Global Agriculture

South Australian grower, plant breeder wins national grains award

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07 February 2023, Australia: South Australian grain grower and former plant breeder and researcher Andrew Barr has been awarded the GRDC Seed of Gold award – one of the grains industry’s most prestigious awards.

This award recognises the outstanding contribution, dedication and commitment of individuals to the Australian grains industry.

First presented in 2007, Professor Barr is one of only five people to receive a Seed of Gold.

Professor Barr was presented with the coveted award at the annual GRDC Grains Research Update in Adelaide today by GRDC Southern Panel Chair Andrew Russell.

The award recognises the well-known South Australian agricultural identity’s long-term dedication to plant breeding and the broader development of the Australian grains industry.

During half a century as a plant breeder with the University of Adelaide, Professor Barr developed 24 varieties of oats, barley and wheat, including the well-known Echidna and Commander lines, which offered growers higher yielding and disease resistant options.

He has also operated his own farming business in Pinery in the Clare Valley region of South Australia, where he has grown a variety of cereal and pulse crops, as well as hosted research trials to support new variety development.

Mr Russell says the highly regarded Seed of Gold award recognised those exceptional members of the scientific and agricultural community whose commitment and contribution produced fundamental gains for the Australian grains industry.

“Professor Barr has invested his career in agricultural science, especially plant breeding and is highly regarded and respected,” Mr Russell says.

“But equally his connection, passion and commitment to working with, and working for grain growers has set him apart. For decades he has given generously of his time and knowledge to represent our industry within Australia and internationally.

“Professor Barr has shown he is willing to go above and beyond – and we are the ones who are the beneficiaries of his contributions.”

The personable South Australian grains industry identity was possibly always destined to work in agriculture.

After a childhood spent on a South Australian farm, Professor Barr completed his bachelor in agricultural science and then a PhD in genetics at the University of Adelaide, before joining the South Australian Department of Agriculture where he worked for nearly 30 years.

He has published more than 200 scientific, technical, conference and extension publications and has taken on various leadership roles including six years on the GRDC Southern Panel (2005-2011), three years as GRDC Director (2014-2017), and Trustee and then Chair of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Mexico (2008-2014).

Now a consultant, Professor Barr works national and internationally supporting plant breeding, farm management and agribusiness activities and is a Trustee on the South Australian Grain industry Trust.

He continues to generously share his knowledge with growers and was the keynote speaker for the 2023 GRDC Grains Research Update – Adelaide, exploring the question: Can our farming systems meet the global challenges of climate change, food security and sustainability?

During his presentation Professor Barr challenged growers and the industry to think broadly, read widely and participate actively to set and meet the goals for the future of agriculture, least of which is to feed 9.8 billion people by 2050.

On accepting his award, Professor Barr said he was lucky to have been raised in a family that was deeply passionate about agriculture and academic excellence.

“I have been very fortunate to have spent a lifetime in agriculture – it’s a fabulous industry and I recommend it to all of you,” Professor Barr says.

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