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ISSUE THREE 2015 PARTNERS
DR LLOYD EVANS 1927 2015
Dr Lloyd Evans's in uence on global food security will long be felt. It is present in the strategies
used today to improve crop yields on Australian farms. It pervades Australia's advanced capacity
in plant pre-breeding, especially through the extraordinary impact of discoveries made at CSIRO
Plant Industry. And it can be felt in the enduring strength of ACIAR and the Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Centres' ability to achieve global food security.
Dr Evans was a pioneer whose research challenged pervading views on what limited
crop yield. He boosted the ability to unravel the in uence of environment on crop growth by
establishing the CERES phytotron, the controlled-environment plant-growing facility that has
served agricultural science for 50 years.
His work is of quintessential importance to dryland farming systems worldwide in which
plants must ower and set seed within a narrow time period, determined by environmental
constraints, such as frost and terminal drought. This is the case in much of Australia's wheatbelt
and advances made in Australia are today used to alleviate poverty and hunger in the semi-arid
growing regions of the world.
His in uence straddles scienti c research, national science capacity, and administration of
science a airs and policy with international reach. Along with Sir John Crawford, his in uence
was instrumental in Australia's support for the CGIAR Centres, serving for many years on their
Technical Advisory Committee.
CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, 1971--78
Australian Academy of Science, 1978--82
Board of trustees International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), 1984--89
Board of trustees International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, 1990--95
Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science
Fellow of the Royal Society
Adolph E. Gude, Jr., Award of the American Society of Plant Biologists for
outstanding contributions to understanding the physiological basis for yield
in major crop species and for the control of owering in higher plants.
Groundbreaking ceremony for the Lloyd T. Evans Plant Growth Facility, IRRI,
in Los Baños, the Philippines.
The CGIAR Centres are very close to my
heart, because the people there have made
a colossal difference to the world food
situation. The important question is whether
they can continue to do it fast enough.
-- Dr Lloyd Evans, interviewed by the Australian Academy of Science
Since 1982, ACIAR has supported well over
1,000 projects. Of these, about 200 have had a
prime focus on agronomy.
Another agricultural research leader, Dr Bob
Clements---a former director of ACIAR and former
executive director of the Crawford Fund---has also
sought to analyse the high visibility of Australians
in international agricultural development.
Dr Clements concurs with Dr Lefroy, but also
makes the distinction between conception of
an idea or practice and implementation, which
is often a result of extensive modification and
adaptation. This is almost the default approach to
agricultural extension in Australia, given its own
vast range of climates and geography.
In a keynote presentation in 2012, also to the
Australian Society of Agronomy, Dr Clements
calculated that Australian agronomists had in
the past two decades increased crop and
livestock production to sufficiently support about
30 million people.
However, he conceded a certain difficulty
with such computations because even the term
'world food security' has become a flexible and
evolving concept: "The game has moved on from
the supply-side thinking of the 1980s (for example,
food production/supply and price stability) to
include demand-side issues (food access, ability to
pay for food and food preferences)."
He said global food security was now not just
linked to alleviating hunger and poverty, but to
the broader scope of human nutrition and health,
and sustainable farm landscapes.
Where this is heading, in terms of outcomes
and processes, is near impossible to predict in
a world in which geopolitics and the planet's
climate are in such a state of flux.
Against this, one pertinent challenge raised
by Dr Clements was whether Australia would
continue to graduate enough agronomists for
its own needs, let alone to maintain its share
of global agricultural research: "And will we be
smart enough to develop better bilateral research
collaboration arrangements with China, India and
other heavily populated regions as they 'graduate'
from the aid program?" he asked.
However, irrespective of changes to the
management of international agricultural
development, history shows that the challenges
on the ground will persist.
Improving and sustaining arable soils,
controlling pests and diseases that continue
to evolve their way around defence systems,
improving farmer access to fair markets and
maximising agricultural water use efficiency in
a changing climate will continue to require the
sharpest minds, working closely with farmers and
The world cannot risk hunger and the crushing
social, political and economic toll this inflicts.
Agricultural leadership will continue to be
paramount and it will continue to need policy
encouragement and support. n
PHOTO: BRAD COLLIS
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