9 December 2004

Two of the Australian soybean industry’s foremost scientific leaders have received The University of Queensland’s highest academic awards at a graduation ceremony today (December 9).

Professor Bob Lawn received a Higher Doctorate in Agricultural Science (DAgrSc) for his contributions to crop improvement and sustainable agriculture in tropical and subtropical Australia.

These include his early work while a postgraduate student at UQ in the late 1960s that contributed to the establishment of the soybean industry in the early 1970s. Professor Lawn is currently the Foundation Chair of Tropical Crop Science at James Cook University in Townsville.

At the same ceremony, CSIRO research scientist Dr Andrew James received a PhD degree for his research identifying traits for drought resistance in soybeans.

Dr James leads the Australian national soybean breeding program hosted by CSIRO and funded partly by the Grains Research, the Sugar Research and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporations and partly by Australian and Japanese companies.

Dr James is also one of 15 postgraduate students Dr Lawn co-supervised while acting as an honorary research consultant with UQ`s School of Land and Food Sciences.

“Student research provides an excellent opportunity to advance science, benefit the community and develop the skills of young researchers,” Professor Lawn said.

Dr James said Professor Lawn’s strength was in fostering a sense of achievement and the need for application when conducting research, qualities that had assisted him in the progression of his own research project.

“One of the results is that my research findings have been applied within industry both here and overseas,” Dr James said.

As well as collaborating on research to boost soybean production in Australia, the two researchers have collaborated to help strengthen soybean research in Thailand and Vietnam, with support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

In Vietnam, the team’s research has supported a Government initiative to meet growing demand for soybeans by increasing production from around 200,000 tonnes per year to a million tones per year by 2010 through the identification of superior genetic material.

Improved varieties were developed yielding up to two and a half times more than the current varieties grown and better suited to local conditions that are marked by a very short growing season and high seasonal rainfall.

While the ACIAR project has offered considerable opportunity to boost soybean production and farm returns in Vietnam, one variety offering improved tropical dryland adaptation has also been released in North Queensland with another on the way.

Media: For more information contact Professor Bob Lawn (telephone 07 4781 5763 or email robert.lawn@jcu.edu.au) or Dr Andrew James (telephone 07 3214 2278 or 0418 192 396) or Brad Henderson, Marketing Coordinator, Faculty of NRAVS (telephone 07 5460 1229 or 0409 265 587).