Speakers

Talkin’ Soil Health is one of Australia’s largest and most reputable soil health conferences and is jam-packed with national and local speakers.  

 

The event promises to shine a light on “Building Resilience from the Subsoil Up” by bringing together farmers, researchers and industry professionals to provide practical tools and advice that farmers can use to build resilient soils.  

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NAME: Andre Leu, Regeneration International 
TITLE: Keynote Speaker--Creating Healthy Soils and building resilience – a good news story of opportunity   
TOPIC: The keynote presentation will address global trends in food production including the consumer, investment, and banking sectors and give insight into how big companies and farmers are responding to these trends.
BIO: Andre Leu is the International Director of Regeneration International, an organization that promotes food, farming and land use systems that regenerate and stabilise climate systems, the health of the planet and people, communities, culture and local economies, democracy and peace. He has an extensive knowledge of farming and environmental systems across Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa and Australasia from over 40 years of visiting and working in over 100 countries. Andre and his wife, Julia, have an organic tropical fruit farm in the Daintree, Australia. Andre lectures and teaches at universities, institutions and workshops around the world and has published extensively in magazines, newspapers, journals, conference proceedings, newsletters, websites and other media, as well as doing numerous media interviews for TV, Radio and online systems. His latest book ‘Growing Life': Regenerating Farming and Ranching was released late last year.

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NAME: Belinda Varischetti, ABC Radio
TITLE:  Master of Ceremonies    
BIO: Belinda Varischetti is WA’s Country Hour presenter for the ABC. She started her career with the ABC in 1993 as a Rural Reporter on the Western Australian Country Hour. She then moved ot Shepparton in northern Victoria to work as the region's Rural Reporter.  Over her 18 year career with the ABC Belinda has presented the WA, Victoria and Tasmania Country Hour programs; Presented National Rural News; Presented and worked as a producer on Radio National's Bush Telegraph; Presented breakfast and drive programs on Local Radio in Tasmania; produced ABC Grandstand and produced the Morning Show on Local Radio in Perth. After a five year break to stay at home with her two children, Belinda returns to the ABC to present the WA Country Hour.

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NAME: Nina O’Brien, FRRR  
TITLE: Disaster, Resilience & Recovery Lead  
TOPIC: Resilient Regional Communities
BIO: Nina O’Brien, Disaster Resilience & Recovery Lead, Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR. Nina is passionate about working alongside people that call regional Australia home and making their communities great places to live. At FRRR Nina leads the delivery of the Disaster Resilience & Climate Solutions portfolio of programs that collectively partner with communities before, during and after disasters via investment in solutions for increased climate resilience. This includes executive responsibility for both the national Tackling Tough Times Together in-drought grant program and the Networks to Build Drought Resilience Program (a Future Drought Fund initiative). She will share her insights into the important role that communities play nationally in preparing for future droughts.

NAME: Mark Holland, South-West WA Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub 
TITLE: South-West Drought Hub Investment Priorities   
TOPIC: The Grower Group Alliance was awarded the contract to lead the South-West WA Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub (SW WA Hub) in 2021. In that time, the SW WA Hub team has put the necessary structures and systems in place to ensure that Hub priorities and activities are targeted and designed in consultation with end users, including farmers. Mark will provide an update of what the Hub has achieved so far and will also talk about next steps for the SW WA Hub, including the firming up of regional priorities and implementation of collaborative, co-designed projects.
BIO: Mark’s background includes various roles with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) over a period of more than 35 years. This includes founding its highly regarded AGWEST Plant Laboratories business unit – now part of DPIRD Diagnostic Laboratory Services (DDLS) – which he managed for more than 14 years. As a DPIRD staff assignee as part of the GGA-DPIRD collaboration agreement, in recent years Mark has been a Program Broker for GGA. Mark has a Master of Business Administration and has strong governance, program and project management skills.

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NAME: Dr Richard George, DPIRD 
TITLE: WaterSmart Farms: Unconventional water supplies for climate resilient agriculture
TOPIC: Meeting the changing demands for clean and reliable water for agriculture and regional communities has never been more important.  Wheatbelt farming systems are being challenged by changes to the amount and timing of rainfall and this talk will focus on groundwater as an opportunity, discussing where to find water and how to engineer its quality. The project will describe WaterSmart Farms, a partnership between government, universities, farmers and private industry to build locally based options for water security and also the goal of the work. 
BIO: Dr Richard George is Senior Principal Research Scientist at Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Bunbury WA. Holding 35 years’ experience in research he is an Adjunct Associate Professor at UWA and widely published in land and water sciences, including 45 Journals and book chapters. He has been awarded the Australian Institution Engineers and WE Wood awards for science excellence.

