The Donald Oration and the C M Donald Medal

In 1984. the Society instituted the C M Donald Medal to honour the contribution of Professor C M Donald to agricultural science. The medal is awarded to an eminent agriculturalist at each national conference of the Society. The past awardees are:

1982 (retrospectively) Dr P G Ozane

1984 Prof F C Crofts

1987 Mr R J French

1989 Dr R C Rossiter

1992 Prof G L Wilson

Professor C M Donald (1910 - 1985)

The following outline of C M Donald's career is based on the introduction to the C M Donald Medal by W R Stern in the Proceedings of the 5th Agronomy Conference, Perth.

Colin Malcolm Donald made an outstanding contribution to Australian agriculture. Between 1934 and 1940 he was stationed at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute, in the University of Adelaide, working on mineral deficiencies in pastures and strain evaluation in subterranean clover. From 1942 to 1954 he worked on a wide variety of problems at the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry in Canberra and eventually became Assistant Chief of the Division. In 1954 he was appointed Waite Professor in Agronomy at the University of Adelaide, a position he held until 1973.

He wrote extensively on various aspects of crop and pasture growth. One of his most widely read articles, "Pastures and Pasture Research", first published in 1941, was reprinted a number of times and for many years served as a reference for pasture agronomists around Australia. His work on competition in agricultural systems was seminal to much of the research in crop and pasture agronomy conducted in the 1960s and 1970s. The article in Advances in Agronomy "Competition Among Crops and Pasture Plants", published in 1963, was compulsory reading for students in agronomy for many years and is still widely quoted. The 1964 Farrer Memorial Oration "The progress of Australian agriculture and the role of pastures in environmental change" and the chapter on "Improvements in Australian agriculture" which appeared in D B Williams' "Agriculture and the Australian Economy" in 1981 both gave a wide ranging account of the role pastures play in Australian agriculture and put into perspective the way in which the farming systems in southern Australia developed.

Colin Donald will be remembered, also, for his introduction of the concept of the ideotype. It was a radical idea and when first proposed at the 3rd International Wheat Genetics Symposium in Canberra in 1968 was received coolly by cereal breeders. The arguments that ensured led Donald to embark on a breeding program which he carried on into his retirement and culminated in the 1979 publication "A barley breeding program based on an ideotype" (J. Agric. Sci. Camb. 93: 261-69). The word ideotype is now an accepted and widely used term in the vocabulary of agronomists, physiologists and breeders throughout the world and appears regularly in the literature. A successful workshop on the ideotype concept was held in 1990, after the 5th Australian Agronomy Conference in Perth.

As well as his contribution to scientific journals, Colin Donald wrote many review articles. They not only put work into perspective, but they contained a significant element of original thought; they were invariably well written and therefore widely read. In this respect his writing will stand the test of time and his influence has extended beyond his lifetime and beyond Australia.

Colin Donald was also an effective teacher and one of his legacies to Australian agriculture is the number of agronomists who trained under him, both at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. Many have gone on to successful careers of their own and they would attribute some of their success to Colin Donald's influence in shaping their attitudes and outlook.

1993 C M Donald Medallist - J R McWilliam

James Russell McWilliam is an Australian agronomist of national and international standing who has contributed significantly to research. teaching, international agriculture and research management.


Jim McWilliam commenced his career as a forester with the Queensland Forestry Department, but after completion of his PhD at Yale University in the USA, he returned to Australia to work as a plant breeder and geneticist in the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry in Canberra. His research in Canberra had a significant impact on the seeds industry with the release of four new Phalaris cultivars. His research has also contributed to the science of agronomy, with the publication of approximately 100 scientific papers in physiology, breeding and adaptation to environmental stresses.


Jim's contribution to the teaching of agronomy began when in 1971 he moved to the University of New England in Armidale where for 11 years he was Professor of Agronomy and Head of the Department of Agronomy and Soil Science. While at New England, Jim revised the curriculum for the Department and Faculty and introduced the discipline of crop modelling and systems research into both teaching and research. He supervised in full or in part 8 PhD students and 8 MScAgr students during his tenure.

International Agriculture

Jim McWilliam has had a major impact on international agriculture through his service on the boards of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Syria, the International Maize and Wheat Research Centre (CIMMYT) in Mexico, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in USA, the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) in Kenya, the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre (AVRDC), Taiwan and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. He was the foundation Director of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and in this position has had a major impact on agricultural research in Australia and in the 20 countries served by ACIAR, particularly in South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands. His work with ACIAR has pioneered new areas of development assistance. He has shown a personal interest in many of the agronomic projects funded by ACIAR and in the development of projects that will not only benefit overseas countries but, in partnership, also serve Australia.

Research Management

Jim McWilliam has also made a major contribution to research management in Australia and overseas through his review of a wide range of scientific institutions, for example, the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and the Waite Agricultural Research Institute in Adelaide. This work has continued and increased in retirement and Jim has been retained as a Consultant in research management by the CSIRO Institute of Plant Production and Processing.

Professor Jim McWilliam's eminence in these four areas ranks him as one of the leading agronomists in Australia at the present time. He follows in the tradition of Professor C M Donald by being both a thorough scientist, and having a wider perspective on the role of agriculture in national and international economic development. Jim McWilliam is a worthy recipient of the C M Donald Medal.