Farrer medallist stresses importance of ongoing wheat breeding research

Winner of the 2007 Farrer Memorial Medal, Dr Tony Fischer, says it is continued conventional breeding and agronomic research which will play the key part in achieving improved wheat yields at least in the medium term.

This is despite the excitement of functional genomics, with the prospect of genetically engineering wheat for higher yields, he said.

Dr Fischer, a well known wheat cropping scientist, outlined his vision for the future of wheat breeding in Australia while giving the Farrer Memorial Medal Oration in Canberra today.

Currently an Honorary Fellow with CSIRO’s Division of Plant Industry, Dr Fischer received the Medal in recognition of outstanding contribution to agricultural research in Australia, and in particular, his world renowned work in cropping physiology.

NSW Department of Primary Industries Director-General and Chairman of the Farrer Memorial Trust, Barry Buffier, presented Dr Fischer with the Medal, describing him as the pre-eminent Australian crop physiologist of his generation.

Dr Fischer’s oration is themed ‘Improvement in Wheat Yield: Farrer, Physiology and Functional Genomics’, and outlines the importance of crop physiology to using understanding at the gene and nucleic acid level if functional genomics is to lead eventually to enhanced crop performance.

 "At the same time, we must not overlook investment in continued conventional breeding and agronomic research," he said. 

Dr Fischer graduated in Agricultural Science from the University of Melbourne in 1960, and completed a PhD in Plant Physiology from the University of California, Davis, in 1967.

He has carried out research on wheat crop agronomy, physiology and breeding, both in Australia (NSW Department of Agriculture 1961-64, Australian National University 1968-70, and CSIRO Plant Industry 1975-88) and in Mexico (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) 1970-75, 88-95).

Today’s ceremony coincides with the Crawford Fund 2007 Development Conference on "Biofuels, Energy and Agriculture: Powering Towards or Away from Food Security" being held at Parliament House in Canberra on 15 August 2007.

The Farrer Memorial Medal was established in 1911 to perpetuate the memory of William Farrer and to encourage and inspire agricultural scientists.

The Medal is awarded annually to a person who has provided distinguished service in agricultural science in the areas of research, education, extension or administration.