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NAME: Lukas Van Zwieten, Soil CRC 
TITLE: The Future of Resilient Soils
TOPIC: Will share emerging findings such as how certain biological functions can be better maintained when entering water deficit. He will also share where resilience based research is heading and what management practices can be used to build soil carbon, even in sandy soils like we see in many parts of the West.
BIO: Lukas Van Zwieten is a Program Leader (Integrated Solutions) for the Soils Cooperative Research Centre and was on the bid committee for this 10-year investment in soil. He is the Director of Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute (NSW Department of Primary Industries) and holds the positions of Adjunct Professor at Southern Cross University and at Griffith University. His research focuses on soil processes including C and N cycling, and how these relate to greenhouse gas emissions, contaminants in the soil environment, and unravelling microbial and chemical processes in the rhizosphere.

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NAME: Kerrie House, DPIRD  
TITLE: Carbon Farming – What’s Really Beneath the Rhetoric?   
TOPIC: Carbon is a hot topic and there are many different elements – carbon farming, carbon accounting, carbon neutral. This session will cover; what carbon farming is (and isn’t),  the opportunities and considerations for anyone interested in establishing a carbon farming project, and the Carbon Farming and Land Restoration Program.
BIO: Kerrie House is the Manager of Low Carbon Futures in DPIRD’s Regional Business Development directorate.  This includes the $15M Carbon Farming and Land Restoration Program, which aims to realise the potential of the WA agriculture sector to sequester carbon in the landscape by increasing the uptake of carbon farming projects and activities that enhance the long-term productivity of agriculture and delivery of environmental, social and economic co-benefits. The Low Carbon Futures team also has a biofutures team which identifies opportunities for bioenergy, the supply of biodiesel and other biofuels as part of a carbon reduction strategy for the state. Kerrie grew up on a farming property in Toodyay before moving to Perth to complete a Bachelor of Science at UWA. She has a deep commitment to providing opportunities for farmers and regional communities across the state. 

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NAME: Phil Barrett-Lennard, AgVivo    
TITLE: Innovative Approaches to Forage Chains and Feed Gaps    
TOPIC: For the past four years, Phil has been working with Wheatbelt NRM to increase ground cover and fill feed gaps in mixed farming systems. He will share some of the learnings and talk you through how to plot your own annual forage chain and give you tools to get the most from your pastures and forage plantings. If you run livestock and are tired of feed bills and hand feeding, you can’t afford to miss this presentation.
BIO: (B.Sc.Ag (Hon) UWA) Phil is a highly regarded Agricultural Consultant with over 25 years of experience. Specialising in pastures, livestock and mixed farming systems, he works across WA conducting research and providing advice. In the R, D & E space, he has made a major contribution to the knowledge and adoption of perennial pastures and crop grazing. He is a good communicator and regular speaker at field days. Phil lives on a farm north of Gingin where he breeds Red Angus cows and trades local and pastoral cattle on a mix of perennial and annual pastures. He can be found on Twitter at @pbl1972.

NAME: Dr Mick Rose, NSW DPIRD – Soil CRC     
TITLE: Soil microbial indicators: what do they mean and how can they be used? 
TOPIC: This talk will introduce a recently commenced Soil CRC project that aims to disentangle and demystify some of the methods used to measure soil microbiology and function. The project will apply a range of soil biology metrics (composition of the microbial population, functions that they perform, microbial food source) that have been proposed both in Australia and Internationally (e.g. US Department of Agriculture) as indicators of soil health, and assess their relevance to agronomic or environmental outcomes, such as crop yield, soil structure, or nutrient availability.
BIO: Dr Mick Rose is interested in the interactions between plants, microorganisms and their environment and how agronomic management practices influence these interactions. Mick undertook his PhD at the University of Sydney through an Australian Cotton CRC scholarship, exploring the role of wetland plants and microorganisms in improving water quality on cotton farms. Mick has since conducted research on plant growth-promoting bio-fertilisers in Vietnam; abiotic stress tolerance in rice in Japan and organic amendments for soil health and plant productivity in Victoria, Australia. For the last eight years, Mick has been working as a Research Scientist with NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar, on a variety of projects researching the potential impacts of pesticides on soil biological processes, crop health and the wider environment.

