also worked with Southern Precision Agriculture Australia as a research co-ordinator.
He recently stepped down after eight years in the scientific officer role at the South Australian Grain Industry Trust (SAGIT).
SAGIT chair Max Young paid tribute to Dr Mayfield at the time – saying his contribution to the Trust, and the industry as a whole, had been substantial.
Dr Mayfield was a GRDC Southern Region Panel member from 2003 to 2011. This role enabled him to act as an influential interface between the organisation and its grower levy payers.
“The value that Allan brought to the Panel and the GRDC more broadly was enormous. His insights, knowledge and close working relationships with growers and the research community helped to inform many impactful GRDC investments in research, development and extension,” Mr Bennett said.
Dr Mayfield’s expertise is broad and includes agronomy of temperate broadacre crops and pastures, particularly crop protection; using precision agriculture techniques to assess and manage production variability of crops; project management and evaluation; and grower group facilitation.
Over the years he has fulfilled many additional roles – including chairman of the Grain Legume Handbook Committee, leader of the Eastern Grain and Graze Research Advisory panel and a member of the Crop Science Society Programming Committee. He was Director of Farm Management 500, chairman of GRDC’s SA adviser Updates, and chairman of GRDC Cropping Expos for SA.
He has been involved in numerous project reviews and study tours – many associated with the GRDC.
As a recipient of a Churchill Fellowship in 2002 to study high-yielding wheat production systems in New Zealand and Europe, Dr Mayfield gained a more international perspective on production methods and developed many international collaborations.
More recently he contributed to an Australian aid project promoting zero till in North Africa.
In addition to being a Churchill Fellow, he is a life member of the Crop Science Society of SA and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology.
“He has also been a prolific contributor to research, papers and publications, and continues to be actively involved in the organisation and conduct of various workshops, courses and collaborations – all while supposedly being retired,” Mr Bennett said.
Citizen of the year
The GRDC Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award is not the first honour to be bestowed upon Dr Mayfield.
For example, he was named SA Citizen of the Year in the 2020 Australia Day honours in recognition of his voluntary contribution to charity, tourism, his community, the environment and agriculture.
“But it is his important input into the grains industry that we specifically acknowledge today,” Mr Bennett said.
“We thank Allan for his decades of effort, commitment and contribution. He has helped shape this vibrant grains industry of ours.”
In accepting the award, Dr Mayfield said that in addition to working with growers, one of the “quiet passions” of his life had been nurturing young people into the industry “because they are the future of the industry”.
“When you see so many young people at events such as the Hart Field Day that gives me great encouragement for the future of agriculture,” he said.