Next generation farmers to prosper by turning away from spray

Published 9 November 2017
head shot of Professor Carlo Leifert organic farming researcher Professor Carlo Leifert.

A new era of regional prosperity lies ahead as young farmers embrace new chemical-free production techniques, according to one of the world’s leaders in organic farming research.

After proving the value of organic production and nutrition of organic foods while working with farmers and supermarket giant Tesco in the UK, Professor Carlo Leifert is set to open the door to a new future for Australian agriculture as Director of the new Centre for Organics Research at Southern Cross University.

“Australia already has the largest area of organic farming land in the world and with a strong growth in demand for high quality food in both Australia and Asia, there is tremendous potential to grow the organic farming sector here,” Professor Leifert said.

“The Centre for Organics Research will look not only at new ways of producing crops and livestock without pesticides, but also improved evaluation of the nutritional value of organic food and a better understanding of the organic food market.

“Anyone who has seen the huge growth in demand for milk powder in China will understand the value that people place on food quality and safety.

“One of the biggest dangers pesticides pose is to farmers themselves, because of the high exposure they have to chemicals while spraying. We are hoping that applied research conducted in conjunction with farmers through our Centre will help create new organic opportunities for a generation of young farmers who will be prepared to try new science-based methods.”

Professor Leifert has arrived in Australia to take up the appointment this week and will present the keynote address at the Centre’s first Organics Research Workshop tomorrow (Friday November 10).

The Centre will launch new research programs specialised courses in organic farming and deliver outcomes that will drive growth of the organic food industry in Australia, the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research), Professor Susan Nancarrow, said.

“As the world’s appetite for clean, safe, ethically and sustainably produced food continues to boom and Australia solidifies its reputation internationally for food safety and security, the Centre for Organics Research will become a world-leading facility for all aspects of organics research,” Professor Nancarrow said.

“The Centre will develop new solutions from interdisciplinary collaboration, spanning our research strengths from crop science, plant genetics and agriculture to health, business, and logistics.”

The Centre for Organics Research is a collaboration between Southern Cross University and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), bringing together complementary strengths.

“NSW DPI also welcomes Carlo to the Organics Centre and is looking forward to developing and collaborating on organics research,” the Deputy Director General of Agriculture NSW DPI, Michael Bullen said.

“Australia has more area under organic management than any other country in the world. We see the Centre linking across NSW, Australia and internationally to work with other partners in all major agricultural sectors. This opportunity will build on DPI’s long term reputation for high quality research.”

More about Professor Carlo Leifert

Professor Carlo Leifert was previously Director of the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at Newcastle University in England, where he led a research, development and technology transfer team of 20. He brings experience as a course director and has recently proposed, developed and established two Masters courses in organic farming and food production systems and sustainable farming and food security. In addition to his academic positions, Professor Leifert has been Scientific Director of Stockbridge Technology Centre since 2001 and he has also held Technical Director and Research and Development Manager positions.

Professor Leifert’s publications include over 140 refereed journal articles and 72 book chapters/papers in conference proceedings in the areas of crop agronomy and protection; plant molecular biology/biotechnology; and human and animal microbiology and/or nutrition. Carlo also has three patents. He has been successful in obtaining over $7.2 million in EU grant funding, plus over $8 million from the UK government, industry and foundations. Carlo is also a reviewer of grant proposals for a number of international research councils and a member of research assessment panels across Europe. He has supervised a number of HDR students, including three MD and 32 PhD students to completion, with a further 16 PhDs ongoing.

Media contact: Sharlene King, media officer, Southern Cross University 02 6620 3508 or 0429 661 349.