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NAME: Theo Evans, UWA 
TITLE: Ants and termites increase crop yield in a dry climate  
TOPIC: In a field experiment, in hot and dry region of Western Australia, that ants and termites increase wheat yield by 36% from increased soil water infiltration due to their tunnels and improved soil nitrogen. Results suggest that ants and termites have similar functional roles to earthworms, and that they may provide valuable ecosystem services in dryland agriculture, which may become increasingly important for agricultural sustainability in arid climates.
BIO: Theodore Evans was educated around Australia, at James Cook University, University of Western Australia and the University of Melbourne.  He has worked at CSIRO in Canberra for 15 years, Bayreuth University in Germany for one year, the National University of Singapore for four years, and UWA for six years.  Theo has conducted fieldwork in over 20 countries on six continents, especially Australia, China, Fiji, Germany, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, Malaysia, and the USA.  He has worked mostly on termites, but also on ants, dung beetles, spiders and other insects, with research into evolution, ecology, genetics, behaviour, and pest management.

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NAME: Simon Wallwork and Cindy Stevens, Corrigin Farmers  
TITLE: The Journey to Net Zero    
TOPIC: Simon Wallwork and Cindy Stevens share their journey of farming in Corrigin since they began in 2003. Recent times has seen a real focus on strategically planning for the future with climate resilience for the landscape and business being a real focus. Built into climate resilience is the farm becoming carbon neutral, and navigating this task is both an exciting and challenging journey. They’re cofounders of AgZero2030, seeing the WA Agricultural industry adapt and mitigate around climate change has been a real passion for the couple. 
BIO: Simon has been an agronomist, Executive Officer of the Noongar Land Enterprise Group and involved in the Corrigin Farm Improvement Group.  From 2010 to 2014 Simon undertook the GRDC funded Climate Champion Program, a national program that brought over 30 growers together to share information and communicate the latest research on climate change impacts and on-farm adaption and mitigation strategies. Cindy has a background in agricultural science and secondary science education and is keen to progress climate solutions on a farm business and agricultural industry scale. The climate trends they have experienced on-farm has motived them into making transitional changes to become more climate resilient.

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NAME: Dr Lynnette Abbott  
TITLE: A Lifetime of Exploring the Third Element of Soil Fertility      
TOPIC: Based on a background in plant – microbe interactions, Lynnette was initially motivated to understand how to maximize soil biological contributions to plant nutrition. This included investigations of symbiotic associations with roots as a means of increasing the efficiency of fertiliser use. Lynnette will be sharing her journey in exploring the nature of soil biological fertility, and how to capture its benefits.
BIO: Emerita Professor Lynette Abbott commenced her research on soil biology at UWA in 1974 after completing a PhD in plant pathology at Monash University. She has taught into units related to soil and land management with an emphasis on soil biology, soil biological fertility and plant nutrition. Her research with colleagues has focused on soil biological processes associated with nutrient acquisition by plants, as well as bio-chemical and bio-physical processes involved in responses to soil amendments and plant-microbial symbioses. She has a long history of presentation of workshops and seminars on soil health within the agricultural community and was the inaugural winner of the General Jeffery Soil Health Award in 2021.

NAME: Jacob Berson, UWA  
TITLE: Dung Beetles – Ecosystem Engineers & Building Beetle Highways    
TOPIC: Since the late 1960s Australia has imported exotic dung beetles to clear pastures of livestock dung and reduce populations of dung breeding flies. In this talk Jacob will give a brief overview of the history of exotic dung beetles in Australia as well as the current DBEE project, I will also share the results of some of the research conducted at UWA.
BIO: Jacob Berson works at the University of Western Australia as part of a national dung beetle project. Jacob’s previous research focussed on what made dung beetles smell ‘sexy’ to their potential mates. He is now investigating the factors that limit the distribution of dung beetles introduced to Australia, and the benefits that introduced dung beetles can provide to livestock producers.

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NAME: Rick Llewellyn, CSIRO
TITLE: Managing grazing and groundcover with virtual fencing       
TOPIC: Methods of land management are changing on farms with livestock.  This topic will discuss applying virtual fencing technology and how it might be applied with sheep in mixed farming systems.
BIO: Rick Llewellyn is a Senior Principal Research Scientist (agricultural systems) and Research Group Leader for CSIRO and is based at the Waite Campus in Adelaide. Rick’s research bridges farming systems field research, weed and herbicide resistance management, strategies for technology adoption and agricultural economics. A focus of his research is on the cropping and mixed farming regions of Australia where he leads a number of projects aimed at developing improved farming systems. He holds an adjunct position at UWA where he lectured in agricultural systems and worked with the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative before joining CSIRO in 2005.

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