On behalf of the Australian Society of Agronomy and the Conference Organising Committee, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 15th Australian Agronomy Conference in Lincoln 2010. This is the first time that the ASA has combined with related New Zealand societies in holding a conference. New Zealand agronomists have made lively contributions to ASA conferences for many years and we welcome the opportunity to make the return trip across the Tasman. The New Zealand Grassland Association, which has run 71 annual conferences, is the host society to the ASA, the New Zealand Agronomy Society and the New Zealand Soil Science Society. The joint conference provides Australian agronomists with an opportunity to learn about the strong culture of agronomic research in New Zealand and its rich agricultural resources. The NZGA membership of growers and scientists will provide an engaged and critical audience for Australian papers.
The theme of this conference “Food Security from Sustainable Agriculture”, signals our intention to keep the issue of Food Security alive after the spikes in the price of food and the cost of agricultural inputs at the time of the last ASA conference in 2008. These spikes showed a consistent and affordable food supply is in fragile balance with the steadily increasing demand for food as populations grow. In the two years since the last conference the resource limitations of water and nutrients, particularly phosphorus, became clearer in Australia and many other parts of the world. Agronomy and other scientific disciplines work to fill the gap in food supply and improve the efficiency of resource use, but there is worrying evidence that the rate of technological progress is slowing, and other evidence that the average delay between scientific progress and increased farm production is longer than previously believed, perhaps up to 30 years.
Wise policy makers will see these strands of evidence as reasons to enhance research on food production linked to resource conservation. Agronomists will have to face the challenge of increasing the rate of technological progress and reducing the long delay between research and adoption. Let’s hope that the recognition of the delay does not deter research investment by those who want results before the next election, rather than after 10 electoral cycles.
The agronomy conference presents members with an opportunity to report topical and practical research, to learn about the research of their peers, to renew friendships and form networks for future research. It is also an occasion to hear the Oration by the winner of the Donald Medal to recognise the winner of the Young Agronomist Award.
For many young members an ASA conference is their first opportunity to present a refereed paper to peers. The ASA website now hosts the proceedings of our 15 conferences and all papers are indexed by the Web of Science. Search engines such as Google are attracted to the large number of papers on our website and often list ASA papers on the first page of a search for agronomic keywords. Current and future members should be grateful for the efforts of the previous ASA committee, The Regional Institute and GRDC for support in the large task of providing this information online. We should also be grateful to the far-sighted founders of the ASA for requiring all papers to be refereed in advance of presentation, and for the editors and reviewers who demand rigorous standards.
The conference organising committee of New Zealanders and Australians has worked to provide a program of interest to agronomists and farmers in both countries. Most plenary and contributed sessions contain papers from both sides of the Tasman. I urge you to respond to these papers and engage in lively discussion with colleagues.
I thank the organising committee on both sides of the Tasman Sea for their enthusiasm and creativity, and the sponsors for their generous support. The committee was well supported by the conference organisers at Lincoln University and the ASA publisher and website manager, The Regional Institute. The committee hopes that this conference will contribute to the progress of agronomic research and the careers of our members.
John Angus, President
Australian Society of Agronomy,
Stockinbingal, October 2010